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hourly pay 1024x330 - What hourly IT support means for your small business

What hourly IT support means for your small business

By | QCS Group Blog

Choosing an IT support structure is a lot like choosing a treat from the ice cream truck (we’re going somewhere with this, we promise). Some people are Fudgsicle people, while others always go for the Rocket Pop. The point is that IT support comes in different flavours designed to suit various needs and budgets.

Small businesses, which understandably have smaller budgets for IT spending, typically opt for low-overhead options. Specifically, they usually go for an hourly business IT support model, meaning companies are only charged by the provider when they actually use IT services. With this method, also known as break/fix, companies have access to expert IT support when their technical needs exceed their abilities. Unlike with a managed services provider or internal IT support provider, however, there’s no commitment to pay for ongoing support. Hourly support is the ice cream sandwich of IT services: simple, classic and provides just enough to get the job done.

Reduced upfront costs

The big draw of hourly IT support is the cost savings. If calls to the IT support centre are few and far between in your office, this payment structure just makes sense. Ditto if you have an on-site IT team that’s able to handle non-urgent issues. As supplemental 24/7 IT support, hourly IT is a good idea. After all, your internal IT guy probably appreciates being able to take a vacation every now and then!

If your support needs are fairly insignificant or irregular, you’ll find a pretty powerful argument for hourly IT support in the form of dollars saved. MSPs offer consistent monitoring, strategic planning and routine maintenance—but nobody works for free, including business IT support providers. Opting for the hourly structure can reduce upfront IT costs, particularly if your budget for such expenses is extremely limited.

Unexpected maintenance costs

The downside to the hourly IT support method is that it’s often hard to predict when things will break. You may be breezing along, working with an out-of-the-box cloud storage solution and a few mobile devices and desktop stations when suddenly everything goes kaput. You can’t figure out how to back up your network, your Wi-Fi is on the fritz and—because when it rains, it pours—a couple of those trusty desktop stations decide it’s time they meet their makers.

The situation we just described may be extreme, but it’s not entirely unimaginable. After all, the break/fix method makes it difficult to budget for upgrading your machines, networks and servers. Instead of receiving regular maintenance, your systems and equipment will keep grinding along until something either give out or is diagnosed and “fixed” by nontechnical employees.

There’s obviously no way to predict when you’ll find yourself at the centre of a perfect technological storm. That said, regular system checkups by an expert can offer some insight into your equipment’s expected lifespan and may even help you squeeze out a few additional years.

Impacted productivity

A slow computer or network adds time to every task you undertake. Moreover, when members of your team take time out of their days to deal with network outages or computer issues, that’s time they’re not using to work on their core objectives, which translates to lost productivity.

When you don’t have a dedicated IT team at your disposal, the work of correcting computer issues often falls to other team members. With an hourly IT support structure, employees typically need prior authorisation to contact IT services, so it’s faster (and less awkward) to diagnose computer issues themselves.

The problem is that unless you happen to have an amateur computer whiz on staff, you’re trusting the livelihood of your equipment to someone who may not really know what they’re doing. Meanwhile, something that a pro may need 30 minutes to diagnose and correct can take an inexperienced employee a full day of Googling and trial and error. When you add up the resultant lost labour, your hourly IT support system could be costing you a great deal of money.

Calculating your actual IT costs

That’s not to say hourly business IT support isn’t a good fit for small businesses. There are several factors at play, including your equipment, the internal resources available, your budget and what you have planned for your IT in the future. However, given the number of hidden IT costs associated with the hourly model—equipment replacement, lost business during outages, reduced employee productivity, etc.—it’s likely worth taking a more holistic approach.

Tracking how much time you spend internally fixing IT issues and how frequently you replace and repair equipment will help you get a feel for the real costs of business IT support. However, the cost isn’t the only thing to consider when you hire an IT services provider.

money 1024x682 - Short-term savings that can lead to long-term IT costs

Short-term savings that can lead to long-term IT costs

By | QCS Group Blog

Technology is often presented as a way to cut operational spending—after all, if you can get a machine to do the work of 10 employees, you’re definitely going to see some savings. However, when it comes to IT services and infrastructure, choose your savings carefully. Low-overhead IT solutions may cost less upfront, but opting for these services can come back to haunt you during an IT support or security event.

Most organisations spend very little on IT solutions as it is—small businesses dedicate an average 6.9% of their budget to IT, while enterprise companies spend a mere 3.1%. Considering how much a data breach or server downtime can cost you ($3.62 million and $100,000 per hour, respectively), choosing economy-grade equipment and IT support isn’t always the wisest choice.

An easy analogy comes from the grocery store. Sure, a two-pack of paper towels costs less upfront than a pack of 24, but when you really break it down, you’re spending a lot more per roll than you would if you bought the bulk package—and it’s not like you’re going to run out of uses for paper towels!

Similarly, businesses may shave IT spending by opting for limited services packages, but this often backfires spectacularly when there’s a need for more intensive, personalised support. If your server goes down or you can’t access mission-critical data, you might end up paying through the nose for hourly IT support. Here are some of the techniques businesses use to save on IT services and solutions, as well as why those strategies often boomerang when the heat is on.

Refurbished equipment: Is it worth the long-term costs?

The best computers and devices are as reliable as the dawn: They won’t conk out on you in the middle of a huge report or suddenly go down during your busiest day of the year. However, top-of-the-line equipment is expensive, especially if it’s brand-new.

That said, refurbished computers, server machines and other devices present an opportunity for cash-strapped businesses to save. You can often find refurbished laptops and desktops on sale for hundreds of dollars below retail price—but what you save in money, you lose in easy IT support, longevity and coverage.

Keep in mind that return policies for refurbished products are usually fairly limited. Under Apple’s return window, for instance, you have just two weeks to identify defects and send back the product. And Apple actually has one of the more lenient refurbished equipment policies out there!

If you choose to go down the refurbishment path, you’ll also face restrictions on your warranty. Most refurbished products are only under warranty for 30 to 90 days, and in some cases, the warranty may not even be applicable if the manufacturer doesn’t have a repair centre in your area.

Lastly, used equipment may need to be replaced or repaired more frequently, even though it’s been refurbished. This issue tends to particularly crop up with used laptops, which have older batteries that require charging more often and may even need to be replaced altogether. A malfunctioning hard drive is another common problem, and you’ll have to pay out of pocket to have it replaced. Even if you don’t experience problems with worn-out parts, older equipment obviously becomes outdated sooner than brand-new models. The question becomes: Do you want to save now or save later?

Break/fix and hourly IT structures: Will they cover your IT needs?

Sure, investing in refurbished equipment is a gamble, but it’s a low-stakes bet compared to opting for limited IT support. Break/fix and hourly IT support structures exist for businesses that have very minimal IT commitments—under this model, your business is charged only when you call IT support. Unlike with managed services providers (MSPs), which can provide you with 24/7 monitoring and other ongoing services, you won’t pay a fixed fee for IT services with the hourly model.

Break/fix models typically cost less, so they may appear to be saving your business money. The problem is that these pricing structures make IT spending unpredictable and difficult to budget. Additionally, hourly providers offer largely ad hoc IT solutions, so there’s little due diligence to ensure the overall security of your infrastructure and systems.

Break/fix and hourly IT solutions may do for the short-term, but there’s not much preventative work done to head off problems down the line. Furthermore, you won’t have the planning and strategic advice of an expert. All in all, think of your IT support choices as being equivalent to seeing the dentist: You’re probably a lot better off going every six months for a cleaning than only when you have a cavity.

Skimping on IT security: A bad idea by any measure

If it ain’t broke… you know the rest. Maybe that mantra works for the government, but in terms of IT services, legacy applications aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Older software often introduces security vulnerabilities into your network, and because these flaws may not be discovered until after an application’s release, the set-it-and-forget-it method of technology management isn’t a very successful policy.

Moreover, it’s important to reconsider your business security any time you add a network component. Even if you have robust data intrusion detection, firewalls and other IT solutions, you could be putting yourself in a vulnerable position if your wireless devices don’t all follow security best practices. There’s also the issue of data security with outside vendors—your information (and your clients’ sensitive data) could be at risk if those vendors aren’t using proper encryption, access management and other data protections.

This is where MSPs excel by evaluating your network as a whole entity, auditing for security weaknesses in applications, devices and infrastructure. They can also provide user training to knock out security issues resulting from human error and will work with outside vendors to ensure your data stays protected even when it’s not stored on your own servers or networks.

New Data Breach rules are in effect. Is your business ready?

By | QCS Group Blog

As the new Notifiable Data Breach Scheme has come into effect on the 22 February 2018, there is now an onus on business to protect and notify individuals whose personal information is involved in a data breach that is likely to result in serious harm.

When most people think of data breaches, they think of sneaky virus attacks with employees being tricked into opening files allowing viruses to penetrate servers, but the reality can be much more mundane, plausible and preventable.

