Narrowing the options when making technology decisions

Business leaders face an overwhelming number of decisions to make and options to choose from when selecting technology. Many can experience analysis paralysis, given all the options and considerations.

Smart Business spoke with Rivers Agile Founder and CEO Ben Wilson and his team to get tips on how to break down this complex process to achieve your organizational goals.

What should companies consider when building new software?

Having custom software can give companies strategic advantage, new capabilities and improved efficiencies. Early in the process a company should consider the options on who should build it.

  • In-house — use and/or hire full-time employees to design, build, test and manage the development effort.
  • Outsource — select a trusted vendor to manage and execute the effort with oversight from your organization.
  • Co-source — select a vendor to develop a defined portion of the software, or have a vendor provide staff augmentation resources that your organization manages.

Making this decision should take these three factors into account:

  • Capacity — does the organization have enough resources and can those resources be allocated where and when they’re needed?
  • Capability — does the organization have resources with all the relevant skills and experience in the technology expected to be used?
  • Confidence — does the organization have the experience or has it executed and managed something like this before?

Should a company Build a responsive mobile site, native or hybrid mobile app?

The first option to consider is developing web software that runs in the browser and will responsively render on desktop browser or mobile browser. This approach is more costly than supporting desktop-only but is less costly than maintaining a separate mobile app. Many end users prefer to engage this way as it avoids the hassle of needing to install an app.

After deciding to create a mobile app, the next decision is whether to develop native apps that are platform-specific or a hybrid app. Native apps are written with a specific platform or device in mind. If a company wants native apps for iOS and Android, it essentially requires developing the same piece of software twice, and then maintaining two separate code bases. The tradeoff is that native apps offer fast performance and a high level of reliability. Hybrid apps are available for download on a variety of devices — build once and deploy to both app stores. Hybrid development generally has a quicker turnaround time since it’s deployed across multi-platforms. Because of the large difference in cost between native and hybrid, choose hybrid unless there are specific technological reasons that would cause hybrid to perform poorly or compromise the user experience.

What is the reality of low-code or no-code options?

Low-code platforms are closed ecosystems. By choosing a no-/low-code development option, you become locked into a platform that’s entirely dependent on a vendor’s services. The reality is that no-/low-code applications are inflexible and brittle. In the beginning, most features are ‘out-of-the-box’ functional and easily manipulated, like drag and drop. Yet, more complex ideas and features generally cannot be created using these simplified coding tools. This tends to stifle teams and necessitates a move toward more custom code. Low-code platforms are extremely basic and not compatible with professional software engineering standards, making their output unsustainable.

Further, these enterprise low-code platforms aren’t being taught in computer science programs, so you run the risk of leaving your developer(s) without a network of resources they’ll need in order to learn, add custom features, or rectify issues. It also makes it difficult to hire from a pool of developers familiar with the platform. And if your low-code vendor vanishes tomorrow, you could be left out in the cold.

Low-code solutions are recommended only for software that performs simple back office functions that are expected to remain simple and non-mission critical, with a small user base under direct control of the organization.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Rivers Agile

How the cloud helps legal firms improve competitiveness

The pandemic had quite a few law firms scrambling to get all their employees effectively working from home. Some firms stopped other projects in order to focus on getting staff members — paralegals and other administration staff — set up. That required getting physical hardware and software deployed. But it was also a time when many firms adopted the use of cloud-based software products for the first time.

“In the legal sector, a vertical that’s been technologically conservative, working from home is advancing the adoption of technology,” says David Cramer, Manager of Business Development – Legal & Professional Services at Blue Technologies, Inc. “Firms are discovering that technology provides greater value, better efficiency and better performance to get the job done effectively. That then enhances their business and provides a better return on investment.”

Smart Business spoke with Cramer about technology solutions for legal firms that are looking for secure and efficient ways to adapt to the remote work environment.

What obstacles have law firms faced shifting to remote work?

One obstacle was the loss of the ability to walk down a hall and ask colleagues questions. Fortunately, software with chat functions and different collaboration tools were brought in to address the issue.

Another challenge for firms as they worked remotely was security. Security, though, is not just one product or one solution. Security requires multiple solutions. One of those solutions is the ability to encrypt data and documents, both at rest and in transit. Some are doing that with their traditional on-premise document management system. Others are utilizing a cloud solution that provides that level of security.

