Hyper-converged infrastructure offers data-center simplicity

Hyper-converged infrastructure is the pooling of all the elements of a traditional data center — storage, computing infrastructure and network infrastructure — into a single system. Doing so brings a number of benefits, but chief among them are the simplicity and ease of scalability that comes with having a single managed interface.

“The simplified infrastructure helps companies reduce their overall IT footprint in their data center, sometimes by as much as 75 percent,” says Mark Dunkley, Senior System Engineer at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Dunkley about hyper-converged infrastructure, what it is and how it’s benefiting businesses.

What value does hyper-converged infrastructure offer organizations?

Hyper-converged infrastructure brings flexibility to companies’ data centers. It’s infrastructure that’s easily scalable, offers additional storage and the potential to connect to additional network resources via nodes. Adding more memory, more computing power, more storage can be achieved without additional hardware.

There is a great deal of simplicity that comes with a hyper-converged infrastructure solution because of its central software interface. Everything is there on a single pane, making it easy to manage.

In terms of the performance of hyper-converged infrastructure, most people will look at the processing power and storage capacity. But something that is often overlooked is the average workload and the input/output requirement to handle it. A company may go to run an SQL database and then find out that they don’t have the read/write speeds that they thought they had. The ability to add additional nodes to hyper-converged infrastructure makes solving this issue simple compared to the same process in traditional data centers.

What are some of the trends with this system that companies should know?

One of the more exciting things happening right now is that companies, through hyper-converged infrastructure, can create their own private cloud. There is hybrid infrastructure that enables companies to replicate their data center in the cloud, creating safety through redundancy.

Also garnering interest are the built-in security and data protection, and self-encrypting storage. In the past, this required another component running underneath the network, often a third-party software, to handle the data encryption in storage devices. Now, with hyper-converged infrastructure, the network can do all of the data encryption of the storage devices, and that function can be scaled if more nodes are added.

How do the costs compare to other systems?

Cost controls are another factor that has companies’ attention when it comes to hyper-converged infrastructure. In traditional setups, there multiple physical components to make a proper data center that has sufficient redundancy. Hyper-converged infrastructure is housed in one physical component that supplies redundancy through its cloud capabilities, while also reducing associated costs such as the personnel required to maintain it and the number of vendors required to service it.

The simplicity behind hyper-converged infrastructure means, instead of needing IT personnel in three different specialties — a server admin, network infrastructure admin and a storage admin or specialty technician — hyper-converged infrastructure only requires one IT person, freeing the others for more important projects.

The smaller footprint of hyper-converged infrastructure can reduce a company’s power and overall maintenance costs. With the latter, instead of having maintenance agreements for three different specialists, companies can use one vendor.

Companies that switch to hyper-converged infrastructure will want to choose a vendor that has experience migrating infrastructure. It’s important that the chosen vendor knows what the requirements are and can properly spec the node package that will work for a company. They should also have the ability to troubleshoot common issues that can disrupt the process and a strong sense of the best practices to make the transition from a company’s current solution to a hyper-converged infrastructure go as smoothly as possible.

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The cost-saving opportunity hidden in the return to offices

Talk has begun in earnest for many companies about a return to the office. While timelines might be different, an imperative most companies share is ensuring they’re as efficient as possible in all areas of the business. That includes printing.

With both people and printers heading back to a centralized location, there’s an opportunity to get these assets organized, reconfigured within the physical footprint and efficiently sharing the organizational workload. With a little planning from an expert — a managed print services provider, for instance — companies can keep costs low and connect with partners who can help keep devices protected from outside attacks.

Smart Business spoke with Jacob Baddeley, MPS Sales Manager at Blue Technologies Inc., about the opportunity that the return to offices creates for companies looking to maximize their printing program while minimizing costs.

What managed print services can bring value to companies in today’s environment?

Often a business’s method of printer supply acquisition or its service and maintenance regimens are either inefficient or more expensive than they need to be. That’s typically from a lack of focused attention on this aspect of the business.

Professional managed print services providers specialize in this area, and bring a supply chain and service network to bear on the issue. With their expertise, they’re able to uncover utilization inefficiencies through the use of data analytics and then find solutions to improve efficiencies and reduce overhead.