And it’s not all about IT systems. There have been numerous cases of hard copy records being disposed of inappropriately, sensitive data on USBs lost on the way home or machines being disposed of complete with data on the hard disk. (As a side note, did you know that QCS Group offers a service where your decommissioned hardware is disposed of securely?)

Who is covered by the data breach scheme?

The Notifiable Data Breach (NDB) Scheme affects organisations covered by the Privacy Act – that is, organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more. But, if your business is ‘related to’ another business covered by the Privacy Act, or deals with health records (including gyms, child care centres, natural health providers, etc.,), or is a credit provider, then your business is also affected.

What do you need to do?

Complying with these new laws means more than ringing the bell and notifying your customers and authorities when a breach occurs. Organisations are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent a breach occurring in the first place. This means putting in place the systems and procedures to identify and assess breaches and issue a notification if a breach is likely to cause ‘serious harm’.

How do you assess your risk?

The Privacy Act already requires organisations to take all reasonable steps to protect personal information. The new data breach laws merely add an additional layer to assess breaches and notify where the breach poses a threat.

Firstly, consider some of the following questions:

  • How does personal information flow into and out of your business?
  • What information do you gather?
  • What information do you provide?
  • Where do you store private information? – What systems do you use, where do these systems store data, what level of security is provided within those systems and what level of access does each team member have (and should they have access for their role)?
  • Who in your organisation has access to sensitive information, and not just who is accessing the information for their work but who ‘could’ access this information?
  • What are the possible impacts on an individual’s privacy?
  • What are the policies and procedures in place to manage private information, including risk management and mitigation, are these adhered to and actively managed?
  • Do you have a policy review process, and if so, is it reviewed at least annually, and also with the introduction of new systems and technology? (Remember, you can’t just have a policy sitting somewhere, it needs to be actively reinforced and adopted by team members)
  • Protect your business. Document, document, document! If there is ever an issue where your business’ culpability is assessed, your capacity to prove that you took all reasonable steps will be important.

What is your Data Breach Plan?

When it comes to data breaches, all organisations must have a data breach response plan.

The data breach plan covers the:

  • Actions to be taken if a breach is suspected, discovered or reported by a staff member, including when it is to be escalated to the response team.
  • Members of your data breach response team (response team), and;
  • Actions the response team is expected to take.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner provides a sample breach response plan here.

Hopefully, all the systems you have in place will ensure you don’t need to deal with a data breach, but if it does happen, you will need to notify various parties, including:

  • the individuals impacted by the data breach
  • the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

You can notify the Commissioner using this form.

To access the full guide to the Notifiable Data Breach Scheme, you can find it on the OAIC website.

While it’s unknown at this stage what the repercussions will be from a data breach and how the OAIC will police it, it’s important that we get our preparation in place. At the end of the day, making sure we have robust systems to protect the data of our clients should be high on the priority list anyway – this is just another reminder to ensure we have the right policies and procedures in place to back up what we’re already doing.

If you need any assistance assessing the security of your IT systems, contact us today to arrange a time for a consultation.

If you would like to know more, reach out to marius@qcsgroup.com.au or call 1300 858 723

Cloud abstract - Is Your Organisation Capable of a Digital Transformation?

Is Your Organisation Capable of a Digital Transformation?

By | QCS Group Blog

We read a great article by CIO the other day – it was about turning digital transformation into a practical reality. The piece got us thinking about practical considerations when it comes to digital transformation in businesses, and whether it is even feasible for certain businesses to make the digital transition. Read the article here.

Digital transformation often entails a cloud-based solution. Why? Because the cloud allows businesses to take advantage of significant on-demand processing power and storage without having to spend capital on building or maintaining an on-premises server room and all the infrastructure that goes inside. This move to the cloud though comes with some practical considerations that need to be made, as certain businesses might not be ready for a digital transformation.

So, You Want to Go Digital?

The cloud is the foundational enabler of digital transformation – it offers the scale, speed and fast execution that businesses need in the digital sphere. If you want a digital business, you need to determine which of your applications will be moved to the digital space (bear in mind you can go full cloud or choose a hybrid system). Making this decision isn’t easy – so here are some questions you should ask when considering your digital set up:

  • Who needs access to each application? How many of those people are there?
  • Where do they need to access them?  In the office, on the road?
  • How sensitive is the data you use and store?
  • What percentage of the data you need to store is “current” and requires frequent fast access versus historical, for reference purposes only?
  • How big are the files that you work with?  Word and Excel files are very different to large graphic, video and sound files, for example.
  • What volume of your network traffic accesses each application?
  • Given the volume of network traffic that accesses data proposed to be in the cloud, can your current or proposed Wide Area Network (the link to the outside world and back) handle it and deliver a good user experience?
  • How will you prioritise traffic so that you get the most out of your WAN and minimise network costs?

QCS Group Cloud Readiness Assessment

Not sure whether your business is digital transformation-ready? We offer a service that will help you to determine whether your cloud migration will be a success given your current application set, proposed WAN configuration and manner of conducting business.

This service is called a ‘Cloud Readiness Assessment’. Using advanced simulation tools, we can pinpoint all the pain points in your system before any capital outlay is made. The net result is a transformation plan that will ensure a much smoother migration.

The Importance of an Informed Decision

QCS Group has seen numerous businesses jump to the cloud to take advantage of all its benefits, only to fall flat because of all the hidden gotchas that nobody on the team expected (that’s usually when QCS Group gets a call for help). We can assist you to identify those hidden issues and make a plan to counter them ahead of time.

If you have any questions about whether your business is ready for a digital transformation, don’t hesitate to contact us.

technology icons 600x400 1 - 5 Reasons Organisations Choose Office 365 Over Other Apps

5 Reasons Organisations Choose Office 365 Over Other Apps

By | Uncategorized

Employees who utilize modern mobile technology are more creative, satisfied and productive at work—yet 75 percent of American workers feel their companies are not using the latest efficiency-boosting tools. While traditional Microsoft Office products like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook lay the foundation for success, on-premise connections are severely limiting. If your business hasn’t moved to the Cloud yet, employees may be working off outdated documents due to multiple versions floating around, or they could be losing productivity because of limited file access when travelling for work.

For these reasons and many more, it’s not really a matter of if your business should move to the Cloud, but rather a question of how. Microsoft Office 365 enables employees to work more efficiently through familiar, cloud-based Office applications along with team chat, group email, online meetings, real-time co-authorship, secure file sharing and more. Google provides similar cloud-based productivity apps covering basic collaboration needs via G Suite.

For IT leaders, it’s important to continually evaluate these productivity tools—and the most efficient way to manage them. In addition to choosing the right solution, it’s also critical to partner with the most qualified Managed IT Services Provider (MSP). As one of Microsoft’s few direct Cloud Solution Providers, QCS Group helps take the complexity out of migration, support and ongoing administration of Office 365.

Here are five reasons businesses choose managed Microsoft Office 365 over other apps:

Flexible Pricing

Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite costs vary by organisation size and feature sets. However, many independent business evaluations have found Office 365 is a more cost-effective solution. For example, the CIO for the city of Palo Alto, Calif. chose Office 365 over G Suite because Microsoft offered superior functionality to Google. Additionally, the city government discovered Office 365 was actually 50 percent cheaper than Google Apps for the same set of features.

Working with QCS Group helps further maximise your Office 365 investment. Our certified Microsoft experts analyse your organisation to find the most affordable mix of features for every user, ensuring you’re never paying for wasted seats or unused apps.

Superior Privacy & Security

Human error or system failure account for 52 percent of all data security breaches. For small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), the costs of a breach are staggering—IBM reports 60 percent will go out of businesses within six months of a cyber attack. Microsoft Office 365 combats this with essential privacy control functions, including email encryption, DLP, network access encryption, anti-spam and more, whereas G Suite fails to tick several of these boxes, potentially leaving organisations vulnerable to an attack.

Partnering with QCS Group further maximises your organisation’s security with around-the-clock support. We help your company define and implement specific security policies, and ensure you always have the latest version of Office.

More Storage Capacity

File storage is a serious issue for businesses of every size; when inboxes or servers run out of space, critical messages can’t be delivered and important projects can’t be saved properly. If these are common frustrations for your employees, Microsoft Office 365 is probably the best choice. With Office 365, you gain 1 TB of file storage per user for entry-level plans, plus 50 GB for email. G Suite splits storage among all of its apps and offers just 30 GB of storage in its base plan, which also encompasses email.

When QCS Group evaluates your organisation to optimise Office 365 licensing, we take your storage needs into account. Our Microsoft experts recommend the most cost-effective plans with plenty of space.

More Apps & Better Functionality

When it comes to the actual productivity tools, Microsoft Office 365 plans provide desktop, as well as cloud-based versions, enabling your employees to easily work offline. G Suite offers a handful of cloud-based apps with less functionality than Office 365. For instance, Microsoft Excel has been the gold standard spreadsheet tool for decades. It’s designed to crunch complex numbers and import and export mass quantities of data. Meanwhile, Google Sheets does the basics: graph creation, auto-fill sums and more—but it lacks the computation power of Excel.