However, there are some cases in both corporate legal departments and law firms that two or more firms must work together. When exchanging physical documents isn’t an option, everything gets done electronically, which requires layers of security — even when working from home. That increased the need for secure file collaboration.

What security solutions do these products offer?

Legal firms rely on products that offer different levels of security. In addition to encryption, there are also solutions that use artificial intelligence to identify bad actors by detecting behavior changes. The software learns the users’ behavior so that it can recognize any anomaly. For example, if a user tends to download a few documents each week, then suddenly downloads 10,000 documents in a day, that would get recognized as anomalous behavior. Or if an attorney works in one particular practice group, but begins accessing documents in a completely different practice group, that will also alert an administrator or security officer so they could take action. While the above use cases may apply to internal resources, it also applies if credentials became compromised by an external source, thereby providing protection against both internal and external attacks.

In what ways have cloud-based solutions affected other aspects of firms’ practices?

The pandemic has driven an acceleration from traditional on-premise applications to cloud-based applications. Now, legal firms are finding cloud-based solutions offer better reliability, easier maintenance, better up time and less in-house support than traditional on-premise solutions. These solutions are meant to be accessed remotely, so they perform better in a work-from-home environment.

Cloud-based applications also offer increased security compared with the on-premise solutions deployed in most small and medium-sized law firms — most of which don’t have the budget to build up a robust security foundation for all their applications. In that way, cloud solutions can level the playing field for small and medium-sized firms.

There are professional service providers that offer solutions and advice to guide law firms on these issues. They can help them find the right solutions to deploy securely in work-from-home environments while facilitating collaboration, keeping sensitive data protected and helping to level the competitive playing field.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Protecting against cyberattacks starts with the right help

Last year, organizations collectively faced over 3 billion cyberattacks. The bad actors executing these attacks are getting increasingly sophisticated. As a result, the standard cybersecurity stack is no defense against these threats.

Making matters worse, small and mid-ized businesses are frequent targets for cyberattacks.

“That’s typically because the leaders in these companies don’t feel what they have is worth stealing, so they don’t have the necessary cybersecurity platforms with good processes and protocols in place, and the hackers know it,” says Joe Hesske, Manager – Managed IT & Cybersecurity Solutions, Blue Technologies, Inc.

He says all businesses, large and small, should have a full cybersecurity strategy in place. Those companies that aren’t able to execute such a strategy effectively on their own should consider working with a Managed Local Services Security Provider (MSSP).

Smart Business spoke with Hesske about MSSPs — what they are and how they help companies mitigate their cyber threat exposure.

What’s the difference between a Managed Services Provider and a Managed Service Security Provider?

A Managed Services Provider (MSP) is focused on usability and performance. A Managed Local Services Security Provider (MSSP) is focused on security. The MSP monitors the health of an organization’s network. An MSSP is responsible for preventing, detecting, and responding to threats before they cause serious issues with an organization’s data and network environment.

Most MSPs will utilize a baseline security technology stack with anti-virus, anti-malware, and patch management. However, an MSSP will go much deeper with advanced endpoint protection, including Security Operations Center (SOC) monitoring and remediation, and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platforms.

In most cases, what would be considered a higher layer of cybersecurity is above and beyond the standard cyber technology stack. Both layers of security are needed to be effective. However, the advanced security services can be implemented as a separate, over-the-top solution by an MSSP, even if they are not the actual MSP.

Packaging and bundling cybersecurity solutions are typical and should include other services, such as Employee Security Awareness Training, forced multi-factor authentication, and dark web monitoring.

How can MSSPs insulate companies from cybersecurity issues?

A deep-dive cybersecurity risk assessment scan of a company’s network environment is always the best starting point. When these scans are performed, they will uncover security gaps. These gaps can include unsupported operating systems such as XP or Win7, passwords set to never expire, and former employees in active directory who still have network access, just to name a few. Once this information is obtained, the MSSP will design a solution to address all the potential security gaps.

What should companies look for in a Managed Service Security Provider?

