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Game Changer IT Advice: Do We Need a Better Firewall?

Q: “As a small to medium sized business dependent on internet access – do we need a better firewall?”

A: Using a business grade firewall often reduces risk and helps manage internet traffic.

ITGameChanger2aA firewall is software or hardware based and filters information coming through your internet into your private network. If incoming data is flagged by the firewall’s filters, it is not allowed through.

The computers in your company have network cards allowing them to connect to a network. Without a robust firewall, each device is a potential target, spreading a virus to other devices.

The fast growing ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) phenomenon is a major IT security topic. Proper firewall management is an essential security measure against invasive threats to SMEs.

Firewalls generally use one or more of three methods to control traffic flow in their network:

  • Packet filtering – Packets (packages of data) are analyzed using pre-set filters and allowed or denied access to the system.
  • Proxy service – Information from the Internet is retrieved by the firewall, analysed and then sent or not to the requesting system.
  • Stateful inspection – A newer method that checks key parts of the packet against a database of trusted information before deciding whether or not to let data in or out of the firewall.

Many SMEs use firewalls which are no more secure than a home computing model. You may benefit from evaluating if your firewall is suitable for business within the context of workable computing.

If you would like to discuss your IT needs in more detail, please call Advantage Business Systems on 020 3004 4600 or email info@advantage.co.uk.

Game Changer IT Advice: Do We Need an Office Server?

Q: “We are a small company with 10 stand-alone PCs. We do not have a server. What advantages are there in investing in a business server?”

A: Modern businesses of your size have an inexpensive server as a ‘must-have’. A central server would:

  • ITGameChanger2aAllow the central management (and location) of PCs including virus software and windows updates
  • Provide for the central management of security of accounts and PCs
  • Allow users to share company files and folders
  • Allow for a central backup of all shared files and even PCs
  • Offer faster recovery in the case of a disaster
  • Allow for options to run other shared platforms like CRM, ERP and accounting

Make IT outsourcing more effective. There would be less problems with PCs due to central management. This equates to less user problems and quicker resolution of issues.

If you would like to discuss your IT model in more detail, please call Advantage Business Systems on 020 3004 4600 or email info@advantage.co.uk.

Game Changer IT Advice: IT Manager or Outsourcing Company?

Q: “We are a small company. Should we outsource IT Support instead of employing an IT Manager?”

A: IT Managed Services are now sophisticated and uncomplicated enough that most companies with under 50 staff should be able outsource IT support rather than hire an IT Manager or extra IT staff. ITGameChanger2a

We suggest some questions which will help with   this decision.

  • Would a support company cover what your IT Manager does?
  • Would new elements to your IT model remove internal IT tasks e.g. remote monitoring, a central server to manage all PCs, an element of cloud (e.g. Office 365) etc.?
  • With outsourced assistance, could you assign IT actions from managerial to administration staff?
  • Would an outsourced helpdesk team be easier to contact than an internal IT Manager?
  • Would savings from an outsourced company allow you to upgrade your IT system? (savings traditionally equate to 50% plus of related internal costs).
  • Would outsourcing offer extra savings as you won’t need ‘holiday cover‘ on top of paying for internal IT?

If the answer to most of the above is ‘yes’, you would benefit from outsourcing IT support.

Advantage can provide:

  • a detailed list of what our standard IT cover provides
  • pricing for annual support based on no. of users
  • our support structure and escalation process
  • an audit of your system

If you would like to discuss your IT model in more detail, please call the Managed Services team at Advantage Business Systems on 020 3004 4600 or email info@advantage.co.uk.

IT Support – It’s Not Rocket Science

I have been reading outsourcing company blogs about providing IT Support to SRocketScienceITSupport1ME customers. One point bloggers (including us) emphasise is the importance of a consultative approach. This is as it should be but with some articles you may be forgiven for thinking the supplier is engineering the Large Hadron Collider for a Chartered Accountant in St John’s Wood.