A managed print services provider can help manage centralized and decentralized printers, something companies with multiple offices and remote workers sometimes struggle to do effectively. Putting that responsibility in the hands of professionals means more control over supply and service across a company’s footprint, even if that footprint spans the nation.

How can these services help companies transition back to a central office?

This is where an assessment becomes really valuable. An assessment from a managed print services provider identifies what assets are coming back to the office and where they should be located, creating a map that connects those devices to who will use them and how their placement affects workflow. Print volumes can be calculated based on the current workforce and then migrated from smaller, personal devices to larger, centralized devices, where appropriate, to increase efficiency. Identifying these aspects of the environment to find where potential bottlenecks in workflow exist and where costs to print are higher can all be addressed through an assessment. It’s a good exercise to go through as both people and devices return to the office.

How can managed print services reduce cybersecurity risk?

Some managed print services providers have partnerships with cybersecurity brands that can potentially eliminate the risk of a security breach, even in situations where employees are working remotely. Managed print services providers also bring standardization throughout the organization. That ensures everybody is printing on the same devices, all of which are secure, are receiving the proper parts and are networked under a secure program. A uniform, well-managed program such as this will help reduce breaches.

Why should companies engage with a managed print services provider now?

Managed print services providers give business leaders visibility into their organization — what’s being printed, where, how often and at what cost. That’s important now because, for many companies that are returning to the workplace, the workload and workforce have changed. Efficiency and cost control are high priorities at the moment, and managed print services providers can create custom solutions that help companies achieve these new imperatives. This can be a pivotal piece for a business. Greater visibility into these assets and associated workflow can ensure companies maximize the assets available in the environment while creating cost efficiencies. That can go a long way toward making sure an organization is operating at peak performance.

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How a Managed Services Provider can enable growth and protect your business

The number of cyberattacks has soared in the past year, with an increase of 300 to 400 percent as more employees are working at home due to COVID-19.

“Remote work extends the perimeter of a business, as employees are accessing the same apps, files, and networks from locations other than a centralized office,” says Eric Thal, Managed Services Manager at Blue Technologies. “In addition, they may be working from their home PC, so businesses need to refocus on security, doubling down and adjusting a network that was built for people to come into the office and work in a secure environment. Look at how your network was initially architected and partner with a Managed Services Provider to adjust for the way your employees work now.”

Smart Business spoke with Thal about how a Managed Services Provider (MSP) can help your business stay safe, move seamlessly to cloud computing, transition to VoIP and increase your speed of service.

How are businesses reacting to the increased threat of cyberattacks?

In the first half of 2020, no one paid attention. Businesses rushed to address their immediate needs, having employees work remotely and replacing desktops with laptops. In 2021, they’ve been able to take a step back.

With people working remotely and across multiple devices, companies have started to budget for things like mobile device management, which allows an MSP to locate mobile devices and remotely monitor and maintain them. If a device is lost, an MSP can wipe corporate data off the device, so it is not compromised while preserving personal data.

How can an MSP help make that transition easier and safer with many businesses moving to the cloud?

Many companies struggle with negative effects when transitioning, adopting the cloud too quickly, without adequate planning. An MSP can help normalize a company’s architecture and correct issues that resulted from moving too quickly. Email migration can be tricky, calendars can fail to sync and companies can lose a lot of data, leaving employees struggling to access information previously housed in the office.

Migrating ERP — the software and systems that manage the core supply chain, manufacturing services, financial and other processes — can be painful. Rushing to the cloud sounds easy, but a new cloud system is not one-and-done; it can take weeks, if not months, of fine-tuning to get it to work the way you want it to. Employing the expertise of an MSP, who has done this thousands of times, gives you a deep bench of resources to allow the project to happen more quickly, safely and at, if not under, budget.

In addition, many companies are still using legacy PBX phone systems, which have limited capabilities, designed for people to sit at their desks in front of a phone, with no ability for remote communication. An MSP can help you analyze, identify your pain points and work with you to determine the solution that best meets your needs, allowing you to communicate from anywhere. Ideally, the MSP should be agnostic, with no investment in your choices, ensuring that together, you identify the best VoIP decision for your unique situation.