When searching for a MSSP, companies should look for one with:

  • The ability to provide advanced protection using best-in-class applications, such as SIEM platforms, Security Awareness Training (SAT), and dark web monitoring.
  • SOC monitoring and remediation as a service.
  • A high-level of communication through an account manager, and quarterly business reviews.

An MSSP should be a company’s trusted technology adviser — one that can navigate through the complex cybersecurity ecosystem, which includes legal, insurance, regulatory and compliance, breach forensics, and reputation management in the event of a cyber breach.

Today, it’s not a matter of if, but when an attack will happen. Good cybersecurity practices, internal protocols, and platforms are the best way to mitigate a company’s risk. Further, having the right cybersecurity program in place can lead to substantial discounts for cyber liability insurance.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Enterprise-wide software projects require help from everyone

Launching enterprise-wide software is challenging for organizations of any type or size. These projects are complex and time-consuming, requiring a great deal of planning, resources and communication to execute. Fortunately, there are tried-and-true steps that can set the foundation for a successful outcome.

Smart Business spoke with Keith Monahan, Director of Quality Assurance Services at Rivers Agile, about giving enterprise-wide software rollouts the best chance of success.

How should software rollouts begin?

Whether the project involves building software or deploying commercial off-the-shelf software, the first step is to decide from a high level what needs to be accomplished — the goal or the vision. That springs from a high-level vision statement from the Executive Sponsor, which could be as simple as, ‘We need a solution that does X.’ That statement then filters down to the CTO, who interprets that vision statement into the business value the organization is trying to deliver, whether internal, external or both. They use their technology and business knowledge to invoke the right internal department heads to execute this vision.

As this message moves downstream, it’s picked up by a business analyst, who transforms the vision into a set of requirements that typically take two forms: functional requirements, which describe what the software is supposed to do, and nonfunctional requirements, which describe how the system is supposed to be.

How does that vision get translated into function?

To ensure the final product matches the initial vision, organizations should work closely with their Software Development and Quality Assurance (QA) teams. QA, when involved early, can analyze the given project requirements to determine that they are finite, testable and measurable. Bringing QA in early to develop a testing strategy and perform requirements analysis is essential to ensure that what’s being requested can be delivered, and that goes a long way toward the project’s success.

This, in short, is the process of verification and validation, both of which are functions of QA. Verification confirms that testing is being done on the many pieces and parts of a project according to the specifications. Validation ensures that functions are being built that support the business and provide value. Value stream mapping, a part of validation, helps ensure if a feature is added that it leads to a valuable outcome — say, revenue generation or time savings.

By having QA involved early and doing both verification and validation, organizations should expect to get a product that does what was described at a high level, and also functions well for those who use it every day. The key is that the development or implementation teams generate a service that shows real business value.

How can organizations ensure buy-in and adoption?

Once the software is finished and ready for rollout, organizations need to deploy an implementation plan, which will help ensure the transition from the old to new system is as smooth as possible. Among the key steps in implementation are aligning the team, change management and training. Training can be done internally by technical users, or by external teams familiar with the software. The goal is to ensure end users can understand and quickly get comfortable with the new software. Equally as important is to get teams aligned behind a software rollout early. This can be done by designating a representative in every functional area — accounting or procurement, for instance, depending on the nature of the project — to answer usage questions. This should be someone who understands the software as well as the day-to-day demands placed on it — the practical processes and functions of the department.

Change management is another key to implementation. This organization-wide strategy to facilitate the transition is driven by frequent communication. Determine who will lead it and how communication will work so that each step in the transition — for instance, when existing system will be down as they’re upgraded, when training will be delivered — is clear.

Enterprise-wide software rollouts are complicated, and not everything will go smoothly. But, with a well-considered plan and the involvement of QA throughout the process, the chances of success are greater.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Rivers Agile

Four reasons to bring production printing in-house

With the Great Recession, marketing departments shrunk drastically. Many tasks like production printing — sales collateral or marketing materials that go in front of customers and prospects — were outsourced, if they were not already created by outside printers.

But as the economy recovered and businesses, once again, had healthy and growing balance sheets, that production printing hasn’t always returned to the company.

Lauren Hanna, director of sales at Blue Technologies, wants organizations to consider how bringing your marketing and sales printing in-house can provide control, reduce waste, allow on-demand printing and enable more targeted or customized marketing campaigns.

