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Maximizing Your Dollar, OPEX Your Productivity Needs

In the perfect world, every company would have a never ending bucket of money for technology and marketing so you always have the latest and greatest tools and streams to promote your business. Wake up call; in reality this is usually never the case even within the most profitable organizations around the world. So how do we maximize every dollar and creatively and strategically use every penny in the smartest way possible to have maximum business impact?

 

Our strategy at PC Professional is quite simple. Taking a vCIO approach in analyzing all your business needs and process helps us not only consolidate down processes that might be adding “more fat” to your workflow but we also take what would be traditional CAPEX costs into a OPEX expense so your initial investment doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Having been in business since 1981, we’ve seen just about everything in the unfolding and changing of technology. We can attest to  what works and doesn’t and what the impacts are to your environment. Whether it be cloud, hybrid or on premise, your solution delivery comes with our “34 Years of Business” validation seal.

 

For example, with Microsoft Server 2003 coming end of support July 14th, we are working with small and large companies to properly plan their course of action so they aren’t left vulnerable and out of compliance if their industry has governmental regulations. With that we are helping companies address overall information delivery to minimize manual time consuming workflows and develop more automated and template based processes so you don’t have to repeat the same things over and over again. Whether it’s leveraging Microsoft Sharepoint or other major applications for your industry, our approach has allowed businesses to significantly cut out wasted time in an effort to be more agile and efficient.

 

Our head, heart and hands approach takes into consideration what you the customer “thinks about” in your mind, “wants” in your heart and “tactically do” with your hands to promote bottom line productivity. Many times customers don’t realize they can really have what they want and have been thinking about by just taking a step back and analyzing their workflow to shave down and consolidate processes and/or solutions for that matter.

 

If you’re moving up the wrong productivity ladder, sometimes it makes sense to come down a step to move to the correct ladder. The road to productivity is easier said than done, we understand this, but sometimes you need a little downtime to gain more uptime.

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Leveraging Technology to Boost Business Productivity

Aligning a company’s strategic objectives with productive employees successfully executing their business goals is what most people would measure productivity against. Many times it’s easier said than done. Execution and the ability to deliver results is key but what technology empowerment and resources would help maximize business productivity and therefore result in overall company success? Many times we run into situations where a client is looking for one solution to bandage their one problem area. This in result creates a sort of “build as you go” environment that lacks standardization, manageability and overall controllability. Due to the lack of resources, budget, and time technology rollouts these days often result in tactical engagements versus long term impactful strategic decisions.

Many VAR’s still lead with their “Core Services” and/or “Strategic Manufacturer Solutions.” PC Professional is changing our overall strategy and with every inquiry into our organization, we are taking a step back to take leaps forward in helping your organization make the right decisions in achieving increased business productivity across all your business units. Our dedicated team of account managers and technicians sit at the table as an acting vCIO and not as a traditional reseller. We ask questions to be disruptive to help our clients plan out how to maximize business productivity from all technology layers to help every single person in the organization achieve their goals. This is how a business measures success and ultimately becomes a leader in their industry.

Here are some of the key areas of conversation we often have in attacking the vCIO wheel to measure not only our effectiveness in the relationship but also in helping client’s optimize their business productivity needs:

Technology Assessment: What does your business look like today and what areas of strength/weakness is there? This is where we often find the bottlenecks and areas requiring attention to make an organization more lean and agile in their resource delivery. Whether this entails cleaning up an old Active Directory structure or understanding what systems and applications are running on your bandwidth, having visibility into your activity and resources is key in starting the move to a more agile environment. PC Professional’s NetDetect Assessment provides multiple modules to meet reporting needs ranging from: Security Assessments, Network Assessment, Compliance reporting to Asset Management Reports.

Technology Acquisition: Are legacy items straining your network? Can bottleneck removals and system upgrades improve overall user productivity and information access? Something as simple as replacing older 10/100 switches with gigabit ones or adding a NextGen firewall for traffic shaping and QoS can provide increased productivity and positive end user experience by leaps and bounds. For example, ,any times we see clients paying expensive ISP costs and throwing Mpbs upon Mpbs into their pipe due to their end users complaining about bandwidth. The reality is, the more bandwidth available, the quicker it will just keep getting consumed. By implementing new technology to help shape, control, monitor and track the bandwidth is a much wiser decision and much cheaper one at that.

