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Virtual Office: Can You Gain Mobility?

In our last article, we discussed the security benefits of using a virtual office. In this blog, we’ll cover how a virtual office can help to make your job easier and more enjoyable.

Let’s face it, you can have a beautiful corner office — but it’s still an office. Very few normal human beings enjoy being stuck in an office let alone commuting to one everyday. Thankfully, it seems that physical offices are becoming sparser these days for a wide variety of reasons.

Virtual Office: Why Consider Mobility?

Many of you reading this might have been skeptical about the idea of a mobile office. Back in the 1980s, mobile working meant having a giant word processor, dot matrix printer and wired car phone. Compared to what we have available today, that seems more like a nightmare than progress. Today, you may be concerned about how you can effectively manage your employees in a remote environment.

For the past decade or so, more businesses have been moving to mobile workers. This allows for flexibility, creates an always-on (or always-accessible) workforce, and eases national recruiting. Once the recent pandemic hit, much of their day to day operations continued without consequence. Those that hadn’t considered mobility were quickly forced into finding a way to send employees remote. Since we don’t know how long the current crisis will continue or what the future may present, the current COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent example of why it’s best to consider creating a virtual office.

If you can work from home or on the go, you’re free from the office and can work wherever, whenever. Have a doctor’s appointment? Keep up with your clients, so you don’t have to take personal time. Did last night’s weather make the roads unsafe? Run your reports from your home office while not putting your life at risk. It’s no secret that employees who have the option to work from anywhere are happier employees who often stay at their company longer.

Virtual Office: An Office In Your Pocket

Here’s an important question: why do you go into work all? Some people have to be at a location to do a specific task. For example, you won’t find too many jobs as a carpenter working remotely. If a particular job requires that a person be on location, there isn’t much you can change.

However, many of us come into the office every day just to sit at a computer and use commonly available software to do our job. Other than meetings (that can usually be an email) or for workplace gossip at lunch, there’s no reason you have to go to that office to sit at that computer. If a portion or all of your workforce fits into that category, why bother wasting all that money on a large workspace? Many companies find that even if a few employees have to be in the office, they can still cut down the size and location of facilities significantly. It’s not uncommon to see a company with 100+ employees using an office with less than a dozen offices or workstations.

A Real Solution

Up to this point, we’ve only talked about this concept of a mobile office in the abstract. What exactly is a mobile/virtual office?

You can log on to any system mobile, desktop, laptop or otherwise and have the same exact experience as you would have on your desktop computer. All of the apps are there, in full functionality, all with single sign-on and secure multi-factor authentication.

Besides being as secure as a bank vault, this style of a virtual office gives you the ability to work at any location on any device. Just a generation ago, no one could have dreamed of this kind of freedom or flexibility! Start your day off on your desktop, run a quick errand while connecting to your smartphone, sit on the back porch with your laptop, then end your workday lounging on your tablet—all while connected to the “office.” What happens if your device gets lost, damaged, or stolen? Nothing. Your data isn’t stored on the device itself and logging in requires multi-level authentication, which we routinely monitor.

While it’s true that other types of systems have existed in the past that allowed remote access to systems, they were rather clunky, slow and nonsecure.

Bring your operation into the 21st century! If you can move some or all of your workforce into virtual offices, now is the perfect time. Contact us today to see how we can quickly get your operation virtualized and running at peak efficiency—anytime, anywhere!

Many companies have found themselves forcing employees to work from home throughout the pandemic and now as we navigate hybrid learning environments. This trend has been a long time coming, but it seems like we’ve progressed more in the last six months than the previous 20 years combined.

Pandemic or not, remote working will be the future for many of us if it isn’t already the case. This month, we’ll be going over various reasons why you may want to consider making a move to a virtual office. In this article, we’ll be discussing a reason that’s near and dear to our hearts: security. 

Virtual vs Physical Office 

When some of you hear the term “virtual office,” you’re probably thinking of someone at home on their computer, all their work online. While that’s true, it’s important to understand that what we’re talking about is more specific than that.  

A proper virtual office allows someone to actually go to work in the most literal way possible without even stepping foot in a building. All the software and data that your employees would need would be available after logging into your system, often via a login on your company’s webpage. Once inside, your employees can literally do anything they need to do. They would be remote clients of every software your company uses, including accounting packages.  

A Safe Solution 

Virtual offices are one of the safest ways for your company to do business remotely. The biggest reason for this is the lack of any software on your employees’ own computers. Even if their computer gets hacked, there’s nothing on the hard drive that would belong to the company. In addition, since the employee is logging into the system, unless someone is literally behind their shoulder, there is no way for them to see what they’re doing.  

