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IT Companies: Why We Stopped Trying to Be Like Everyone Else

April 19, 2017

Now you might well think that this is going to be one of those come-speak-to-Select-Technology-because-we-are-the-best-in-the-world kind of blogs…

I really want to be open and honest here, and say that there are probably plenty of good IT companies out there. I say “probably” because, in all fairness, we stopped researching the competition.

We stopped trying to be like everyone else.

We no longer look at pricing. We know we’re at the higher end of the IT support market, but that’s a good thing because it gives us the headroom to properly support our customers and provide outstanding customer service.

This definitely bares repeating: We can properly support our customers and provide outstanding customer service.

And, when we stopped worrying about being like every other support company we began to really understand what it takes to be different.

IT companies

There’s no reason to compare our services to any other IT support company out there because the bottom line is that no-one else can be like us, we have a team of people who are dedicated to our core values.

Our services are simply designed with one thing in mind:

Will this solve your problem?

This does often present us with some problems, because when we are up against a so-called competitor in a new business situation our potential new clients get very confused because they are looking for a like-for-like comparison.

But this also plays in our favour time and time again because it allows us to explain, and for you to see how we really do things differently from others.

This is why it really pays for us as an IT support company to be innovative and constantly develop new and better services.

Talk to us today and find out how Select Technology can solve the challenges you face as technology in business evolves.

Take These 5 Steps for Cloud Migration Success

March 8, 2017

With the recent hullabaloo surrounding last week’s AWS S3 outage, some of you may be wondering if cloud migration is an appropriate next step for your business.

man-person-clouds-apple

We are major cloud evangelists at Select Technology, but we absolutely acknowledge that things can go wrong when moving your business to the cloud in the absence of understanding and correct planning.

Despite its perceived imperfections, some level of cloud migration will benefit your business in almost all cases.

We’re going to look at steps you can take to avoid the pitfalls of cloud migration and ensure your business gets the most out of this amazing technology.

1. Know What You Need

Take a moment to think about what kind of demands will be placed on your connection.

Is your business seasonal or marketing-driven, with surges of traffic based on public holidays or marketing campaigns?

One of the amazing features of public cloud services – especially with a platform like Microsoft Azure – is automation or auto-scaling.

If you can anticipate when your periods of highest demand will be, your cloud service will automatically activate appropriate computing resources during those times.

On the other hand, do you need consistently high bandwidth for live streaming video or hosting VoIP calls with clients and partners?

If so, you might be better off using a private cloud setup that requires less automation.

Cloud computing is a very, very general term, covering literally hundreds of different services.

Taking the time to think about exactly what your business needs will help you reap the fullest benefits of cloud migration, while ensuring you’re not paying for anything you don’t need.

2. Test Before Going Live

Test, test, test before deployment!

Storing data and setting up automation in Azure and other cloud services is a relatively simple affair.

One of the biggest pitfalls of cloud migration lies not in moving your data, but in making sure your applications perform as expected once shifted up into the cloud.

The way your apps operate on-site gives little indication as to how they will act off-premise.

This point overlaps with our next one because it is so important to remember that cloud migration for businesses is often a step-by-step process.

Moving your business into the cloud one workload at a time will give you the feedback you need to anticipate all eventualities before they have the chance to affect your business.

cloud migration

Pre-deployment testing of this sort is best performed by someone with the relevant experience and foresight, so we highly recommend seeking advice externally if your business lacks the skillset in-house.

If you have the IT resource onsite for pre-deployment testing then you’ll be pleased to know that Microsoft offers online instructions on topics like how to Create an Office 365 Dev/Test Environment in Azure.

3. Take Your Cloud Migration Step by Step

The point about testing is a crucial one that illustrates the importance of taking one step at a time.

Running before you can walk, so to speak, will give you far less agility. If you rush to shift your apps up to the cloud, then you will have no idea how they will operate when push comes to shove.

Cloud services are quickly becoming a business necessity but don’t worry if your competitors beat you there.