Smart Business spoke with Hanna about in-house production printing.

Why do some organizations keep outsourcing their production printing?

First of all, a lot of organizations don’t know what their printing spend is for marketing and/or sales. They don’t realize how much they are outsourcing. In other cases, they are outsourcing it because that’s what they’ve always done. Or, they don’t feel like they have the available staff to make the switch.

What are the biggest benefits of bringing production printing under your roof?

In-house production printing gives your company more control of both the brand and messaging. You’re proofing in real-time, instead of having to send it out and trust that your files are going to come out the way that you want them to.

Print is still very much alive and well for organizations today, but marketing or sales materials might go out across different platforms. Therefore, you need to make sure that your physical prints match your digital campaign. There needs to be continuity between those two, along with the ability to make changes in both places quickly, and there’s no better way to do that than to control that printing yourself.

Having a production printer also helps businesses reduce waste with on-demand printing. Companies that outsource their production printing might have to order 10,000 copies of a catalog, for example, but if a part or product changes, that catalog is no longer up to date. When they outsource, they have use to all of that collateral — until it’s gone — and they can change the messaging. Or they throw it away.

That ability to print on-demand is also useful for customizing your collateral for a specific customer, product line or division. With marketing and advertisements everywhere, businesses want to differentiate themselves amongst the noise and acknowledge their customers’ interests and preferences. Rather than send out a brochure or postcard to all of your prospects, for instance, customized printing allows you to make conditional changes for targeted marketing. This, in turn, can impact your revenue, brand loyalty, and customer acquisition and retention.

After an organization decides to bring its production printing in-house, what else should executives keep in mind?

Many companies think that it’s going to be a very large task or that they will have to find a full-time person to run the printer. But that most likely won’t be the case, if they work with a strategic technology partner to help identify what bringing the marketing and sales printing in-house entails. With the proper communication, they can set up training, workflows, etc., so it’s not a burden on the marketing department or staff.

In addition, it’s normal to be hesitant. A lot of the organizations were hesitant in the beginning, but then increased their in-house printing because it’s easy once you have a process in place.

Again, work with a strategic partner to come up with a plan together. You’ll want to create an outline that processes what’s going to work best for your organization because every company’s marketing initiatives are different. You can start smaller and expand once you get more comfortable. It’s very common to take a phased approach. You don’t need to bring 100 percent of everything in-house, but even with a portion of that total, you’ll gain control and reduce waste, while having the ability to print on-demand and create targeted marketing campaigns.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.

Cyberthreats, compliance expected to challenge businesses

The cyberthreat environment heated up this past year. That should encourage companies to be more aware of their exposures and more prepared to mitigate their risks.

“It’s affecting a lot of businesses and every incident can have major impact,” says Majdi Ayoub, director of technical services at Blue Technologies, Inc.

Unfortunately, even though the threat is growing, many companies are not taking all the necessary precautions to avoid these growing cyberattacks.

“If an attack were to land successfully, it’s going to cost an organization a lot of time and resources to try to recover their very valuable data,” Ayoub says.

Smart Business spoke with Ayoub about cyberattacks, compliance updates that will affect many businesses, and how managed services professionals can prepare organizations to handle both.

How can managed services help mitigate cyberthreats?

Some companies build their own dedicated IT team to insulate them from security threats. That can be an ideal solution, but it’s very costly to bring experts on staff to keep systems protected. Companies that don’t have enough work to justify a full-time IT staff instead outsource the service and minimize their costs.

With managed IT services, companies get access to specialized personnel who have broad experience dealing with cyberthreats in many organizational environments. Managed services professionals can assess a company’s vulnerabilities, explain the potential threats and pinpoint where they’re most likely to be compromised. They’re able to bring this experience to bear to protect an organization in a cost-effective way.

What compliance standard changes are coming and how can managed services companies help?

The Department of Defense has pushed to finalize the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement rule this summer. This rule will require contractors to have third-party inspections prior to being allowed to work with the DoD. The push has come in the wake of increasing data breaches that have happened because contractors incorrectly handled Confidential Unclassified Information.