Office 365 offers a more robust toolbox, but QCS Group can help your employees make the most of it. We help them adapt to new Office 365 solutions and features, maximising overall productivity.

24/7/365 Support

Software issues can disrupt work performance, which makes quick solutions critical. Microsoft and Google offer nearly identical technical support services for their products. Both provide 24/7 support via phone or email for critical issues. For non-critical issues, technical support is available during normal business hours.

At QCS Group, we understand your business relies on speed and reliability. That’s why our certified Microsoft experts are always here for you. We offer 24/7/375 technical support via phone or email for issues of any severity level, and we also provide a monthly ticket analysis accessible via a self-service portal.

The Clear Choice: QCS Group’s Managed Microsoft Office 365 Solutions

When it comes to cloud-based productivity tools, there’s no contest. With flexible pricing, better security, more entry-level storage and superior apps, Microsoft Office 365 is the clear winner for SMBs. With proven expertise in licensing, user configuration, administration and support, QCS Group is the best partner to manage it.

To learn how QCS Group’s Managed Office 365 services can transform your business, reach out to marius@qcsgroup.com.au or call 1300 858 723

Article image - 6 IT Nightmares to Learn From in 2018

6 IT Nightmares to Learn From in 2018

By | QCS Group Blog

Recently, Gabriel Leperlier – Verizon’s head of European advisory services for the payments cards industry (PCI) – visited a press briefing in London, where he talked through some of the worst-case scenarios he encountered when investigated payment card data security and compliance breaches. These breaches include hidden routers, dodgy security providers, secret modems and more.

Here are 6 IT security nightmares that were spotted by Verizon in the last few years – Take note and learn from the lessons!

When a Printer Is Not Just a Printer

At a military facility in the Asia-Pacific region, an infosec professional noticed unusual network traffic that appeared to be coming from a freshly ordered fleet of printers. According to Leperlier, “A few weeks or months after delivery one of the system admins realised that there was some very strange traffic on the network. He said to the firewall team, ‘this is strange, I can see some traffic between the printers and even between printers and other systems’.”

He took it upon himself to investigate further and disassembled one of the printers by hand.  What he found provided a big wake-up call.  He located a modem inside the device which was transmitting everything the printer’s rogue software could collect on the network to a foreign country!

The message to take away from this incident is that you can have all the technology and IT security control in the world – but without skilled and thorough employees (or contractors), your business is at risk.

Server Room Access for Everyone

While checking the IT security access on another company’s system, Verizon noticed that the CEO, CIO and other C-suite executives and cleaners had full access to the server room. Leperlier understood why the cleaners had access – they had to clean every room – but he wondered why the CEO needed access to this room (hint: he didn’t).

This case highlights the need not just for technology to keep information secure, but for clearly defined policies. Access should always be granted only to those who need it, not just because they are senior.  Senior personnel get compromised too – in fact, they are one of the primary targets for compromise by hackers.

Staff Workarounds 1

A Verizon team visited a gift shop (which was part of a wider shopping complex) to check the access to a payment terminal system. This terminal was accessed by a badge, and only the manager could access the most sensitive information. This information was given to the Verizon team by two staff members – who went on to say that the manager was on holidays and then proceeded to open a draw that contained her access card!

Leaving the card behind was intended to be helpful while the manager was away, but it actually compromised the security of the store. According to Leperlier, this indicates the importance of a good working knowledge of security culture at every level of the organisation, from the IT team to operations to managers and even staff on the shop floor.  Staff need to understand they can’t just create their own workarounds to information access issues and the company needs to make arrangements for issues like how to take holidays without compromising security.

One Character Passwords

4 years ago, Leperlier interviewed an IT security officer who was managing a physical access control system. When Leperlier asked about the process of providing greater levels of system access, the interviewee opened up a new security application and typed in a one character password to enter.

Leperlier couldn’t believe that this IT officer would rely on a one character password, so he asked him to log in again. Sure enough, he hit one key on the keyboard and was granted access. “Is that a one character password?” Leperlier asked. “Yes,” the interviewee responded, “That’s why I don’t like people looking at me when I’m logging in!”  In his (poor) defence he went on to say “it’s one character, but it’s a special character!”.

We probably don’t need to say it, but having a one character password, even if it’s a special character, is terrible information security practice – passwords should be complex and include capital letters, numbers and special characters.

Servers in the Bathroom

A couple of years ago, a retail company that operated partly out of Mexico suffered a security incident and requested an on-site audit. Verizon realised that this company was relying on an unknown security provider, and when they went to check out the offices of this service provider, they found a tiny operation that ran out of a small apartment (and all the servers were stuffed in the bathroom).

According to Leperlier, “PCI DSS is not just about technology, it’s about people and process… If we didn’t go out and see what was going on in Mexico then we wouldn’t have seen they were working from home with a server in the bathroom. You need to check!”

Staff Workarounds 2

Verizon visited an organisation that was sure it didn’t have any wireless networks operating in the building, but using scanning technology, the compliance team kept on coming across a signal. Eventually, the team pinpointed that this signal was coming from the server room.

The IT offices were located 3 flights of stairs up from the server room, and it turned out that rather than walk up those stairs every time something needed to be checked – someone had installed a router in the server room so that they could access the servers from their desk.

The hidden router represented an unprotected node on the system that extended the attack surface of the organisation without authorisation.  Again, an easy workaround had produced a security vulnerability.

Need an IT Security Review and Refresh? Contact QCS Group

When it comes to managed IT services, we make networks run smoother, boost productivity, increase security and fix problems fast.

Two creative - Break-Fix Model Vs. Managed Service Providers

Break-Fix Model Vs. Managed Service Providers

By | Uncategorized

The new era of IT support has changed the way IT consulting is delivered. What used to be a break-fix model has transitioned to managed service providers who consistently monitor a business’ technology. This new model is not only more efficient in terms of keeping a business up-and-running, but also provides SMBs with an affordable way to maintain their IT.

Break-Fix Model

This outdated approach of IT support addressed issues after it was too late. Once a problem occurred, the organisation would contact their IT consulting firm to send out a technician. This not only wasted time for businesses while the technician travelled on-site, then had to figure out how to solve the problem but also drove up costs because of the pricing model. The more issues a company had in one month, the more costly their bill would be while using the break-fix model.

Managed Service Providers

Fortunately, MSPs offered a new form of IT consulting that provides increased value to SMBs. Rather than waiting for an issue to occur, this model takes a proactive approach towards monitoring technology and solving small issues before they develop into larger, more costly ones. In addition, this model provides businesses of any size the opportunity to access the same benefits as a large corporation because of the fixed-fee pricing model. No matter how many issues occur, the price remains the same.

The shift from a break-fixed model to managed service providers has improved efficiency and reduced costs for organisations. Businesses as small as 10 employees can now afford an MSP and have peace of mind knowing their technology is being monitored and remains secure. If your organisation is looking to hire or change to a new Managed Services Provider, have a QCS representative contact you today to get started.

economical growth chart 600x400 - 4 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR MOVE TO OFFICE 365 REALLY PAY OFF

4 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR MOVE TO OFFICE 365 REALLY PAY OFF

By | QCS Group Blog

With more than 120 million active business users worldwide, Microsoft Office 365 is by far the leading cloud-based productivity suite. But while Office 365 was designed to improve collaboration and boost organisational efficiency, many small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) face unforeseen challenges when migrating to the Cloud. For instance, employees may encounter issues accessing the Cloud via an outdated, overloaded network, or fail to fully utilise critical Office 365 apps, features and support functions.

You’ve made a significant investment in Microsoft Office 365, so let’s make sure you get the most out of it. Follow these four steps to maximise productivity across all aspects of your business:

1. Transform Your Network

For business owners, moving to the Cloud means better connectivity and greater flexibility—but many employees often don’t get the fast, seamless experience they were expecting once their organisation makes the switch. This is not a Microsoft Office 365 issue. The sudden surge of users working online from multiple devices can overcrowd legacy networks, slowing connections, overwhelming firewalls and potentially leaving your network vulnerable to an attack.

To avoid these growing pains, it’s critical to partner with an experienced Managed IT Services Provider (MSP), like QCS Group, who can re-design, build and monitor your network to optimise performance. Our experienced technical teams deliver the services, IT-related hardware and software essential for fast, secure and reliable network connectivity across all devices.

2. Encourage Collaboration

According to CITO Research, employee mobility improves business processes by 30 percent, increases productivity by 23 percent and boosts employee satisfaction an astonishing 100 percent. That’s because mobility empowers your team members to achieve more, together. With Microsoft Office 365’s cloud-based file sharing and workflow, users can access the necessary documents anytime, from anywhere and make updates in real time—that is, if they properly adopt the software. As one of Microsoft’s few direct Cloud Solution Providers, QCS Group is well-versed in Office 365 best practices. We know the importance of a strong knowledge foundation, which is why our certified Microsoft technicians do more than install programs and add users: they work to ensure end-user adoption of all essential Office 365 functions.