Much of the time, hackers get information based on the connection between your computer and the server you’re communicating with (the website’s hosting server). You could think of it like being wiretapped — the person listening in can get all the information you’re sharing with your friend on the other line. With a digital office, you’re basically entering a digital building, doing all your business inside, then leaving for the day.  

What a Digital Office Is Not 

Some of your smarties reading this article might be thinking, “Oh! They’re talking about a VPN.” While VPNs and virtual offices share some similarities, there are a few important differences. For one, VPNs work by encrypting your communication between you and the website you’re visiting. However, once you’re in contact with that website, you’re still vulnerable. What if the site uses cookies to track you or if their servers have been compromised? That VPN won’t do you a lick of good. 

Also, VPNs are often used on a network. It’s true that the entire network will be better protected with a VPN than without one, but if one device on the system gets infected, your entire network is defenseless. Even entire VPN services have been hacked in recent months, leaving millions of customers vulnerable. 

Let’s use the example of your child opening an infected email. If you’re using a virtual office, none of your company’s files, passwords or any other type of data will be in danger. The only way to access that information is to have the credentials to enter the entire system.  

This might make you think that gaining access is just as easy as someone stealing your password. However, entering the virtual office would require a password in addition to multi-factor authentication that would be monitored by your MSP. While any system could theoretically be breached, this form of accessing the system is about as ironclad as you can get these days.

A Smart Solution 

Of course, we’d be lying if we said that virtual offices are an impenetrable castle wall that would be 100% safe. Even with physical castle walls, it isn’t just the bricks and mortar that protect that people inside — it’s the design, workmanship and upkeep that stop the enemies from rushing in. 

Understanding how a virtual office works, best practices in its implementation and maintenance is what will decide the quality of your system in the long run. This sort of workspace can be complicated to set up and get used to, but once your company works this way for a short while, the peace of mind you have will make you wonder why you didn’t do this years ago. 

Naturally, with something this important, you’re going to want a company that knows what they’re doing from years of practical experience, not just from learning by watching a YouTube video on the topic. Especially when putting all your eggs in one basket (so to speak), you better make sure that basket is made from galvanized titanium covered in diamonds. Well, maybe not literally, but you get the point. 

Our team has been working with virtual offices (in whole or in part) for decades. We know what needs to be done and understand the very real danger of not doing it right the first time. If you’re finding your workplace become more and more sparse with your employees working remotely, don’t wait to call us today. We’d be happy to go over your specific needs and help develop a solution that will make your virtual office a secure workplace.  

So, you may be wondering why the break-fix model doesn’t work. Grandpa always said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While we love Grandpa, that truism isn’t always true. Just like the customer is always right and other similar expressions, simply because people have been saying something forever doesn’t make it correct.

Still wondering why the break-fix model doesn’t work?

Break-fix fails: waiting to take action when something breaks before you fix it can end up being costly and disastrous in the long run. Where do we find the balance between upgrading routinely and only replacing when you have no choice? Also, what does this have to do with this series’ theme of hiring an IT tech?

Break-fix Model: Let’s Break the Cycle

When a company grows and gets larger, certain things that used to seem important get pushed to the back burner. Some companies may even change their model and service style after rapid growth and incorporate the break-fix model. The break-fix model is also sometimes used due to having lower resources. These are usually issues that don’t have immediate ramifications. Unfortunately, this often includes technology, such as computers, servers or copiers, as well as software. While there’s no built-in self-destruct date on these machines or programs, just because you can use something doesn’t mean that you should use it.

Many of us have computers that we may have used for close to a decade. But have you ever had a computer suddenly die on you? Or what about needing a software upgrade, but your hardware can’t handle it? These have happened to all of us at some point. While it might be an inconvenience on a personal level, it can be devastating for a business. Equipment going down unexpectedly can mean a massive loss of productivity or worse, loss of precious data.

Despite this, many still choose to rely on replacing equipment only when it breaks. This puts you at the mercy of whatever the items costs the moment you need it. You might be able to find a sale, but more than likely, you’ll end up paying the full retail price. If you choose to replace all equipment of a regular schedule, you can end up getting volume discounts.

Let’s use some general numbers here. Suppose a workstation costs $1000 per employee.If you have 25 employees that $25,000 to replace all the workstations. If you buy everything at once, you’ll end up getting a volume discount. In this case, we’ll go with a 20% discount. That would be a savings of $5,000 to replace equipment that you would already have to replace anyway — or $5,000 wasted in purchasing one by one. Not only that, but you would have no idea how much you would be paying on a monthly or yearly basis if you replace one by one. One month you could be paying $0 and the next $5,000.