Strategic Planning and Budgeting: We can safely say most everyone has a wish list when it comes technology needs. Whether it be getting faster PC’s running the latest operating system or getting a more manageable storage infrastructure that has disaster recovery capabilities, there always exists needs and wants that are never fully met. Proper budgeting and planning can help you achieve those acquisitions and rollouts. Depending on the need and technology available, many clients are surprised to learn that consolidating and strategic planning can actually deliver more for less. For example, existing Microsoft Office365 clients or ones who are exploring going there can leverage solutions like Skype of Business or Microsoft Sharepoint to foster streamlined communication and resource sharing and collaboration not just provide hosted Exchange email.

Security: I know we’ve hit this topic all throughout this year but we can’t stress enough how important it is to secure all layers of your network. Many people think that having a firewall as your perimeter defense is enough. What about the other windows and doors to your network? Playing defense is key with all the vulnerabilities and attacks hitting networks these days. Whether it’s the typical malware or ransomware, phishing, spam or direct network hacks, nothing impacts productivity more than a security vulnerability that takes your network down and compromises your data.

Policy and Procedures: Finally, having documented policies and procedures to ensure your data is secure and that employees are operating at maximum effective and efficient levels is prime in the goal to achieve success. Utilizing resources and technology within their approved capacities ensures you are in compliance to not only governmental laws but corporate governance as well. With all the balls moving in their proper direction, your business can make strides toward maximized efficiency and productivity.

Our goal here at PC Professional is to allow your organization to be the leader in your industry. At the end of the day, the success of our customers is a direct fruit of our effective planting. Engage with us today and lets grow together.

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It All Boils Down To Productivity

As amazing as technology can be, at times we all can’t help but wonder what life would be like without all the gadgets and gizmos that constantly keep us tied to the “office” or “connected to the social web.” The cell phone for example has transformed from a calling and texting device into a truly “smart” phone that interacts with you on a constant basis. The power of apps and their ability to present instantaneous information is nothing short of fantastic. Bottom line, with every component of work and the flow processes connected in getting the job done, technology plays a huge role. Evaluating single components and how they all tie in together can be very overwhelming. PC Professional understands this confusion and lack of resources in pulling together all the moving parts of a network to make it somehow work and talk. At the end of the day, it really comes down to productivity and empowering users across all business units to stay competitive, agile, effective and efficient.

 

What is our strategy then and how are we acting as the vCIO for our customers? To provide a level of transparency, here is our engagement philosophy:

 

The Head: What are you thinking about?  

Our team engagement approach consisting of a dedicated account manager and engineer(s) gives us the ability to really understand what our customers are thinking about when it comes to their job and responsibilities. What are you Mr. Customer accountable for and what would make you the hero. Whether your role is in helpdesk support, human resources dealing with very sensitive information or upper management looking to control costs, the PC Professional team “thinks” from your perspective to deliver solutions not quick fixes.

 

The Heart: What do you care about?

This is the wish list factor when it comes to initiatives. At the end of the day, what is it that our customers really care about and are passionate for? Understand this “heart” factor has allowed us to truly have impact on our engagements and become the long term trusted advisor. We listen and take to heart what the customer cares about and we apply it to our solution designs so the impact is much more than just a solution sell.  

 

The Hands:-What do you do?

This is the area of most significant impact. Many customers aside from their “head” and “heart” goals often times are too busy and tied up dealing with the day to day tasks on hand. Whether its setting up smartphones for your users or dealing with break fixes, many of our customers can’t find the time to research and implement business changing solutions because they are too busy putting our fires. Our motto at PC Professional has been, “Leave the technology to us so you can focus on your business.” By this we mean, focus on the “head” and “heart” factors, our goal is to make you the hero regardless of what department you might be in.  At times we are the extension of your staff and other times we may be called in to put out a major fire, whatever the situation might be, we want you to be the hero of your company.

 

Every customer at PC Professional has a dedicated account manager and team of technicians supporting them. With over 100 years of experience across our ISG staff, the knowledge and industry based strategies render huge value. Now that you’ve read our philosophy, engage with us today to see our actual ability. Even if you may not have any immediate needs, having one meeting with our team will be eye opening. Call us today, our goal isn’t to sell you something, it’s to make you the hero.

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Tango With Win10

Finally you got all those Windows XP systems out of your environment and onto Windows 7 Pro, but as countless would say to the dismay of many, Windows 7 is now officially middle aged being almost 6 years old this July. Mainstream support has already ended as of January 13th, 2015 so as we sway into extended support many are torn and also curious as to what’s next in the world of personal computing.