3. Embrace New Apps

Beyond new collaborative capabilities, Microsoft Office 365 offers many other time-saving tools and tactics. Take Office Sway, for instance. Like Prezi, Sway enables your team to create amazing presentations, interactive reports and more in just a few clicks. The app even includes a built-in design engine to reduce laborious manual formatting. Of course, you can still build out presentations via the familiar framework of PowerPoint—but Sway provides a new, streamlined approach to corporate storytelling.

Not sure which new Office 365 features and apps your team members will use? To help you find the most cost-effective licensing configuration, QCS Group’s certified Microsoft experts analyse your company’s needs and optimise user plans to eliminate wasted seats and unnecessary apps.

4. Utilise 24/7/365 Support

While Microsoft Office 365 was built to make your organisation more efficient, managing the new cloud-based productivity suite can place added strain on internal IT teams. This means longer ticket times for simple login or connectivity issues, which can significantly hinder employee productivity. 

QCS Group offers around-the-clock help desk support for any type of technical issue. That means no more waiting around on hold or troubleshooting your own technology. Rather, your employees can email or call QCS Group anytime and get the help they need from certified Microsoft experts.

Office 365 is a powerful productivity tool—don’t let legacy networks or poor end-user adoption keep your business from embracing its full capabilities. To maximise your investment with QCS Group’s Managed Microsoft Office 365 solutions, reach out to marius@qcsgroup.com.au or call 1300 858 723 today.

artboard 1 1x 720 1 - 10 Business Intelligence Trends To Follow In 2018

10 Business Intelligence Trends To Follow In 2018

By | QCS Group Blog

Getting more out of your business data is quickly becoming an industry all its own, and there are some exciting things on the horizon to help you do more, learn more, and grow more.

Data has long been your business’ most valuable and essential asset, and Business Intelligence (BI) solutions are changing the way you use that data. A modern BI approach is a sure-fire way to lift your business above your competitors, using savvy analytics to make better data-driven decisions. There are a ton of fantastic and innovative BI technologies and strategies available to today’s businesses, and these 10 trends are projected to lead the pack heading into 2018.

1) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Science Fiction paints a pretty terrifying picture of what advancements in AI will mean for humankind, but in reality, this technology is already proving to be a huge asset to analysts. As machine learning technology continues to improve, it’s becoming easier to automate tasks that would otherwise be labour-intensive time sucks for your staff. With the tedious work done for them, analysts can instead focus on thinking strategically about the implications of their results, and start planning next steps for your business. Unlike some other technological advancements, machine learning isn’t meant to replace human employees. Rather, its goal is to enhance the work your staff is already doing.

2) Natural Language Processing (NLP)

It’s estimated that half of all analytical queries will be generated using voice, search, or NLP by 2020. The power of NLP will allow staff to pose more nuanced questions of your data, and get more accurate and helpful responses as a result. While this is exciting enough on its own, the real gains where analytics are concerned will come from what developers and engineers alike are able to learn from looking closer at how people are using NLP. That way, we can make sure NLP is being applied to the types of workflows where it can have maximum impact.

3) Crowdsourced Data Governance

Self-service analytics are gaining popularity, granting users access to new perspectives and new information that is inspiring more innovative ways to implement governance. More than just using the wisdom of the crowd to get your hand on the right data, governance is about making sure the wrong data stays out of your system. BI solutions and analytics will be making use of this modern governance model in 2018, giving IT departments and data engineers the ability to cultivate trusted data sources.

4) Multi-Cloud Strategies

There has been an ongoing debate about multi-cloud solutions as more and more businesses sour on the idea of being tied to a single cloud solution. Multi-cloud strategies allow for business to work with multiple providers, finding the right vendor for a specific project or need. This increased flexibility comes with a higher overhead cost and requires your IT personnel to become familiar with multiple platforms. However, with 70 % of businesses expected to have a multi-cloud strategy in place by 2019, it’s a good idea to start looking seriously at how best to make this strategy work for your business.

5) The Chief Data Officer

Chief Information Officers (CIO) are nothing new, but as data and analytics become more critical to your operations, the need to strike a better balance between security and innovation has lead to a new C-level position – the Chief Data Officer (CDO). Adding a CDO or even a CAO (Chief Analytics Officer) to spearhead business process changes allows your business have a firm grasp on analytic strategy, making sure it’s part of the conversation from the get-go.

6) A Rise In Data Insurance

Several recent high-profile data breaches serve as a reminder of the risks and costs associated with these types of security incidents. Data is now a commodity, which means it’s only going to continue to become a bigger target for theft in the future. Quite often, there is no real consequence to the perpetrator when data theft happens, so there’s not much to deter a cybercriminal from setting their sights on your data. For that reason, more companies are expected to invest in cybersecurity insurance to protect their valuable data assets in the coming year.

7) The Location of Things

A subcategory of the increasingly popular Internet of Things (IoT), the “location of things” refers to devices that are able to sense and share their geographic location. The ability to capture this data can help users to add the context of location to data when assessing usage patterns. This technology can be used to track both assets and people, and can even interact with devices like smartwatches for a more personalised experience. This extra layer to typical usage data can help better inform your business strategies moving forward.

8) Increased Role For Data Engineers

The movement to use data to make better business decisions necessitates a larger role for data engineers in today’s businesses. With over 3500 open positions currently listed on LinkedIn, the demand for this speciality is obvious. As the need to leverage data in new and innovative ways becomes more essential, having someone on staff with a deep technical knowledge of your systems and architecture, and the ability to understand your business’ wants and needs becomes crucial.

9) Universities Offering More Data Science and Analytics Programs

By 2021, its estimated that 69 % of businesses will be favouring job candidates with data science and analytics skills, with jobs like Data Insights Miners and Bionic Interface Designers emerging by 2030 thanks to advancements in AI and analytics. A number of universities, including the University of Sydney and Victoria University, began adding data science courses to their offerings back in 2015, with more and more institutions adding these types of courses now and in the near future.

10) Liberal Arts in the Analytics Industry

The need for technology specialties is decreasing as technology platforms become easier to use. As a result, businesses are looking to other specialties such as the liberal arts to bring new perspectives into the mix. Not only can these individuals fill vacant positions within your data analytics team, but they can help you better use your data to create a vision for the future of your business that goes beyond just technical or scientific insights.

Want to learn more about the value Business Intelligence solutions can offer your business? Contact QCS Group at marius@qcsgroup.com.au or 1300 858 723. We’re the IT professionals businesses in Brisbane trust.

ThinkstockPhotos 476923395 - 5 Reasons Why You Need to Make the Switch to Microsoft Office 365

5 Reasons Why You Need to Make the Switch to Microsoft Office 365

By | QCS Group Blog

If you run a business, chances are that you’ve thought about moving to an online productivity suite. The two most popular in recent years is Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365. Touted as “innovative” and “the next big thing,” Microsoft’s productivity suite is a revolutionary concept when it comes to operating systems and computing. But why should you choose Microsoft over the other guys?

Because:

  • It’s cloud-based. Doing all your computing in the cloud means that you always have access to your files as long as you’re connected to the Internet. All of Office 365’s tools will work on any PC/Mac, tablet, or smartphone. With O365, you can use the online versions of the productivity suite, or install them on your device.
  •  It’s secure. Whether you’re using the version of O365 installed on your machine, or the cloud version, you’ll get the best level of security and encryption. The same set of Rights Management Services applies to both. None of your files can be accessed without the proper user credentials that are set up and monitored by Microsoft Azure. This provides the best security and control over your Office 365 data.
  • Data is backed up. Microsoft’s Office 365 offers its own form of checks and balances, 24/7 support that’s always on-call, and OneDrive to store all your files. But it’s always a good idea to have an extra layer of protection by using a Managed Services Provider (MSP) who can monitor your backups and add an extra layer of security if your data is compromised or lost.

Office 365 offers major advantages over others. As with anything worth doing, there are pros and cons when moving your operations to the cloud. However, there are some major advantages when using the Microsoft Cloud:

  • You can work anywhere. If you have an internet connection, you can use your data from anywhere and on any device. You can check emails, access files, and work on a project all from the same place – even if that place happens to be the other side of the world.
  • Easy collaboration between coworkers. How many times have you had multiple people working together on the same project only to have one version go missing. With Office 365 you can avoid this. Collaborators can work on the same file and get changes in real time. You can also share files as links right from OneDrive, rather than as attachments.
  • Access to the latest versions of programs. Imagine having access to the most current versions of Word, Excel, and Outlook without having to pay extra or reinstall programs. All the most recent versions of everything in the Microsoft Office Suite are available with an Office 365 subscription.
  • Great security features. How secure the Cloud is for you depends on what security measures you have in place. With Office 365, there are quite a few built-in security features to keep your data safe. These include:
  • Encrypted email. Only the intended recipient can read an email.
  • Data loss prevention. O365 checks and ensures that sensitive data (like your social security number) doesn’t get sent out via email.
  • Mobile device management. You can control Office 365 on your employees’ phones, and protect company information.
  • Advanced threat analytics. O365 learns and protects company data, and alerts you to suspicious activity on the network.