Not So Easy Break-fix!

Naturally, there’s a lot more involved in replacing equipment that signing a check. For starters, when would you need to replace the hardware? Where would you purchase it? How are you going to negotiate the volume pricing? What kind of equipment do you actually need? How do you budget this out? Who’s going to go to swap out the equipment? What do you do with the old equipment once it’s replaced?

Your IT department or outsourced MSP typically handles these concerns. While the equipment in question is crucial to operations, you most likely don’t have someone with the qualifications or bandwidth to figure all of this out. That’s what an IT professional does. This is a reason that it doesn’t make financial sense not to have some sort of IT tech.

Spending Dollars Can Make Sense

As we’ve already mentioned, holding out to make purchases only when they’re absolutely necessary can end up costing you a ton in the long run. It’s logical to make sure you have someone consistently addressing your IT needs before there are issues. In the first article in this series, though, we showed how it makes the most financial sense to consider using an MSP over an in-house IT tech or a whole department.

Beyond the factors of salary, insurance and other expenses related to that employee, you also have to consider how an MSP can save you money in different ways. For example, you wouldn’t be their only customer, which means that their purchasing power is much stronger, giving you a better volume pricing. While you may only need 25 computers, that MSP might be purchasing 100 between you and their other customers, so they can negotiate a much better discount.

Also, a good MSP will replace all hardware and software not up to standard at the beginning of your contract. While this might seem like a financial shock at first, it saves you in the long run. If your MSP knows every single piece of your equipment, then future upgrades or repairs will be fast and within budget.

Another great advantage is being able to budget. Replacing your equipment only as it breaks can lead to extreme un-budgeted fluctuations in your IT expenses. When you hire an MSP, you know what you’ll be paying monthly and yearly.

Break Free from the Cycle

If you’re tired of being stuck in the same old break-fix cycle: contact us today! We pride ourselves on helping our customers not only spend less by preparing for the future, but making sure there aren’t any gaps in productivity. Our experienced staff will go over your current system in detail. Then, they’ll create a comprehensive plan that makes sense for your business. We’ll make sure that that the only cycle you’re involved with includes your success!

So, you’re working on drafting an IT professional job description. This series covers the most important factors to consider before you hire an in-house IT tech or team. Our last article reviewed the hidden costs of hiring an IT Professional. Now, we’re talking about what IT actually does besides ask if you turned your computer off and back on again.

Depending on the size of your organization, work in IT can be complicated and time-consuming. Let’s go over the major job responsibilities of IT professionals beyond tech support and equipment maintenance.

Vendor Management

Outside organizations most often provide your Internet, copy machine, phone system, and computer equipment. When they break, need maintenance, or require warranty replacement, the IT person interacts with the vendor. Oftentimes, they’re responsible for communicating between multiple vendors that frequently point fingers at each other. The IT person spends a great deal of time sorting out the underlying issues, determining what’s really wrong, and implementing a fix. If they can’t fix the problem themselves, their effort goes to convincing a vendor to help.

Keeping Up with the Technologies

While many of us might be preoccupied with what our favorite celebrities are up to on any given day, IT personnel are keeping themselves informed on what’s going on in the world of tech outside their organizations.

Software

Remember when you bought software and it stayed exactly the same until you went to the store and bought the newest version? These days, software updates happen regularly, sometimes multiple times a week. However, since various companies often make the programs, they tend not to play well together. This means that your IT techs need to understand what the updates are, what benefits they could bring, as well as when and how they should be implemented, if at all.

In addition, they’re consistently looking out for new software that might be better than what’s currently in use.

New Tech

Sometimes it’s best to completely scrap a system and start over. For instance, while there may be improvements you can make to enhance your telecom system, perhaps you should upgrade to a pure VoIP communication system. If you’re still running servers on-site, perhaps it’s time to think about a virtual office. If your hardware is over three years old, it’s time to start planning for a refresh. An IT person must remain on top of all technology and know about the new innovations that will make your business more efficient.

Security

This is the elephant in the room right now. Cyber threats are not only growing by the day, but they’re also changing. Being up to date is no longer an issue of merely updating your antivirus software.  Unfortunately, many of the attacks we see are the result of someone falling asleep at the wheel. Hackers are continuing to innovate new ways to get to their targets cause damage.