Additional changes are also in consideration to address concerns that arose from the 60-day comment period. These changes are intended to address interaction and align with other federal information technology compliance programs.

Managed services professionals often specialize in specific areas, which means they’re familiar with any compliance requirements for companies operating in certain industries. These experts stay up to date on the latest compliance requirements, which can help companies identify areas in need of security upgrades in order to meet those regulatory standards. These service providers also stay up to date on both the cyberthreat environment, as well as ways to best to protect companies against those threats. That knowledge can help ensure companies remain protected and in compliance with any new regulatory requirements.

How can managed services providers save companies money?

Managed services companies can fill the role that full-time IT professionals typically serve in an organization, offering the same support without an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Additionally, working with an experienced managed services company enables business leaders to focus on their core business rather than worry about IT issues. Managed services companies can also work with a company’s current IT staff, enhancing the overall skillset and specialties of the IT team.

Cyberthreats will continue to be an issue for every company, regardless of how much or how little exposure they believe they have to the digital world. And with compliance requirements taking shape for companies outside of the more heavily regulated industries such as banking and health care, every organization should work to ensure they’re protected and that their systems can meet these new standards. Managed services providers offer a cost-effective way to do just that. There are a lot of companies that offer these services, so it’s incumbent upon companies to do their diligence and ensure they’re working with a provider that has the certifications and experience to be effective.

INSIGHTS Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

Document solutions for an increasingly remote workforce

Over the past 12 to 14 months, organizations have had to address challenges associated with having most or all of their people spending most or all of their time out of the office. That has, in some cases, made it difficult to do some of the day-to-day processing of information.

“Take office mail, for instance,” says Curtis Verhoff, advanced solutions manager at Blue Technologies, Inc. “In some cases, information is coming in on a daily basis through the mail, and those documents have to be distributed to employees who are not in the office to receive it. Fortunately, technology exists that can help small to medium-sized businesses deal with these challenges so that they can continue to operate in much the same timely and efficient manner that they had when everybody was regularly at the office.”

Verhoff says these solutions have enabled employees to stay connected as well as productive — in some cases even more productive — than if everyone were at the office.

Smart Business spoke with Verhoff about technology solutions that facilitate information sharing, as well as how to work with a technology partner to identify and fill gaps created in the abrupt shift to remote work.

What issue have you seen give companies trouble in the shift to remote work?

Mail, faxes and other documents that are distributed from a company’s front desk physically to office staff are, in many cases, unable to be delivered as they typically would. Sometimes, if that information doesn’t reach the appropriate people, they’re unable to act on it. In other cases, that physical information needs the attention of multiple people, none of whom are in the office to receive and review the document.

One solution to prevent that information from stalling at the front desk is to capture those documents electronically and deliver them to those who need it, wherever they might be. That way, the right people can take action on that information, and they can do it remotely just as quickly as if they were there at the office.

What technology solutions can facilitate this?

Cloud-based workflow solutions make it easy to share, comment on and edit information. These technologies can also enable employees to share physical documents that arrive at the office by scanning them and then delivering them via the cloud to the appropriate people.

Additionally, document storage solutions — and there are many brand-name offerings — also facilitate the collection and distribution of documents, making them available to people at home, in the office, as they travel — wherever they’re at. They can also remotely work on documents, make edits and pass them on to another individual, even collaborate on a document with a colleague.

How can companies find the right solution?

Before choosing a technology, identify the workflow gaps or bottlenecks and determine what’s causing them. Where are the delays or challenges when moving documents and information back and forth among people who are in the office, working remotely or traveling? Dig in to understand the day-to-day challenges because, especially with so much of the workforce working remote, there needs to be an efficient way to deal with work that must be done while employees are outside of the office.

There are many cloud-based and workflow-based solutions that allow employees to view, manipulate and share documents in much the same way as they would if they were working in an office together. The right technology partner knows the best questions to ask in order to identify the source of any workflow gaps and delays. Then, with their knowledge of the options in the market, the partner can find the products that best address those challenges.

There are technology partners that can help companies big and small overcome their technology challenges through cost-effective solutions. But it’s up to companies to take advantage of that relationship to find the technologies that enable them to perform normally in an abnormal environment.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies, Inc.

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.

Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

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.

INSIGHTS Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies

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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