Alongside all the advantages of using Office 365, there are also a few cons:

  • Subscription-based model. You must pay a monthly or annual subscription for your Office 365.
  • If the Internet is down, your data is down. Because Office 365 is cloud-based, if the Internet goes out, you could be without access to your data. Plus, if you have a slow connection, working with a cloud-based system isn’t ideal.
  • Most people don’t use all of its features. Most users don’t use everything that Office 365 has to offer. They only use email, file storage, and access to Office programs. This isn’t a terrible thing, but it means you’re paying for features that you aren’t using.
  • Microsoft throws in some great extras. Office 365 comes with 1TB of storage space in Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service, free web hosting and the tools to use it, and a full 60 minutes of Skype each month for making landline calls.

Microsoft Office 365 is a very good example of not only what a cloud service can be, but what more businesses are turning to for their cloud needs. Cloud computing is becoming a big part of more companies’ tech strategy, and Office 365 is an excellent way to jump into the cloud.

Our IT experts can walk you through your Office 365 set up. Give QCS Group, Inc a call at 1300 858 723 or email us at marius@qcsgroup.com.au, and we’ll make sure you get the full benefit of this great service.   

ThinkstockPhotos 585058942 - Rogue Employees and How To Stop Them

Rogue Employees and How To Stop Them

By | QCS Group Blog

Technological advancements have, without a doubt, had a positive impact where your business is concerned. But they have also led to hacking, data breaches and the likelihood that rogue employees will use tools to jeopardise the security of your data.

What is a Rogue Employee?

A rogue employee undermines your business by ignoring rules and policies. They might openly break these rules, without concern of being fired, or covertly subvert them to prevent from being discovered.

Their actions might be relatively harmless or serious enough to pose a risk to the security of your data. In the worst-case scenario, a rogue employee will attempt to undermine your organisation by giving your data to a competitor or engaging in corporate espionage.

The rise of BYOD in businesses, where employees are allowed to use their personal devices at work, and mobile apps and cloud-storage solutions, provides the rogue employee with the vehicles to do his “dirty work.”

There are three types of rogue employees:

1. The ambitious, resourceful and independent individual: These rogue employees are driven to get a job done, even if it’s illegal. They’ll stay up all hours to find a way to circumvent your rules–rules they perceive are obstacles that just slow them down. They view these rules as only for less capable employees and resent having to comply with them. These rogue employees can be dangerous to your organisation because they are so capable.

2. Disgruntled employees with access to highly confidential data: This employee pushes boundaries so they can be involved in as many processes as possible. However, as they get access to more systems your risk mounts. They hold a grudge and want to do you harm in the end. When they quit or are fired, they may steal proprietary information and leak it.

3. Negligent employees: These employees disobey rules and protocols because they’re either incapable of understanding and following them, or they’re just plain lazy. These are the individuals who leave their login IDs and passcodes on sticky notes pasted to their computer monitor or share sensitive data in emails for whatever reason. They aren’t trying to harm your business, they just have no idea how dangerous this behaviour is.

An example of a disgruntled rogue employee succeeding in their effort was when president Donald Trump’s Twitter account briefly went offline in November 2017. Twitter learned that it was a departing employee (contractor), who took advantage of his last day to do this.

How to Stop Rogue Employees From Harming Your Business

Constant monitoring, Security Awareness Training, and more severe access restrictions are all strategies you can employ to stop rogue employees.

Monitoring

As an employer, you have the legal right to track Web surfing, emailing and other activities by employees using your company computers. Monitoring will protect your business from harm, and affirm that employees are complying with your regulations and policies.

Two-thirds of companies that employ monitoring have fired employees for infractions according to research conducted by Nancy Flynn, Executive Director of the ePolicy Institute. She believes that general monitoring for electronic abuses (with employees’ knowledge) is necessary.

“It’s a fact of business life that legal risks exist, regulatory risks exist…Employees will put your business at risk accidentally or intentionally. You need to mitigate those risks.”

Training

You must teach your employees how to minimise the risk of data falling into the wrong hands:

  • Explain the warning signs of a cyber attack, and how to spot phishing and ransomware attempts, and other suspicious activities. Explain what they should do when these threats come across their computer screen.
  • Set up mock “phishing” emails to see who takes the bait. This will teach employees to better scrutinise emails.
  • Make sure all employees are thoroughly trained on the security for their individual computers.
  • Explain to employees that a data breach could mean the loss of their job.
  • Install and deploy technology that will detect and alert employees when they are doing something they shouldn’t on their computers.

Access Restrictions

Install and deploy Identity and Access Management (IAM) software. This automatically grants access to resources on an “as needed” basis. This will prevent rogue employees from accessing the information they shouldn’t.

These solutions will provide you with centralised visibility and control so you can actively monitor and measure the risks inherent in your IT system. IAM software manages identity authentication, access policies, user account privileges, role-based user provisioning processes, automated workflows, and rule-based group policies.

The implementation of this type of software can be complex especially when access decisions are coded into business applications. Your IT Managed Services Provider can help you with this.

Constant monitoring, Security Awareness Training, and more severe access restrictions are all strategies you can employ to stop rogue employees. Although, unless you protect the privacy of your data, these will only alleviate the problem to some degree. 

ThinkstockPhotos 200225959 001 - The Difference Between Business and Home Phone Services

The Difference Between Business and Home Phone Services

By | QCS Group Blog

If you think that all telephone services are equal and that there’s no difference between a business phone and a home phone system, you’d be wrong. In fact, there are several differences between a phone used for business and a phone used for personal calls, including required call features, calling abilities, and even how many phones you need available.

The following are differences you should consider when comparing business and home phone services:

Cost

There’s an estimated increased cost of 75 to 120 percent on business phone lines, more than home phone systems. This increase in cost is because business systems offer more complex features, which may be essential to your business. And because of this, business phone systems can range from prices like $20 a line to a whopping $1,000 a line depending on the features required.

The cost of setting up a home phone system can also be expensive for what you are getting. With more people opting for Bluetooth or other mobile device enabled phone systems, prices can skyrocket. Phone companies could require you to purchase a second phone line for this service, not to mention the added tax and regulatory fees added to your bill.

Usage

A business phone usually gets a lot more useful than your typical home phone. Businesses rely on their phones to communicate, not only with clients but also with staff and vendors. Communication needs could span the length of a state or the length of the globe. Meaning that business phones lines must be more powerful and handle a lot more traffic than the standard home phone, and they require the features and capabilities to support these calls.

Equipment and Features

When looking at what businesses require in a phone system, you can see there is a huge difference when compared to the requirements of a home phone. A business phone system will need to be able to forward calls, conference with multiple people, and will need to be prepared for multiple lines. These are features most don’t require a home phone. A home phone can support features such as caller ID, voicemail, and, call waiting. You do not miss more advanced features in a home phone system.

Furthermore, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is becoming more widely used. This system allows both businesses and individuals to make calls through their internet provider. In some cases, this is more reliable than traditional telephone services.

Required Services

The required services of your phone system will vary depending on what is required for your business to function, or what personal preferences you have as far as home phones go. Depending on the volume of calls a business receives, specific services or features may be essential. What’s more, phone companies may be more likely to fix an issue with a business line sooner than they would for a residential phone system, this is especially true of VoIP providers. This difference in service speed could be because businesses pay higher prices than residential customers.

Something other things to consider are phone numbers and tax deductions. Businesses can purchase toll-free numbers, or the numbers can be randomly assigned. Choosing a specific toll-free number comes at a cost, however, which is something those with a home phone do not need to consider. For businesses who are making a lot of calls, tax deductions are possible. This deduction is also an option for those with home phone systems, especially if your business is home-based or you work from home periodically.

Phone services can be a tricky thing to figure out. Do not be fooled, however, because there is a significant difference between a phone used for personal calls and a phone used for professional calls. Not only do costs vary, but so do the features and capabilities of the service and the equipment. Before signing up with for phone service make sure you take a moment to look at what is being offered to you and decide if it will fulfil all your needs and requirements.

IoT analytics 1024x576 - The Future of Internet of Things (IOT) And The Risks (And Benefits) For Business Owners

The Future of Internet of Things (IOT) And The Risks (And Benefits) For Business Owners

By | QCS Group Blog

The Internet of Things (IOT) is simply the connection of devices to the internet (and/or each other) with an on/off switch. Your phone, tablet, and laptop computer are all connected to the internet, and for some each other, with an on/off switch. But this isn’t restricted to those types of devices. Since it’s anything with an on/off switch, it opens up to your car, your alarm clock and even your refrigerator are connectable to the internet and can talk potentially connect with each other.

The IOT is a network of connected devices to other devices, devices to people and people to people. There will potentially be more than 26 billion devices connected by 2020. Can you imagine? How great would it be if you’re connected car could send an email to work letting them know that you’re going to be late because of traffic on the highway? Your fridge already sends you notices when you are out of things.