The best way for IT professionals to make themselves useful in this regard is to not only update software and the network but to educate the rest of the company on ways to keep from being the accidental cause of a data breach. This crisis prevention is one of the most important and proactive jobs for a successful IT professional.

The Sad Truth

You may have noticed the number of duties in this article outside of fixing broken technology. If it seems like way too much work for one person, that’s because it is. To fulfill all of the responsibilities of a responsible IT professional, you would need to have multiple people with a variety of skill sets. Of course, this adds to the expense of a department that’s supposed to help you keep costs down and simplify operations.

For this and other reasons, many companies turn to MSPs for their IT needs. You have access to a team of professionals that not only have the expertise needed to do the job of an in-house IT department, but also have the time, opportunity, and personnel to stay up to date on the latest developments.

Do you find your business needing more assistance with your IT? Have you thought about hiring an IT professional or outsourcing those duties? If the answer to these questions is yes, then contact us today to see how we can maximize efficiency while giving you one less headache to worry about. With our decades of experience, you’ll find yourself on the cutting edge in no time!

If your business is at the point where you’re thinking about hiring a fulltime IT tech, congratulations! Having enough consistent needs to fill this role means you’ve worked hard and made good decisions that drove business growth. Our best advice? Don’t stop now!

Moving forward with hiring requires a lot of analysis to avoid major consequences down the line, though. One of the biggest decisions whether you’ll hire someone directly or use a third-party MSP (Managed Service Provider). In this article, we’ll get into the specifics of both scenarios.

Why Do You Need an IT Tech at All?

In the past, business people and tech people were two different breeds. Over the years, the gap has gradually shrunk to the point that many people are tech-savvy enough to get by for the little things. As your business has grown, though, you likely have needed to delegate many of your previous duties, like IT — even if you feel perfectly capable of handling them yourself. After all, when do you think was the last time Jeff Bezos packaged a shipment? Your IT needs have also likely grown much more complex.

If you don’t choose to delegate now, you fall into a major pitfall of leaving IT duties unassigned. In our current landscape, leaving an IT post open could be a death wish. Cyber attacks of all types are on the rise, and the amount of damage each one could impose is ballooning. For example, in 2016, the average ransomware attacker demanded $522. In 2020, that average sits around $84,000! Sadly, many of these attacks take place as a result of not having someone the wheel.

In addition, there’s the issue of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Being lax over time can make your systems out of date, making it harder for everyone to get their work done at a reasonable rate. In addition, only replacing equipment when it’s broken and not when it functionally obsolete can create situations where portions of or your entire workforce will be unable to do any work at all for a time.

An In-House Solution

So, let’s say you’re on board with having one or more people make up your IT team, and you make the decision to hire them directly. One certain benefit is that you can look through a collection of qualified candidates and pick just the right person(s) that you want! But then the other shoe drops.

Just like any other employee, before you hire someone for your IT needs, you have to consider the costs. For instance, the average price of an IT professional is $60,000 per year. Alright, so you budget out $60,000 — then you’re all set, right? Far from it!

Where is this person going to work? Maybe you already have space for them, but these professionals require more expensive hardware and monitor setups. Additionally, you need to factor in the network diagnostic software plus any industry-specific software. Since they’ll generally be on call, they’ll need a phone with a good plan so you can always reach them and possibly a company car (or at least some form of vehicle reimbursement) if you have multiple locations. Don’t forget that expense account!

Besides the specific expenses mentioned above, remember that this person is still an employee, so you have all the other general costs your other employees have associated with them. This can include health/life insurance, vacation time, sick time, 401K plus any bonuses or overtime pay they may rack up.

And what do you do if they leave? The implicit and explicit costs can be truly staggering when you take the time to add it all up.

A Safer Option

In the past, the above option was the only choice most employers had available to them. Based on the high costs (both known and unknown) associated with hiring an IT professional, it’s no surprise that companies have flocked to an alternative option: MSPs.

With an MSP, you have all the benefits of a fulltime employee without the downsides.

They will be consistently available, knowledgable in your network, and focused entirely on IT rather than other day job expectations. Need assistance when it’s time for regular upgrades or maintenance? Want someone to redesign your entire IT setup? Looking for someone to completely take over your IT operations, including telephone, so you can focus 100% on your core business? These are the sorts of services you can get out of an MSP.

Even better, the price you sign in the contract is the price you know you have to pay month after month, unlike the many unknown costs of an employee. There are no HR issues to worry about and the work is on the shoulders of a company, not an individual.

If your company is at the point where you know you need dedicated IT personnel but are unsure about which direction you’d like to go, contact us ASAP. We would be more than happy to go over your needs and discuss the best options.