Performing your cloud migration in a step-by-step fashion will also provide a betting understanding of which services you require.

You may find that some workloads are better off remaining on-site or even automated to reduce costs.

You won’t know unless you take the time to find out!

4. Pay Attention to Security and Regulation

Every workload you move to the cloud should be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure your business’ security requirements are met.

Are you storing sensitive client data or other confidential information such as health or financial records?

GDPR is changing the way data is handled, so keeping your business compliant should be a vitally important part of your cloud migration strategy.

cloud migration

The security of your data, applications, and identities is well protected with Microsoft Azure Security.

“Security and privacy are built right into the Azure platform, beginning with the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) that addresses security at every development phase from initial planning to launch, and Azure is continually updated to make it even more secure. Operational Security Assurance (OSA) builds on SDL knowledge and processes to provide a framework that helps ensure secure operations throughout the lifecycle of cloud-based services. Azure Security Center makes Azure the only public cloud platform to offer continuous security-health monitoring.”Azure Security

5. Choose the Right Cloud Partner

It is highly recommended that you seek to a managed IT services provider to identify what kind of cloud infrastructure is the best fit for your business.

Those of you who have already figured out what you need will likely also know which environment you want to run; Azure, HPE Helion, AWS, etc.

Be sure to plan ahead with your prospective provider so you can be sure they will be capable of supporting the full functionality your cloud infrastructure as it scales up.

At Select Technology we can look at and simplify your cloud requirements from a business perspective.

Call us today to talk to better understand cloud migration and your place on the modern technological landscape.

THIS is the Morning After Pill of Managed IT Services

March 6, 2017

Not everyone will relate to this post but the message is an important one for anyone looking at managed IT services.

The point I want to make today is that solely relying on an ad-hoc arrangement to support your business IT network is like using the morning after pill as your only form of contraception.

Sure, Plan B works, but it is just that – Plan B.

It’s a last resort.

It will usually do the trick, but it’s not much of a contingency, and it’s probably not the best thing for your health either!

managed IT services

You could also think of it like tightrope walking without a pole for balance: you’ve still got the safety net to (hopefully) catch you, but you’re ignoring the proactive steps you could be taking improve your chances of success.

What is Ad-Hoc IT Support?

Ad-hoc arrangements can take on various forms in managed IT services.

The most common incarnation of ad-hoc IT support is where you pre-pay for blocks of time, essentially purchasing a number of hours which are used up as you raise support tickets.

Schools and businesses will typically use ad-hoc support to supplement or run alongside a proactive monitoring and support contract.

This is usually done to cover unexpected outages, project work, or any other tasks that may fall outside of the pre-agreed SLA.

This pay-as-you-go approach to IT managed services can also be used to account for gaps in the skillsets of your in-house IT team.

After the Horse Has Bolted

As we discussed in It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense, there are many business owners and directors who cannot or will not see the value that IT support can provide.

This leads to an attitude of minimising cost rather than maximising opportunities that could benefit the business.

But what happens when your server goes down and your 50, 150, or 300+ employees are unable to work?

As much as eight (eight!) Internet connectivity failures occurred in the past year for 72% of businesses, causing downtime of more than 40 hours.

Multiply that by your staff numbers and you can quickly see how much of an impact downtime can have.

managed IT services

Click here to learn about The (Frighteningly) Real Cost of Downtime to UK SMBs.

IT is undeniably integral to just about every modern business, regardless of size or industry.

A purely reactive ad-hoc approach to support means that issues will only begin being addressed after they’ve arisen.

Compare this to contractual managed IT services where your servers and systems are proactively monitored on a continual basis, catching issues before they prevent your employees from being able to do their job.

Ad-Hoc Support or Managed IT Services?

This post isn’t about bashing ad-hoc IT support, because a pay-as-you-go model can work brilliantly in some situations.

It should, however, serve to illustrate the point that only using PAYG IT support can be risky business!