The IOT allows for endless possibilities of connections across an endless supply of devices. There are so many possibilities that we haven’t even figured them out yet. This makes the topic something to talk about and something to watch. But along with the opportunities that IOT presents, there are also challenges, too. It is no wonder that when discussing this the term “security” comes up a lot. With the billions of devices all connected, how likely is it that someone finds a way to hack into your smart fridge and gain access to your network?

Also, many companies will be producing loads of sensitive data from all the devices that they have connected to the IOT. This opens up companies to more cyber threats, not to mention the issues of data sharing and privacy. There will come a need to store, track, and analyse all this data that is going to be generated.

Speaking of data, the future of the Internet of Things has already arrived. It’s the virtual assistant. Google, Alexa, Cortana and Siri are all virtual assistants from four different companies (Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple). These devices were created to make certain aspects of our lives easier. They can order stuff for us, control the house lights, alarms, TV and so much more. They are always listening and always connected, taking in everything that they hear and analysing the data.

This virtual assistant gives you convenience and save you time in you daily routine. At the same time it is sending the parent company of the device (Google, Cortana, Alexa and Siri) all the data from your life. They know what you eat, what you read, what you watch and more. All this data is quantified and analysed so that it can be used in any way that they can within their terms of service. You see a small dose of this through ads in your Facebook feed and emails from Amazon.

Your smart phone keeps track of where you go and where you’ve been. It connects to your virtual assistant and to your computer. Imagine that connectivity between computers, phones and tablets in your business. Some professions are already utilising this kind of connectivity, making their work easier and at the same time producing more data that needs to be stored and analysed. This will inevitably require more server space and more speed from the network, all of which requires more work and time for the IT department or managed service provider.

With hackers finding more ways to get at your data and make money from cyber attacks on businesses, is all this connectivity good for business? Let’s look at a few of the ways that IOT can impact your business:

  • Data

With customers connecting in new ways and more often, there will be plenty of data that needs to be stored or quantified. Smart devices will be able to track customer behaviour and maybe even learn from it. This data could be used to personalise ads and suggest orders in new and interesting ways.

  • Inventory

The freedom of the “smart house” will now translate into the “smart warehouse.” You’ll be able to track inventory automatically, freeing up your workers for other tasks. You could track an item from warehouse to customer to reorder all through the internet.

  • Remote work

If your business doesn’t deal in physical inventory, that could free up your employees to work remotely. With their devices connected to computers or servers back at the office, they will work easier and more effectively from the field. It is said that employees work better when out of the office, so this could improve moral, which in turn affects the bottom line. A win/win.

  • Speed & accessibility

Having access to the things they want easier and more efficiently, customers will be ordering faster, cutting down on the amount of time it takes to get what they want. This may even result in the customer wanting delivery faster since the ordering process is so much easier. Since any third party shipping company you may use will have the same tools as you, they will be able to help you serve that customer even faster.

  • Efficiency & Productivity

Getting things done faster could lead to better productivity and more efficient operations. This would allow you to cut down on the number of people you employ or maybe you can change some things in a new aspect of your business, allowing your business to grow in ways you wouldn’t have been able to before.

You might be able to cut some workers, but then you might also want to hire new ones that could fill the need for IT service. Or take that money you save from fewer workers and invest it in hiring an outside IT firm such as QCS Group. Helping you manage this new frontier of connectivity is what they do, so give QCS Group a call and find out how they can help you grow your business today.

business it support 1024x430 - 5 Things to Look for in an IT Support Company

5 Things to Look for in an IT Support Company

By | QCS Group Blog

In a small business, it’s not uncommon for technical problems to be handled be whoever happens to be the most tech savvy person on the team. That can work for a little while, but it’s not a sustainable practice.

Your team should be focused on meeting your organisational goals – not dealing with technology problems. Outsourcing your IT needs can help alleviate the burden so you can get back to business.

Here are five things to look for when looking for an IT support company:

1. No Long-Term Contracts

Some IT companies will lock you into a two or three year contract. This is great for them and bad for you. Think about other companies that lock you into long-term contracts. Most people aren’t exactly thrilled with their cable or mobile phone providers. Do really want to that experience with your IT company when you have a server down or can’t log in to your computer?

If you’re unhappy with a vendor (or if you just have a change in your business and need to reevaluate vendors), you should be able to change your contract or leave at any time.

Look for a company with month-to-month contracts with an out clause of 30 to 60 days. Most modern IT companies are moving towards this model, but you’ll still see long-term contracts for some IT companies.

2. Proactive Management

Some IT companies just work on reactive break/fix service tickets like fixing broken printers and troubleshooting email problems. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these kind of tickets, and these will make up a hefty chunk of your IT support needs, no matter what IT company you choose and what tools you use.

But the right IT company can reduce the amount of break/fix tickets you see in the first place by proactively managing your network. At a minimum, this typically involves monitoring your network for outages (in some cases, they may know you have an outage before you do!).

Proactive management should go beyond just monitoring, though. Your IT company should be familiar with your environment and your industry and help you choose tools to make your team productive and reduce downtime. The best IT companies will do that and regularly meet with you to discuss your business goals and form a technology plan to help you meet those goals.

3. Experience, Certifications, and On-going Training

Your IT support company should be experienced in the systems they’re supporting – not learning on your machines (and your dime). A good way to get a gauge on their experience level is certifications.

Most technology vendors, including Microsoft, offer certification programs to IT companies and other professionals who service their products. These are typically at the individual level, so you’ll probably need to ask a potential IT company what certifications their employees hold and how often they are renewed.

Employees should be getting on-going training to stay up to the date with the latest technology. Ask them about training – do they have a budget set aside for employee training (and is it being used)? Are employees crossed trained in different systems? An IT support engineer with a certification in a backup system is great, but not if they don’t know anything about the other apps and systems the backups interact with.

4. Data Security Expertise

Strong data security is no longer optional. It should be wrapped into every part of your business – especially your technology. Look for an IT company with data security expertise who can craft a security plan to fit your needs and your budget. If you’re in a regulated industry, they need to understand the industry and how to help you stay compliant.

Data security is a place where on-going training is critical – cyber security threats are constantly evolving. If your IT company isn’t keeping up to speed, they aren’t going to be able to help keep you protected.

Remember, even with the best tools and training, there is never a 100% guarantee when it comes to data security. Any company who promises you will not experience a data breach is either lying to you or doesn’t know what they are talking about.

5. Clear Response Times

Your contract with an IT company should have clear guaranteed response times (usually called service level agreements or SLAs). These should be outlined in your contract (along with what happens if they don’t meet the SLA for some reason). You shouldn’t be left wondering when your issue will be addressed.

Please note, SLAs typically refer to when they will start addressing your issue – not necessarily when it will be fixed. If they guarantee they can fix issues within a certain amount of time, that should actually be a red flag.

Unfortunately, some IT issues can take a while to fix, especially if it involves dealing with another vendor (like an internet service provider) who isn’t bound by an SLA. If your IT company is promising to fix any issue within a certain amount of time, it’s possible they are just using band-aid solutions – not addressing the source of the problem.

Final Notes: Transparency is key

When looking for an IT support company, if a company won’t give you a straight answer on any of these – run away. Don’t listen to anyone who hides things in the name of “trade secrets.” Your IT company will have access to your systems and data. They should be transparent about who they are and what they’re doing. Anything less is unacceptable.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

ThinkstockPhotos 684061756 - Be Prepared to Combat Insider IT Security Risks in 2018

Be Prepared to Combat Insider IT Security Risks in 2018

By | QCS Group Blog

Did you know that in 2016, IBM found that 60% of all cyber attacks were carried out by insiders? Of these three quarters were due to malicious intent, and one fourth due to negligence or error.

  • Accidents: According to Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Incident Report, accidents accounted for 30% of security incidents. In many cases, employees haven’t been educated properly on cybersecurity best practices. They open phishing emails and click on malicious links that expose sensitive data.
  • Negligence: This is when employees try to circumvent the policies you’ve put in place to protect endpoints and valuable data. For example, they might try to share work on public cloud applications so they can work from home. There’s no malicious intent, but by doing this they expose your data to dangerous actors.
  • Malicious: Unfortunately, there are times when employees are motivated by financial gain and reveal your confidential data. For example, a disgruntled employee who was recently terminated might extract sensitive data on his/her way out and either sell it or release it publicly.
  • What You Should Do

As you look to how you should secure your IT environment as a whole, there are two main questions you should ask:

  1. What departments or people within your business pose the biggest threat?
  2. What processes can you put in place to minimise this risk?

Ultimately, it’s not the people in your organisation who are the least reliable that you should be concerned about.  Instead, you should focus on the work employees do, the technology they use, and the data they’re responsible for—data that would be appealing targets for hackers and cybercriminals.

The following are the three departments that experts suggest you focus on:

The IT Department

IT staff often possess greater access rights than do other departments. They have access to business-critical data through the IT systems they manage and control. This makes them a prime target for cybercriminals. According to the 2017 Balabit Report, 35% of IT professionals consider themselves as the biggest security risk to their organisation.