How can partnering with an MSP improve the speed of service?

Many companies are making decisions now faster than ever before and expect more from their IT support teams. They don’t accept any downtime.

Service-level agreements have shortened, despite a squeeze on resources, and supply chains have been affected by COVID-19. It can take weeks, if not longer, to source new workstations, networking gear and data equipment, and this trend is expected to continue well into 2021. To combat this, MSPs have increased their inventory of assets by increasing their number of suppliers, so they can lend out those assets or replace them as needed.

As technology continues to carve a path for business growth in 2021, forward-looking organizations will continue to leverage Managed Services Providers to ensure compliance, collaborate securely and limit downtime. Working with an MSP can help your business adapt to changes more quickly and efficiently as the marketplace continues to evolve.

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How Enterprise Content Management can increase efficiencies

Is your organization still manually processing documents, from emails to invoices to HR paperwork? If so, you’re likely missing out on revenue and wasting resources on tasks that could be more efficiently handled with Enterprise Content Management.

“Enterprise Content Management doesn’t just deal with documents but with all types of information content, from the web to emails, snail mail, blogs, wiki, etc., that drive organizational decisions,” says Ben Simms, Vice President, Blue Technologies Inc. “It automates nonvalue-added tasks and keeps information flowing seamlessly throughout your organization.”

Smart Business spoke with Simms about how integrating enterprise content management into your organization can decrease costs, improve efficiency and drive more revenue to your bottom line.

Why should an organization consider Enterprise Content Management?

It brings a value proposition to any corporation or organization, private, public or nonprofit. Every organization makes decisions based on the manner in which information is available. As the market becomes more data driven, this becomes increasingly important. Enterprise Content Management helps manage your operations more effectively, efficiently and productively.

Many organizations still work in an analogue fashion by printing out data, manually disseminating, filing and managing it. But a completely digital system allows you to control the data and eliminate duplicate work and the superfluous clutter that hinders you from making the best decisions. This is more critical than ever, as the pandemic has pushed people into work-from-home strategies, impacting the ability to get information in a timely fashion in order to make decisions that could impact their bottom lines.

Enterprise content management minimizes or eliminates the need for human intervention in routine decisions with encryption while the content is at rest, as well as in transit, eliminating risk exposure. This allows you to do more with less. The biggest cost of goods is a human cost. Eliminating nonvalue-added time required to manage hard-copy data and reallocating that work to revenue-generating activities ensures the bottom line becomes healthier.

How can an organization start to transition to enterprise content management?

Start with a conversation with outside experts to identify your biggest obstacles and pain points, whether that is bottlenecks, redundancies or something else. Assess those areas to identify the current state of operations, what infrastructure is in place to obtain maximum leverage of your current IT infrastructural investment. It’s important to look not only at the current state but begin to map out what is your future desired state. Because the technology is extremely scalable, organizations can minimize their capital outlay, while reaping a quick return by focusing on one pain point at a time. As that area shows a return, move on to other areas to grow and maximize your investment.

Can organizations realize a return on investment?

A return on investment can be almost immediately recognized, and for many, the initial investment is less than half the cost of one full-time employee. For example, accounts payable departments are mostly reliant on hard copy documents. Enterprise Content Management allows you to control processes by moving the content throughout your organization while infusing them programmatically with your business rules and policies so you do not have to rely on first in, first out. As a result of this more efficient way of managing your data you regain control over your AP. This allows you to take advantage of net terms to renegotiate supplier contracts to get better discounts.

Start small and grow to enterprise fashion. What would it mean if HR could decrease onboarding time and automate new hire paperwork?. Instead of new hires filling out forms with the same information, they can fill out one master form that auto-populates all forms, finishing in a tenth of the time.

By having more, up-to-date information on hand, organizations can make better decisions, eliminate errors resulting from manual input and return revenue to their bottom lines.

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How a Managed Service Provider can lower costs, improve security

IT support. Telecom support. Servers. Devices. Networks. Internet connections. Wi-Fi. Data backup. Phone service. Hosting.

It’s a lot for a business to manage and hiring an expert in each of those areas can be prohibitive. To simplify the task, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can manage all of these services under one umbrella, from one central location, with a single point of contact and experienced professionals available in each area to assist your business.