We will explore the topic of Ad-Hoc vs. Contractual IT Support in a future post, as there are some circumstances where the former might be the better choice.

If you’re still not sure whether you need ad-hoc or contracted IT support, Give Us a Call and we can discuss which is the best option for your business.

5 Important Questions to Ask IT Support Providers

February 15, 2017

With 2017 well under way, it’s the perfect time to review your IT Support contract to ensure you’re receiving the best value through the coming year.

IT Support

According to recent research, 72% of UK businesses suffered 43 hours of downtime over the last year.

The cost of this downtime is estimated to be £521 per employee, for a total nationwide loss of 149 million hours and £12.3 billion (with a b)!

Even if you have only experienced half as much downtime, it is easy to see how important it is that you have a solid IT helpdesk backing up your business.

In today’s post we’re going to lay out some simple questions to ask IT Support providers when reviewing your infrastructure this year

1. What is Your IT Support Experience?

We’re all for giving young businesses a chance, but you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to stake your business and reputation on a company who has only been around for five minutes.

Before digging into the details, be sure to ask:

  • How many years have you been around?
  • Do you have any clients in my industry?
  • Can I speak to any of your customers?

As many as 50% of small businesses fail within their first five years.

Consider also that the managed services industry is an overcrowded market. Stick to providers who have been around for five years or longer if you want greater peace of mind.

Team structure is another important factor because very large organisations experience a gulf between junior and senior staff.

The sweet spot will be a company that is big enough to provide a quality proactive service, but small enough that senior talent works ‘in the trenches’ with the rest of the helpdesk.

2. What Security Measures are in Place?

Check out this video and then tell us that security isn’t important!

Naturally, you will want to ask IT helpdesk providers what encryption and authentication protocols they have in place.

The following are also worth asking:

  • What are your physical security measures?
  • How will you back up my data?
  • Tell me about your risk management strategy

A risk management strategy is something that any provider worth their salt will implement as this plays into the increasingly proactive nature of the IT services industry.

Your provider must help you not just help you when things go wrong – they must proactively ensure that attacks and faults don’t even occur in the first place!

3. What SLAs are Available?

Any business owner will be hyperaware of hidden costs and sneaky fine print.

A clearly written service-level agreement will ensure you don’t get caught out.

It goes without saying that you will want to ask helpdesk providers things like:

  • Is the given price really the entire cost?
  • Will you proactively monitor my systems?
  • Are contracts rolling or will I be tied in?

It can typically take 4 – 6 months to really gauge the effectiveness of an IT support provider, depending on the size of your organisation.

Nevertheless, alarm bells should be ringing if a company immediately insists that you sign into a three-year contract with no flexibility.

Confirm beforehand what will happen the level of service you will receive, as well as what kind of exit path is in place if you decide to change providers in the future.

4. How Do You Service Your Customers?

This is similar to the topic of SLAs.

Customer service is more important than ever for business-to-business relationships, so it’s well worth taking a minute to ask what each provider holds as its core values.

IT support

Small and mid-sized IT support providers can often provide a more personal or bespoke service, but be sure to ask:

  • Will I have an account manager?
  • Is your support team on-site or do you outsource?
  • Do you regularly train your staff?

Continual improvement and development of staff is vital in an industry where technology is advancing such a dizzying pace.

A great IT helpdesk company will stay up to date with advancements in technology and practices so you don’t have to.

5. How Will You Manage My Business as it Grows?

Forcing a square block through a round hole is not going to work for very long in business.

Your IT Support provider must provide enough flexibility for your business as it grows and evolves throughout the duration of your contract.

Make sure your provider can answer the following questions:

  • Will you provide an IT Roadmap for my business?
  • How do your contracts allow for scalability?
  • Can I change my plan mid-term if needed?

An IT Roadmap is a great way of ensuring a bespoke service that is specific to your business.

A senior technician should take the time to sit with you and discuss what your plans are for the coming months and years so that there are no surprises down the line.