Understanding a customer’s business and budget is vital. However – we are talking about IT support here. It’s not rocket science.

It’s not even science.

IT Support for SMEs in London is not exotic. Advantage’s initial ‘scoping’ meetings usually take an hour (hint: we like chocolate biscuits) and we return a proposal which includes at its core, 5 consecutive sections

  1. A summary of the customer’s current IT model
  2. The customer’s ‘Points of Pain’
  3. The customer’s requirements
  4. Advantage’s recommended technical solution with line by line costs
  5. How our solution addresses section 2 and 3

We tweak the proposal based on customer feedback but the technology element is fairly straight forward. If we have issues, they tend to be setting realistic expectations of what a budget can support. In some cases, we suggest innovations aligned to modern practices. These may include for example, introducing an office server, installing a better firewall or subscribing to Office 365.

So – taking a consultative approach to IT Support is vital but if your discussions with an outsourcing company sound confusing – you should ask yourself if you want a relationship with a supplier where your conversations never completely make sense.

If you would like to have an informal discussion about your IT support and your current IT model – please call the Managed Services Team at Advantage Business Systems.

Do you agree with John’s points? Share your experiences, help other small medium sized businesses by clicking here and answering our short 1 minute mini questionnaire.

 

The Six Traits London SMEs Want in an IT Support Provider

6TraitsITSupport1We have rounded up opinions on what attracts and repels small to medium enterprise businesses in London when it comes to choosing an IT Support provider.

Here are the top six deciding topics.

1.    “Attentiveness”

Listening to a customer’s goals and ‘points of pain’ was deemed critical. A common complaint was that ‘boiler plate’ proposals didn’t address specific needs.

Good Sign: The supplier asks you a lot of pertinent questions including ones that make you think hard. They recap what you need and you both agree on further actions.

Bad Sign: Your supplier is interested in selling you what they want to sell you rather than understanding what you need.

2.     “Clarity”

IT models and IT support for SME’s is not complex. Issues and solutions can be summarised in a clear, friendly manner.

Good Sign: The supplier clearly explains issues, solutions and benefits to you and follows up points in writing.

Bad Sign: You are never completely at ease with the supplier’s explanations. They tend to answer questions you haven’t asked them rather than the ones you have.

3.    “Attitude.”

Customers are more influenced by a provider’s attitude than anything else.

Good Sign: Your supplier has a helpful, positive attitude and keeps things relatively simple.

Bad Sign: You feel your issues are keeping your provider from his really important work.

4.    “Flexibility”

Business changes quickly. Remote working, customer trends, interim workers etc. can change during a contract. Organisations want responsive support models.

Good Sign: You have a scalable IT model that expands and contracts with you. Technology modules can be added without conflicts with your system.

Bad Sign: Your support contract proves technically and contractually restrictive when you want to modify your IT model.

5.     “Expertise”

We may be drowning in information but still suffer a lack of judgement.  Customers were attracted to suppliers who applied judgement to an array of IT information and return an appropriate, cost-effective, best of breed solution.

Good Sign: Supplier shows good judgement in balancing risk, effectiveness and cost.

Bad Sign: Your provider’s solution seems too complicated, too high end and too expensive.

6.     “Empathy”

Not so much being ‘touchy-feely’ as empathising with the goals, trials and culture of your company. Small media companies will have a different culture than say, an insurance company. Your support company should have an inkling of what’s at stake – and how you feel.

Good Sign: Your provider doesn’t take your level of satisfaction for granted.

Bad Sign: Your supplier doesn’t get you.

If you would like to talk to an IT Support company who ticks all these boxes – please call the Managed Services team at Advantage Business Systems.

Do you agree with John’s points? Share your experiences, help other small medium sized businesses by clicking here and answering our short 1 minute mini questionnaire.

Contact Advantage Business Systems

Advantage Business Systems Limited (Main Office)
No. 1 Poultry, London, EC2R 8JR, UK

T: 0203 004 4600 F: 0203 004 4625