“A Managed Service Provider supports, end to end, everything having to do with the infrastructure of your company, with experts available in every area that impacts your business,” says Majdi Ayoub, Director of IT Delivery at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Ayoub about how partnering with an MPS can lower costs, provide access to expertise, and ensure security and compliance.

How does partnering with an MSP work?

The process starts with the MSP’s assessment of your current set-up and what your company is trying to accomplish. If it is starting from scratch, a partner will determine the type of business, what service it is looking for, how it is set up, what the connectivity is, what the needs are of people working in the office or at home, and what software is being used, among other things.

If you are not starting from scratch, a partner will make recommendations based on where the company is and where it needs to go, customizing solutions based on its objectives and unique needs. Your MSP should also not be a reseller; rather than pushing one product, it should offer the best solutions available in the marketplace based on your budget and requirements.

What are the benefits of partnering with an MSP?

With an MSP, businesses have access to an entire team of IT professionals, including technical, functional, architectural, and security consultants, who can help you keep your systems up and running and unlock the full potential of your company. It’s very costly for companies to have an experienced person on staff in each of these areas. Partnering with an MSP gives you access to experts specialized in each area if and when you need them.

There is also a cost advantage in that partnering with MSPs lowers labor costs and eliminates hiring and training, specialized staff. With an MSP partner, a business has 24/7 access to a help desk for support whenever it’s needed. In addition, working with an MSP allows a business to scale, lowering the average effective rate and widening its resource base.

Finally, you have a dedicated team that knows your company and your business solutions inside and out, led by a single technical account manager. And while the help desk can solve minor problems, if the problem requires boots on the ground, the account manager will be there to work as a middleman with the team of experts on your behalf.

How can an MSP partner help a company stay on top of technology?

Most companies don’t have the expertise in-house to know what needs to be done. Technology changes rapidly, and it can be challenging to keep up with all aspects of it.

Your MSP partner will look at trends and issues in the marketplace and evaluate products, vendors, and resellers. It will then make recommendations, highlighting how a specific product can best meet your needs, considering whether you are looking for the best available or something less expensive that adequately meets your needs.

In addition, businesses are not generally staffed to monitor their systems continuously, and some tasks are outside the scope of internal capabilities. An MSP can scan for vulnerabilities, and because it is on top of trends and regulations, it can help ensure your business stays on top of regulatory compliance requirements.

Your MSP should be committed to excellence, finding solutions to meet your business’s unique needs, resolving your issues and providing the best support the industry can offer.

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How assessing your devices can create efficiencies and lower costs

While many companies have their large copiers/multi-function devices (MFDs) managed by a partner, they often don’t consider their smaller devices, an oversight that costs them time and money.

“A managed print services provider can identify who is using your devices and how,” says Lauren Hanna, director of sales at Blue Technologies. “They can then create a plan to consolidate devices and free up resources.”

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about how a managed print services partner can help you improve efficiencies and cut costs.

How can managed print services create efficiencies?

The partner manages all of the printing devices, including MFDs and printers, scanners and fax machines, so the company doesn’t have to. That frees up the time of highly compensated IT professionals to focus on higher priority/higher skilled projects to protect your organization’s infrastructure.

A managed print services partner can map your devices, analyze volume and usage, and complete a full assessment of your printing environment. The partner will work with you to co-author a print governance strategy to manage your devices, improving efficiencies, reducing costs and freeing up employees to focus on other things.

How does the process work?

A managed print services partner starts with a physical walk-through and visually maps out where devices are located. The assessment process can be eye-opening because businesses often find that they have many more devices than they thought.

The assessment process looks at whether employees are using the right printer for the work they are doing. Does it make sense to be printing where they are, or does another device make more sense? Can you combine individual devices into a more cost-effective business machine?

After mapping, the partner inventories printers, analyzes print volume and workflow, and assesses the company’s needs. It takes two to six weeks to get a feel for how a company is using its devices.

Next, the partner makes recommendations, working with the company to co-author a strategy for implementation, but that’s not the end. Businesses are fluid, and periodic business reviews allow for ongoing recommendations.