Finance

Your financial department poses a risk because of the large sums of money they handle. They are often targets of phishing attacks where criminals try to get them to transfer large sums of money, and bypass normal accounts-payable procedures and controls. Unfortunately, not all employees who have access to funds are up-to-speed on these fake payment requests. It’s important that they are taught to maintain rigid purchasing processes. A simple call or email can expose your company to theft.

The C-Suite

Your CEO, CTO, and other top executives are always on the go and require access to 100% your company’s information and data. A mobile workforce is the trend of the future, and company leaders have been working from remote locations and off-site meetings for years now. However,  93% of tech leaders surveyed said they were concerned about the security challenges presented by a growing mobile workforce.

Threats to Small Businesses

As a small business owner, your focus may not be identical to the departments described above. Simply think of the places where data and money are transacted, and what networks those workers are most often connected to.

To mitigate these risks, be sure to implement the following strategies in your workplace.

  • Treat security as a culture, not a policy. Cybersecurity must be a company-wide initiative and “all-hands-on-deck” strategy. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of just a few individuals or a particular team—Although it might be okay for one department or person to lead it.
  • Educate, train, repeat. Bring all employees into the conversation, make sure they stay up to speed, and consistently revisit this. The tricky part about IT security is that it’s ever-evolving.  Hackers are constantly developing new ways to gain access to information that doesn’t belong to them. Staying up to date on these changes, tweaking company policy to cover all the bases, and distributing updates through security awareness training programs must be a top priority for organisations today.

The Better Business Bureau has a great list of starting points if you’re looking for a checklist. If there’s no one individual who can lead the implementation of these strategies, consider contacting your IT provider to for assistance and training.

construction it - The Benefit of Managed IT Services For Construction firms

The Benefit of Managed IT Services For Construction firms

By | QCS Group Blog

Construction companies, be they large or small, have some unique aspects of their business that make them a different kind of business from others that rely on a managed service provider. With programs like CAD, construction project planning and procurement of materials are unique to that industry and would require a MSP that is dedicated to the construction industry.

Construction companies do use typical IT software and hardware for standard office tasks and accounting functionality. What really sets this industry apart, however, is how collaborative it is. Workflow does follow traditional paths such as design, construction and testing. There is also a role played by industry compliance and security in all aspects of the industry.

But success is dependent on collaboration between architects, engineers and the actual foremen and workers at the on-site level. A MSP must be able to manage this team and collaboration in real time. This is why many larger construction companies use an internal IT team rather than outsourcing to a MSP that isn’t fluent in CAD or certain planning software.

When it comes to construction companies, not all MSP’s are created equal. You need one that can specialise in the construction industry and has your best interests at heart. Some things to look for are:

  • Access to highly trained and specialised staff.
  • Supporting the technologies that run your critical core applications such as estimating, accounting, project management, document management and scale management.
  • Extensive experience with supporting software such as Sage, JD Edwards, Quickbooks and Autocad Solutions.
  • A MSP that provides Mobile Device Management (MDM) and remote access solutions that allow your team to have access to anything, anytime and from anywhere.
  • Affordable and comprehensive services, such as standard IT solutions, to go along with the specialised services.

Any good MSP will do a few basic things for every type of industry, but these things are just as important to the construction industry as any other industry. You want one that will be available when you need them as well as one who is up to date on current technology. Hiring an outside IT company will save you money. Having IT in-house means paying them a salary and possibly benefits. Hiring an outside company negates the salary which becomes the problem of their company not yours.

The MSP will perform monthly updates and preventative maintenance, keeping your software and hardware running at peak efficiency, cutting down the probability of failure at critical times. When the system is running efficiently and smoothly, that equals peace of mind and best of all, profits.

By using a third party IT provider, you are more likely to stay ahead of new cyber threats and viruses. A MSP makes it their business to stay up to date on new cyber threats and hackers so that they can keep your business ahead of these threats and running smooth. Should something get through or hardware breaks down, you have an experienced and dedicated team you can call to fix the problem. Most MSP’s are available 24/7.

The MSP can run an analysis of your IT environment to prevent issues such as having to add equipment and up the budget given. This also serves to give your business a deliverable, comprehensive executive summary of your company. The summary shows any vulnerability in your system as well as the pros and cons of your current network. It will also give you the MSP’s recommendations for any adjustments to your current technology.

Never one to rest on their laurels, tech giant Google started a project that could revolutionise the construction industry. Beginning as a project for Google X it has spun off into its own company, Flux.io. Essentially a cloud based platform, Flux is a collaborative platform that allows architects and construction engineers to work together in real time on a project. It sports an advanced analytics engine and state of the art simulators.

With the ability to translate data from multiple programs such as Excel, ACAD and Rhino into a single platform, various collaborators could work simultaneously rather than one at a time. All computations are done in the cloud, so no worries that your system will slow down or cause it freeze. Flux.io is touting that it will save 30% to 50% in manufacturing and construction costs. Overall, Flow has the potential to save the construction industry over $120 billion a year.

As technology gets better and new software makes the collaboration process more streamlined and easier to communicate between members of your team, the need for dedicated IT grows even bigger. Whatever IT service provider that you choose to go with, make sure to get the system analysis to check for vulnerability in your network. The MSP will be able to tell you what is essential and what isn’t while saving you money.

budget.jpeg - How to Do Data Security on a Small Budget

How to Do Data Security on a Small Budget

By | QCS Group Blog

By now, you probably already know that data security isn’t really optional anymore – even for small businesses. Cyber attacks are increasingly common and more and more small businesses are falling victim. But as a small business, you just don’t have the same resources as an enterprise to spend on cyber security. The thing is – cyber criminals know this, too.

You may be wondering if it is even possible to entertain the idea of data security on a small budget. Absolutely. All it takes is some careful planning and knowing what you need as a baseline.

Please note: If you’re in a regulated industry, especially healthcare, your minimum is going be a bit different.

Essential Equipment

Firewall

A firewall acts as a gatekeeper between your local network and the Internet. As a warning, business grade firewalls can seem expensive when you start pricing them. But consider what you are getting: This device scans all traffic coming into and going out of your network from the outside world for threats.

Most firewalls offer additional features like web filtering services, anti-virus scanning, and router capabilities.

Encryption

Encryption keeps your data safe if you experience a data breach or if a computer or hard drive is lost or stolen. It basically scrambles your data so it cannot be read without an encryption key.

If you’re using Windows, you likely already have basic encryption software. Starting in Windows Vista, Microsoft has been offering their full-disk encryption solution called BitLocker. If you’re on a different operating system or want something more robust, you’ll need to get additional encryption software.

If you have specific compliance requirements, like HIPAA, you may also need to get encrypted email.

Back Ups

Data backups aren’t new, and they aren’t going to do anything to prevent a cyber-attack – but they can save your business if you do fall victim to an attack.

Ransomware is an increasingly popular cyber attack, targeting businesses of all sizes. It encrypts your files until you pay a ransom fee. Paying the fee doesn’t always guarantee your files will be returned, though.

With a robust backup system, though, you’ll only lose files created after your last backup (if you’re backing up nightly, that likely won’t be very much) and won’t have to pay the ransom.

In addition to data security, the more traditional reasons (disaster recovery and retrieving deleted files) for having backups still hold true.

Training

Employees can be your weakest link or your first line of defence when it comes to data security. It only takes one person clicking on a bad link for your entire system to be compromised. Train all of your employees to know data security best practices and the warning signs of common cyber-attacks like phishing and ransomware.

Keep this in mind: A data breach involving an employee usually isn’t because of malicious intent. Your employees are just trying to do their jobs. If the systems you put in place become too cumbersome or prevent them from doing something they need to do, they will find a way around it – and you’re in trouble if that happens.

Your best bet it to give your employees the knowledge and tools they need to do their job in a secure way.

How to Save Money

It can be tempting to try to save money by going to a big box retailer and getting equipment meant for personal use. If you are a very small company (five people or less), this may work for you. But typically, you’re better off just spending the extra money and getting commercial grade equipment. Equipment meant for personal use just can’t handle the same amount of traffic as a commercial grade firewall and will end causing slow internet speeds and could seriously hamper your productivity.

If you’re working with an outsourced IT company, get them involved in choosing equipment (especially if they’re going to be supporting it!). They should be able to help you pick the right firewall and backup solution for your network and your budget. A lot of IT companies already have relationships with vendors and can get equipment at a discounted rate that you won’t have access to yourself.

Firewalls have traditionally been sold as a large one-time purchase, but more companies are starting to offer a firewall-as-a-service option with low monthly pricing. This is usually an easier option for budget-conscious business owners.

Data security is critical to any business and can easily drain your technology budget. But with some intelligent shopping, product bundling and knowledge of your needs, you can avoid some costly mistakes.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

ThinkstockPhotos 533842516 - When’s the Last Time You Tested your Business Back-Ups?

When’s the Last Time You Tested your Business Back-Ups?