Another benefit of planning ahead is that an outsider’s perspective might actually provide some insights and ideas that you hadn’t considered outside of the IT arena.

Call us today to discuss your IT plans for 2017 and you’ll quickly see that we tick all the boxes!

Source: https://www.beaming.biz/press-releases/12-billon-cost-internet-downtime-uk-businesses/

Part Two: It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense

February 13, 2017

Following on from Part One of our interview with Sales Manager Guy Webb, this final part looks at the hidden costs of deferring investment in your IT infrastructure and refusing to look at IT as an investment.

IT as an alternative

Mark: So there are clearly some pretty significant hidden costs involved in putting off IT investment

Guy: Yep. And the problem is that it’s impossible to quantify missed opportunities from an operational point of view.

Successful businesses operate in a similar manner to successful entrepreneurs.

They are willing to take educated, calculated risks, including making investments that may not provide an immediately tangible return. Education and training are prime examples of this.

It might feel like taking a leap of faith, but it doesn’t have to be scary if you’ve put in the necessary groundwork and removed as many question marks as possible.

Taking Ownership

Mark: So what do you think IT support providers like Select Technology can do to help matters?

Guy: Good question.

I think a big part of our responsibility is in properly demonstrating the value of IT… Investment technology, that is.

Mark: How do you do that?

Guy: It might sound counter-intuitive but learning is an emotional process.

<Pointing at the green sections of his drawing from Part One>

Maybe we should invest more in our graphics...

This is a bit like the comfort zone for each business.

The business that is willing to expand that comfort zone will learn and grow in the process. You can obviously see that the opposite is true for the other company.

So our job becomes demonstrating the importance of stepping out of that comfort zone; you’ll quickly find that what was uncomfortable or scary quickly becomes routine through repetition and, more importantly, curiosity.

As humans, we’ve evolved with a brain that screams “STOP!” when we experience pain or discomfort, but this is an outdated trait. We’re not having to outrun sabretooth tigers anymore.

IT as an investment

Fear can be useful, but it’s redundant in business.

We open our doors to all customers.

Anyone who reads this is welcome to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat. We invite every prospective client to come in and see how we operate, asking any questions along the way.

Understanding how our services work on a human level removes the unknown, which should reduce the fear massively.

Mark: But not all IT companies work like this.

Guy: Well, no, and that’s fine.

We would encourage any business to speak to other providers besides ourselves.

Remember that you’re not comparing a like-for-like commodity. Each provider you speak to will likely raise a couple of questions in your mind that you can use to better compare them.

Conclusion

Mark: Thanks for talking me through all of this.

So here are the main points I’ve gleaned:

  • Keep your business IT Infrastructure up to date
  • Small Business Mindset can cause stagnation and lead to missed opportunities
  • Take educated risks based on reasonable assumptions
  • Fear stems from a lack of information or understanding on a subject
  • IT managed services and solutions are not commodities

I also really like what you said, linking price shopping with scarcity mindset.

Guy: Exactly – how can you grow a profitable business if you’re busy counting the pennies?

Mark: Did I miss anything?

Guy: No, I think you covered the most important points.

Mark: Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Guy: Henry Ford said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’

A lot of people know this quote, but not many people really internalise it and put it into practice.

MarkHe also said that we get old when we stop learning, regardless of age.

Guy: Yeah. So what I’m getting at is that the growth, development, profit, and all that good stuff exists squarely outside of your comfort zone.

Look at Tesco. When they introduced the Tesco Clubcard it was a huge risk – something like 20% of their revenues were on the line. But the data they collected on customers, and the loyalty it created in consumers… well, you get the point.

<Check out Tesco: How one supermarket came to dominate>

If you’re not learning, experimenting, trying new things, taking calculated risks; you’re not going anywhere.

So there you have it.

Step out of your comfort zone, shake off the Small Business Mindset, invest in your IT infrastructure, and improve your operational efficiency.

Call us today to learn more about how we can help!