What are some common problems — and their solutions?

A lack of standardization of devices is common. Standardizing models gives you the ability to accommodate changes in your business’s needs and workflow.

In addition, a company may have two identical printers, but one is doing 10 times the volume. By simply switching them, you can get more life out of them. And often, there is a printer right next to a fax machine next to a copier. Combining those into one device creates additional efficiencies.

Often, printers print on only one side of a page, creating printing waste. If the goal is to reduce costs and be more sustainable, you can default all printers to two-sided printing. If a document is longer than five pages, it can be rerouted to a more cost-efficient machine.

How can managed print services reduce costs?

Because there is no line item in their budgets for printing, most businesses don’t track that expense and don’t realize how much they are spending. Toner and ink are not high-ticket items, so they are not flagged. A managed print services partner can inventory supplies and set up shipping on-demand, so there’s no duplication.

Companies strive for centralization but don’t consider printers. When they see an assessment of their devices, they’re often surprised by their spending. They are usually spending three times as much with an inefficient set-up as they would be working with a partner that can manage their printing.

Every business should have an expert do an assessment of its printing fleet and usage to bring out information to make decisions heading into the new year. Even if you choose to maintain the status quo, having a partner manage your devices frees up you and your employees to focus on the things that will move your company forward.

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Do you have a business continuity plan in place to survive the next disruption?

Congratulations. Your company has found a way to mitigate the disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic and you are still in business. But are you prepared to survive the next disruption?

“It’s critical to have a business continuity plan in place that will detail the processes and procedures to keep a company operating — or restore operations — whatever the disruption may be, from a physical disaster like something weather-related, a cyberattack, or another pandemic,” says Eric Thal, managed services manager at Blue Technologies.

Smart Business spoke with Thal about how a business continuity plan can help ensure your company is able to tackle the next disruption, no matter what occurs.

Why is it important for every company to have a business continuity plan?

Companies that don’t have a plan run the risk of being unable to continue servicing or selling to their clients. Having a plan in place to quickly recover directly impacts both an organization’s revenue and its reputation.

Businesses need to plan for every possible scenario because one plan isn’t going to address every disaster. The steps you take for surviving in a pandemic are not the same as you would take following a natural disaster. For example, during the pandemic, workers are working remotely. But what if there is no internet access? Consider as many factors as possible that could disrupt your business.

What are the steps for creating a business continuity plan?

The first step is to classify the data within your organization. Involve people from every department and identify which users should have access to which data and why. Understand where that data is so that when an incident occurs, you know which employees are trying to access what data and that there is more than one path to get to that information.

Identify what the objectives and goals of the plan are and what the major areas of concern are. Then establish a preparedness team — stakeholders in the business who will be called on to act in a disaster. Also have back-ups in place in case those stakeholders are not available to ensure continuity of operations.

It’s difficult to plan for everything, but it’s worth trying. Do a risk assessment that includes everything you think could happen, and if it did, what the resulting action would be. Identify the essential functions of the business. What is the minimum you have to be able to do in order to continue operating? Once you have identified those functions, prepare a plan to deal with each of them.

Finally, review and test the plan. Just having a plan doesn’t mean anything if you haven’t run through the scenarios to make sure it actually works. Don’t just check the box that you have a plan in place.

How can an outside consultant help a business ensure it’s covering all of the bases?

Consultants have worked with hundreds, if not thousands of businesses, and know what works and what doesn’t. That person can help a business leverage best practices in its industry by sharing information about what other businesses are doing. It’s not a question of if a business faces a disruption, but when. And when that next disruption occurs, it’s critical that you not only have a plan in place but have one that has been tested and that you know will be effective.

No matter how big or small, every company needs to have a tested business continuity plan in place. Get people involved from every department, it’s not just an IT problem or an executive problem. Each business unit is uniquely affected by a disruption and it’s important to understand the full picture.

Having a plan wasn’t a priority for many businesses going into 2020, but it is going into 2021. You may think it’s not going to happen to you, but it’s only a matter of when.

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Bringing print jobs in house provides flexibility, consistency

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, more companies are bringing their large-format printing in house, both to minimize outside contact and to print pandemic-related signage.