 

So there’s been tons of hype around Windows 10 and how “Cortana’s got your back” but in the world of business, what’s it to me in investing in Win10 technology?  We already know the benefits of Win8.1 over XP and Win7 with their notable boot times, default enterprise features such WindowsToGo and security settings like BitLocker. Not to mention the long awaited return of the start button and the ability to skip the Metro view entirely and go straight into desktop-which definitely has increased followers from the pains of transitioning to Win8. So what’s Win10 about? Average business users tend to skip a generation so what can the Win7 users of the world expect out of Win10?

 

Here are some key features/facts to consider:

  • Always updated: Microsoft automatically sends updates to your device when they’re ready, no more questioning if your system is patched or not.
  • Window familiarity: the actual start menu (not button) is back, hooray! It even has real estate to pin your favorite apps, you can’t live without those!
  • Conquer the web: Project Spartan is an all new browser built to deliver a better web experience. What the heck does that mean right? You can write directly write onto webpages from your system, read articles without annoying distractions, and save favorite sites to read offline later.
  • Universal Apps: with apps virtually controlling our lifestyles today, the store in Windows 10 will be a one-stop shop for thousands upon thousands of apps including new versions of Office. Uber, Microsoft Office and Amazon, my world is complete.
  • Can’t forget the gamers! Windows 10 and Xbox unite, it’s even pre-loaded, woot woot!

 

Until Microsoft forces us to world of unknown most businesses will hold on tight until the dawn of Jan 14th, 2020 when extended support ends or their PC decides to end its life,  but from the looks of it Win10 seems like it’s a combination of familiarity and innovation packaged into a very robust operating system.

If you are a derring-do, you can get the Windows 10 Technical Preview here at the Windows Insider Program page.

 

It takes two to tango so we’ll see you there!

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Layers Of Security

Many businesses out there face challenges when it comes to security due to the complexity in trying to understand and protect their information infrastructure. Having a firewall as your perimeter defense and some form of anti-virus on your desktop isn’t enough these days due to the level of sophistication and creativity coming from internal and external threat factors.  Almost on a daily basis we hear of some major data breach or compromise in identifiable information or someone’s system getting hacked or more commonly individuals falling for malicious ransomware or website phishing attacks.

 

Today’s reality in a world connected through technology and Internet is that there is no complete security strategy that is absolute, it’s about managing security risks to reduce catastrophic impact on your organization. What strategy makes sense then? We’ve heard playing defense is critical but what does this entail and what layers of your infrastructure require what type of attention? It’s called the “Defense-in-Depth” strategy and involves five key areas: physical, network, computer, application and device.

 

  1. Physical Security – this seems to be the most obvious one but many times it’s the one taken most for granted. Secured racks, locks and surveillance cameras are a few ways to physically protect your assets. Whether internal or external, checking to see who has physical “touch-ability” on your network is important as physical access ultimately leads to information access.
  2. Network Security – A number of our NetDetect Security Assessments has shown open vulnerabilities and misconfigured devices for many clients who thought they were as secured as they could get. It’s important that networks are protected with firewalls, intrusion detection & prevention systems (IDS/IPS), and switches and routers configured with their security features. Encryption-less open wireless access points and convenient bandage workgroup switches are all ways for unauthorized users to gain access to the rest of your network. Trust domains across zones and LAN/vLAN configurations can help manage network traffic as well in a more controllable and visible manner.
  3. Computer Protection –software vulnerabilities are the number one way intruders gain access to systems. Applying layers of protection and tools at the client piece of your infrastructure should be a key focus in rolling out a “Defense-in-Depth” strategy. Here are some key layers to consider:
  • Antivirus software which includes total protection (Malware, AV, Trojans, Ransomware, etc.)
  • Whitelisting/blacklisting
  • Host intrusion-detection systems (HIDS) and other endpoint security solutions
  • Removal of unused applications and services
  • Closing unnecessary ports (USB, etc.)
  1. Application Security –This entails good security practices, such as a Role Based Access Control, which locks down access to critical processes and     functions, forces username/password logins to certain application areas, secured password combinations, etc.
  2. Device Protection–From mobile devices, tablets to LAN based appliances it’s important to remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest  link. The out of box default settings should be looked and changed to further secure your resources. From encryption to mobile device management, anything that houses your business data needs to be protected. Being in position to brick lost/stolen devices and setting up protection protocols to block intrusions are all steps in strengthening your protection chain.