Part One: It’s Time to Start Viewing IT as an Investment, NOT an Expense

February 10, 2017

So many business owners view IT as some kind of necessary evil akin to tax that must be tolerated, rather than embracing IT as an investment.

IT as an alternative

Our recent post The Cloud: Five Misconceptions About Office 365 Holding Your Business Back touched on the idea that IT should be viewed as a legitimate investment rather than just another expense.

So why are so many businesses still refusing to accept IT for what it really is, Investment Technology?

The Pitfalls of Maintaining a Small Business Mindset

For this post I decided to borrow from someone far more experienced than myself.

Sales Manager at Select Technology, Guy Webb, has spent over a decade in the world of technology.

Guy has developed his technical prowess while always maintaining a keen emphasis on the people who ultimately rely on said technology.

Mark: To kick things off, what would you say is the biggest obstacle faced by small business owners today?

Guy: Rapid change presents a huge challenge for small businesses, especially when we look at how quickly technology is changing.

The real challenge is overcoming resistance towards making small incremental changes. But this needs to be done if a business is to keep up with the pace as technology develops.

Mark: And would you say there is a fear of obsolescence?

Guy: Obso-what now? Haha!

IT as an investment

Of course. A lot of businesses think it’s pointless to invest in a technology they think will be obsolete six months down the line, understandably.

This line of thinking means that IT falls down to the bottom of their list of priorities.

The small business mindset stems from viewing things like IT as an expense rather than something that can be invested in to help the business perform more efficiently.

Mark: Do you see this mindset permeating into other areas of a business?

Guy: Absolutely.

I was just going to say that Marketing is another area that usually ends up as a low priority, when really it should be a top priority for most businesses.

If you’re not marketing your product, sales will suffer.

So I suppose the small business mindset leads to paying the bare minimum just to cover basic requirements. Or rather, what the holder of the purse strings thinks are basic requirements.

Price Shopping for a Rolls Royce

Mark: So without naming names, can you think of any of your own clients who may fall prey to small business mindset?

Guy: Well I can think of a great example of two clients who are roughly the same size and operate in similar industries, yet who are polar opposites in their attitude towards technology.

The first pays around £X per year for us to support XY employees; the other pays £3X for more or less the same number of users.

It’s no secret that we sometimes struggle to service the first client because their ‘bare essentials’ mentality doesn’t always account for the curve balls we’re thrown from day to day.

Mark: The second client pays almost three times as much for the same staff numbers – does the service really scale like that?

Guy: Well look, the £3X client understands and moves with the advancements that technology brings.

They’re not afraid to make that investment-

Mark: And I guess even if they are afraid, they’ll do it anyway if they can see the value.

Guy: Exactly, and the £X client will probably end up spending any “savings” on some form of upgrade down the line anyway.

Look at it like this…

<Guy proceeds to scribble frantically on his notepad>

IT as an investment

Maybe we should invest more in our graphics…

On the left is a business who moves with the times and keeps their IT infrastructure up to date.

That big green area is the increased efficiency the business enjoys as a result of a consistent investment level [labelled IL] over time.

On the right is a business who puts off IT investments until they become a necessity for one reason or another.

Notice how much smaller the green area is for the guys who view IT as just another expense?

Mark: What’s the grey area on the right?

Guy: That’s the efficiency and potential growth they’ve missed out on by not stepping out of their comfort zone. It’s a cliché but you get what you pay for!

If you go shopping for a Rolls Royce, you’re not going to be concerned with cost because Rollers aren’t a commodity. You’re shopping for the best quality, not the lowest price.

The same is true with IT; it’s not a commodity.

No two IT helpdesks are the same.

Skillsets, team structures, escalation procedures; even company culture. These things can all vary massively from one provider to the next so to compare them like for like is missing the point.

Price shopping can cripple the competitiveness of a business because it keeps you in a mindset of scarcity; worrying about the pennies instead of proactively searching for opportunities to bring in more pounds.

Click Here for Part Two