“Large-format flatbed printing allows companies greater flexibility and control, and the ability to print on any substrate up to 2 inches thick as organizations are repositioning their signage and changing their messaging,” says Lauren Hanna, director of sales at Blue Technologies Inc. “That allows for printing on glass, wood, coverings, textiles, packaging and labels, all with superior image quality.”

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about how bringing large-format printing in house can create more flexibility and consistency, and help with your organization’s branding.

How can companies benefit from bringing large-format printing in house?

It gives them flexibility to print signage and other communications on materials that you can’t print with on traditional devices because they are too thick. And it gives you flexibility; you can print two signs or 200, and next week you can change it, and customize by location, sign, packaging or label. This allows for greater brand control and more ways to get your messaging out.

It also provides consistency by allowing them to take control over the printing process. With COVID-19, companies require instructional signage regarding masks and other requirements, and large-format printing allows them to create those signs in house and change them as necessary. Large-format printing allows for the printing of car wraps, yard signs, indoor and outdoor signage, repositionable signage and specialty media, among others, providing greater flexibility in quantity and quality.

How can large-format printing improve branding?

More than ever, companies need to stand out, and having control over printing on packaging and labels can help them do that. For example, if a manufacturer is producing paint brushes but is outsourcing the printing of its labels, that can stall the process and increase the cost of the production. Bringing the printing in house not only increases control, it can drive more profit.

In addition, if there is an error, you’re not waiting until the labels — or other products — arrive to realize it. And it gives you more control on order size and the flexibility to change quickly. Organizations want to print smarter and are looking at where they can get the biggest bang for their buck.

How are changes in consumer behavior changing the printing industry?

Companies are selling more online, so they don’t necessarily need the same sales collateral as they did in the past The sales collateral they need is evolving. But they do need packaging to match their online branding and tie it to their digital advertising, and if they are shipping, they have the opportunity to brand their packaging and labels.

With people spending less time in stores, companies need to create labels that make their product stand out on the shelves. Large-format printing allows them to tweak and control the brand, while outsourcing packaging, labels, signage, etc., can cause limitations or create inconsistencies. Businesses need to think wider; there are a lot of opportunities to get your messaging out.

How can an organization get started?

Work with a professional partner that can help you explore the benefits to your business. Strategically work with a partner that can evaluate your signage, label and packaging print needs to create a customized solution that goes beyond the basics to encompass marketing, car wraps and other specialty media needs. Taking a deep dive with a trusted partner can show you where you can gain the biggest return on investment.

A lot of people are nervous when starting, but you don’t have to be an expert in printing solutions. The machines are very user friendly, and you’ll receive training.
Businesses need to be thinking not just about today, but about what the business is going to look like in six months, how they’re going to get their message out and how they’re going to get their product out. How are you preparing for whatever the new normal will look like?

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How an ECM system can save time and money, and limit errors

With significant disruptions to business during the pandemic and employees suddenly forced to work remotely, companies are scrambling to manage their data — some of which is still on paper at the office along with vital information in separate sources such as emails, ERPs, file shares and faxes.

“Previously, employees spent hours a week tracking down paper documents,” says Lora Holman, advanced solutions sales executive for ECM at Blue Technologies. “With remote work and no physical access to documents, companies are implementing Enterprise Content Management systems to access every document in one location digitally.”

Smart Business spoke with Holman about how integrating an ECM system into your business can save time and money, limit data entry errors and free employees to focus on more critical tasks.

What is Enterprise Content Management?

ECM is the key to digital transformation, moving an organization’s vital information into a central repository, establishing one source of truth. When information is on paper and in cabinets, it wastes time when people get up, search for documents and pass them along. Then those documents can get misfiled, costing time and money. With the pandemic, and people working remotely, it isn’t practical to access paper documents.

ECM automatically scans documents into electronic filing cabinets, indexing the information with key words to create a flexible and powerful searching tool whenever information needs to be located fast. It stores the information in its native format while providing tools for annotating, versions and e-signatures, all while keeping a detailed history and audit trail for compliance and data security.

What is the first step toward implementing ECM?