 

Having a good security design practice and by applying the right solutions and services, security risks can be significantly reduced. Protecting your IP (Intellectual Property), valuable assets and operational integrity are three keys factors in a sustainable business. Our goal at PC Professional is to deliver sustainable business solutions so you can stay focused on your core business offerings. Through delivery of our NetDetect offering we have enhanced visibility to your business units outside of just your helpdesk needs. Contact us today to see how strong your defense playbook is today and if it can withstand the  threats of time.

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To Cloud or Not to Cloud- That is The Question.

Since the days of pop mail, technology consumers have been utilizing what we call Cloud technology longer than we know it. In the business world, employees bringing their own mobile devices to work is not only compelling but forcing many CIO’s and IT management staff to embrace the Cloud.

Internet based applications and mobile device usage is changing the way technology is evaluated and adopted into an organization. Employee led technology adoption is rising due to the direct marketing of these Cloud based solutions to individual users. Instead of trying to prevent these types of absorption, many technology managers are embracing their end users’ needs and therefore positioning themselves in a much more strategic role compared to the traditional CIO/IT Manager who owned just a stack of servers in their closet.

 

With that said, small to medium sized businesses are hugely benefiting from this change in paradigm as well. The costly solutions of the Enterprise world can actually be consumed in a OPEX manner giving the SMB market an opportunity to test, drive and implement technological advances and tools that previously required a huge upfront CAPEX price tag. The name of the game is productivity and every company across all industries are looking for ways to make themselves more agile, effective and efficient at what they do. Whether a company has needs around compliances and regulations, simply need to empower their mobile workforce, or needs a faster way to transmit data across individuals or sites, Cloud based technology and virtual hosting services has its benefits.

 

How many times have we all seen articles on the next best mobile APP? Whether it’s CloudOn to run your Microsoft Office suite on your tablet, Barracuda Message Archiver Companion to managed your archived mailed, or a custom developed APP, there seems to be a Cloud based APP for almost everything we can possible think of.

 

Not everyone will put everything in the Cloud but exploring what processes and technologies would benefit from a Cloud, or hybrid Cloud topology can lend huge benefits in boosting your business workflow. We have seen time and time again the productivity growth in customers who sit down and perform this exercise of evaluating their workflow and technology layout. An open mind to what the Cloud can offer is a great start in heading toward the path for increased productivity.

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Do you have a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Business Continuity and high availability are no longer terms that are just being used by the enterprise market. Small and Medium sized businesses are finding it critical to adopt these same practices, not only to survive but for future growth. The reality of the situation is that a lot of these businesses are ill prepared and not equipped to recover from an IT disaster.

Having a data backup solution often provides business owners and CEO’s a false sense of security when it comes to their data. Assuming that the data is in fact retrievable, their understanding of how long it takes to recover from a disaster is usually far different than their IT Solution can provide. This misunderstanding can be catastrophic to the survival of a company while they are trying to restore services.

Designing a Disaster Recovery Plan that is customized to your business will help your business be prepared for any type of disaster scenario. There is no one way to design such a plan, but there are several key ingredients that should be considered when creating it:

1.Think beyond your data. Design your backup solution with the services your network provides in mind. Think about it, when your email goes down, do your users say I can’t access my data or do they say my email is not working? When your accounting system goes down do they complain they can’t access their data or that they aren’t able to process payroll? Building the right backup solution up front is critical for your Disaster Recovery Plan.

 

2. Plan for the worst. The plan should consider all types of disasters and have contingencies for those situations. Emphasis should be placed on rating services in order of their importance. For example: Internet Access would be considered a critical service and a higher priority to restore than printer services. By categorizing, your organization can build an IT solution that provides high availability to your most critical services.

 

3. Set the right expectations. Service Level Agreements both internally and with vendors is key to the success of a Disaster Recovery Plan. There should be a pre-planned course of action for every type of scenario with estimated times for resolution. Communicating these SLA’s to the organization will save a lot of heartache.

 

4. Test Regularly. This biggest mistake a business can make is to implement a backup solution or plan and not have controls in place for regular testing. Nothing can be worse than investing a large amount of money in a solution that fails you when you most need it. Create a schedule to test the validity of your Disaster Recovery Solution and hold your vendors to the same standards.

You do not have to have the resources of a large corporation to survive for a network disaster. Your best defense is when your technology meets your planning and preparation.

 

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