Think about employees and where they spend the most administrative time. An adviser can help you consider how to minimize labor efforts to run more productively and profitably and help determine how digital transformation can help your business. What you don’t want to do is eat the elephant all in one bite. Figure out where you are going to see the first return on your investment. Make it practical and break it down, so it’s doable.

How can ECM improve a business’s accounting processes?

When a business receives goods delivered from a vendor, accounting must verify from several documents that the item, quantity and purchase order match up to pay the vendor invoice. This takes up employee time finding all relevant documents, printing to compare and verify the match, then re-entering data into the ERP business system.

ECM allows you to access documents in one central place in a virtual filing cabinet. This can save a tremendous amount of time and free up accounts payable and receivable employees for tasks such as determining if they can take advantage of early pay discounts with suppliers that can improve profitability. In addition, entering documents manually can create errors that are difficult to catch until they are further downstream. With disruptions in staffing due to the pandemic, there are fewer people that need to do more with less. Because there is still the same volume of documents, ECM is more critical than ever.

What are other advantages?

Because the system pulls data together, organized in one central repository, it empowers employees to search across a whole volume of documents.
It can also help you identify your most prominent areas of lost productivity, which provides greater owner control. If you can’t see across all your data points, it’s hard to manage them. Most owners will start in one area of the company. Because ECM is scalable, you don’t have to buy a new solution and can apply that budget to other areas of the business.

Is ECM secure?

It takes data protection to a whole new level. You can lock down permissions, and it’s more secure than emails and file sharing. Step back and think about your data and where people are spending their time. ECM can help you get some of that back, improve efficiencies, and gain better visibility to manage your business.

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With employees working remotely, cloud-based solutions provide security

As a business owner, your information is a gold mine. You take steps to protect your servers and keep your data safe from ransomware, malware and other attacks. But in reality, how safe is that data?

“Even with all the measures you put in place, what you think is secure internally is not,” says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies Inc. “The cloud provides a tighter layer of security. And with COVID-19 and more people working remotely, a cloud-based solution can keep your business running as close to normal as possible.”

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about why it’s critical to embrace cloud-based document solutions and how doing so can both protect your data and quickly and securely enable the mobility of your workforce.

What are the biggest concerns businesses have about moving to the cloud?

They have a hard time letting go of what they think of as the security of keeping data in-house.

But the cloud provides tighter security than if they house data on their own servers. And with people suddenly being forced to work remotely, that is critical.

Even if companies previously embraced technology, they were still dealing with paper documents. The cloud allows you to share documents more securely than email.

A lot of businesses were afraid to dip their toes into a cloud-based solution, and nothing was forcing them to. With the pandemic, culture shock happened, and they were forced to change whether they wanted to or not. Then once they started seeing increased efficiencies and a reduction of lost time, they are wondering why they didn’t make a move sooner.

How can a cloud-based solution benefit companies whose workers are suddenly working remotely?

While employees are working remotely, businesses need to operate as they did previously, finding ways to continue to do the same type of document processing outside the office that they did inside.

This isn’t going away. Finding ways of enhancing, embracing and using technology from a cloud-based sense is going to be part of the everyday business process.

This pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the fact that they’ve got to have a way of doing business no matter what happens to disrupt the marketplace. From a planning perspective, you need to have a way of being productive no matter where people are.

How can a business move to the cloud?

Team up with a reliable partner that can help you understand your challenges, pain points and inefficiencies, and what you’re missing by not using this technology. Your partner will learn what you’re trying to accomplish and come up with robust solutions that allow people to be productive, give them powerful solutions and prepare your business to deal with future mass disruptions.

Having a trusted partner can help you adjust and modify your solutions strategically as your business moves into the future.

Once the pandemic passes, will businesses return to the old way of doing things?

This could happen again. Whether it’s a virus or another long-term disruption, you want these solutions in place, so the discomfort and pain you’ve felt through this don’t happen again.

Businesses need to be prepared, and once they start to see the cost savings, the reduction they realize from not having all of this infrastructure, they’ll realize that, from a cost standpoint, it makes sense.

Once you’ve embraced these technologies to help your workforce overcome this situation and keep your company afloat, you need to continue to embrace those, whether you are in a physical office or working remotely.

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