By | QCS Group Blog

Exploring business continuity best practices for testing data and application back-ups

Data protection is a central element of the data management strategy for all modern business owners. A proactive and well-thought-out business continuity plan is something that all system and data administrators must embrace. A layered and proactive data protection strategy really can mean the difference between disaster and recovery.

When it comes to creating a strategic business continuity plan, data and application backups are one of the most important elements. The reasons for implementing reliable backup solutions are endless – software bugs, failed hardware, and user mistakes are just some of the ways business data can be unintentionally altered or deleted. Furthermore, there’s also the persistent risk of malicious activity and attempts to destroy, steal, or encrypt business data by cybercriminals or disgruntled former employees.

Data Protection Insurance: Don’t Just Backup, Test!

Here’s the thing when it comes to backups for business: if you don’t test them regularly to ensure they’re working in all the ways they’re supposed to, you’re only doing half the job. The last thing any business owner wants is to implement backups and wait until there’s an actual data disaster to see if they work. That’s why regular testing of backups for software, hardware, and everything in between is absolutely critical.

When a data disaster hits, it can be overwhelming and stressful for business owners. Worrying about whether or not backups are going to work should be the last thing that professionals have to deal with in a crisis situation. Backups are designed to offer peace of mind, and – if implemented correctly and tested regularly – they can make all the difference in a data crisis.

Server vs. Virtualisation: The Evolution of Backup Testing

The key to testing backups is to run a sort of drill and see if the backups successfully restore data. For a long time, this process was limited, tedious, and time-consuming. When there was a physical server for each application a business used, data restoration had to occur on additional hardware. Furthermore, the environment could only be restored in a very limited way, meaning a full restore of an entire business network rarely happened.

However, as virtualisation continues to dominate the business technology market, backup testing and restore processes have become much easier to deploy. Virtualisation allows company data and applications to be centralised and organised in a more streamlined manner. For the many businesses who operate using this kind of centralised virtual machine (VM), recovery from backup is easier to execute.

Why Test Your Back-Ups?

Here are the top three reasons for testing your backups:

  • You’ll validate that the restore processes you’ve put in place work – peace of mind is priceless.
  • You’ll create a benchmark to ensure that the recovery process can be completed as intended – this will help you develop recovery time objectives (RTO) for future reference.
  • Regular testing process and results can be shared with business teams to show that application recovery targets can be met, or perhaps reviewed if the process uncovered imperfections.

Testing Backups: What Programs and Hardware Should I be Testing?

Now that we understand the importance of testing business backups, let’s dive into the specifics. When it comes to testing backups, there are a variety of different levels of recovery to consider. Let’s explore the key areas where your business should be implementing and testing backup and recovery processes:

  • File Recovery

This is likely the most common concern for business owners – will I be able to recover individual files from my backup? The reality is, file backup processes are easy to deploy on both physical and virtual servers in addition to backups of file servers. It really just comes down to recovering data by file type. There are plenty of tools to automate this process, which we’ll explore in more detail later on.

  • VM Recovery

For businesses who rely on virtual machines, implementing and testing backups is critical. This aspect is obviously specific to virtual environments as opposed to physical ones. Recovering a virtual machine is relatively easy because everything is centralised. However, consideration must be made for where the VM to be powered back on will be recovered.

Attempting to recover the VM in the same production environment creates technical issues like network IP conflicts and SID conflicts in Windows systems. The best strategy is to restart the VM in an isolated environment using the subnet on the hypervisor. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that recovering VMs with new IDs can have impacts on applications and licensing – be proactive and consult with your software providers for terms and conditions.

  • Physical Recovery 

As noted, physical server recovery is more complex and testing will vary based on the how different platforms are configured. Furthermore, recovering applications to the running hardware requires an outage – meaning businesses carry out these tests less frequently. Though daunting, if you’re on a physical set up, it’s critical to schedule the time for testing to ensure hardware can be recovered effectively in the case of a disaster.

  • Data Recovery

Depending on the backup tools that business owner deploy, specific data recovery can be an option and should be tested for efficiency as well. For example, if a user has data backed up at the application level (rather than the entire VM), that data can be restored and accessed in an isolated environment as well.

  • Application Recovery

Software applications are the core of a company’s digital operations. However, testing application backups can be challenging – especially for larger business teams. Application backup testing requires an understanding of the relationships between individual VMs and physical servers. However, it can be done, and as with some of the previous recovery types, it’s best done in an isolated environment and on a separate network.

It’s no secret that the more extensive the testing, the higher level of risk – however, testing data backups can be an amazing tool for providing reassuring, measurable results. Determining the right test scenario depends on the backup and restore tools that have been put in place. Having a strong understanding of what you want your backups to do in the case of an emergency will make the testing process more efficient.

Setting a Schedule: How Often Should You Test Your Business Backups?

We get this question from our clients all the time – “Now that we have backup solutions in place, how often should we be testing them?” If we’re being honest, in an ideal world, testing should occur after every backup to ensure that the latest data has been successfully secured.

However, we know for busy professionals like our clients, this isn’t the most time-effective or reasonable option. So, business owners must strike a balance between the potential impacts of losing data and the effort required to feel consistently confident in their backups.

At the very least, here are some very critical times to test backups:

  • As part of a regular routine – say monthly or bimonthly. Choose a frequency, set a schedule, and deploy backup tests for all hardware and applications on a regular interval.
  • Whenever there are a major application or hardware changes. This includes any kind of software update or patch as well as new or different devices. These tests should be more complex to account for a major application or device changes. Use updates and patches as reminders for strategic backup testing.
  • Whenever there is a significant change to application data. If any business application has a regularly scheduled import of data from an external source, schedule a test restore to occur after the data has been transmitted.
  • Whenever you’ve restored data. It may seem excessive or redundant to run a backup test on a VM, device, or application that you’ve just recovered, but it will ensure that the newly restored program is properly backed up moving forward.

How to Test: Utilising Automation to Improve Backup Testing

Restore testing can be made much easier using automation tools. At a base level, this can include scripting the restore for individual files. However, there are software tools available that aid in more complex and comprehensive testing procedures. Many of these tools are built directly into backup & disaster recovery software.

Many of these tools completely automate the testing process and allow restores to occur without affecting the production environment. There are countless ways for business owners to take advantage of backup and data recovery tools – the key is researching the best tools to suit the individual backup needs of each business. Taking the time to understand the backup needs of the entire business network is the first step – then, businesses can invest in applications or support to optimise backup testing procedures.

The Ongoing Evolution of Data Backup & Recovery Testing

In an increasingly Cloud-based business environment, with more and more companies making use of containers, backup testing will continue to evolve. Using the public Cloud to backup, test, and recover applications is a huge plus when it comes to cutting on-premise costs. This represents an entirely new domain for backup testing that will no doubt reveal new challenges and opportunities.

However, no matter what the future brings, the premise remains the same: Setting up backups and testing them regularly should be understood as a responsibility, not an option. Ensuring that recovery processes are implemented correctly and run according to a schedule will always be your secret weapon against unexpected data disasters.

weakest link - The Dangers Of Uninformed Staff Members And How They Can Be The Weakest Link In The Cyber Security Chain

The Dangers Of Uninformed Staff Members And How They Can Be The Weakest Link In The Cyber Security Chain

By | QCS Group Blog

No matter how secure you think your data and your network are, it can all come crumbling down from just one phishing email or spear phishing campaign. Most employees aren’t trying to hand hackers their information or the company data, yet, it happens. Most employees will click on or respond to a well-crafted phishing or spear phishing email if it lands in their email box. Despite education efforts, 20-30% of recipients open standard phishing messages that arrive in their inbox and 12-20% of those click on any enclosed phishing links. These rates are already high, but they double when looking at spear phishing emails.

Phishing is a hacking technique that “fishes” for victims by sending them deceptive emails. Virtually anyone on the internet has seen a phishing attack. Phishing attacks are mass emails that request confidential information or credentials under false pretences, link to malicious websites or include malware as an attachment.

Many phishing sites look just like the sites that they are impersonating. Often, the only difference in many spoofed sites is a slight, and easily missed, difference in the URL’s. Visitors can easily be manipulated into disclosing confidential information or credentials to the hacker if they can be induced to click the link. Even blacklisted phishing sites can often get by standard filters through the technique of time-bombing the URL’s. Then the URL will lead to an innocent URL initially to get past the filters but then redirect to a malicious site.

Although malware is harder to get past filters, recently discovered and zero-day malware stands an excellent chance of getting through standard filters, and being clicked on, especially if the malware is hidden in a non-executable file such as a PDF or Office document. This is how many of the recent ransomware attacks were pulled off. If an employee isn’t looking close enough, they could be clicking a link that unleashes the hacker into your system.

Spear phishing is an enhanced version of phishing that takes aim at specific employees of the targeted organisation. The goal is usually to gain unauthorised access to networks, data and applications. Often the initial email will contain no URL or attachment. Instead, it will simply try to invoke the recipient into thinking that the sender is legitimately whomever they say they are. Only later on will the hacker request confidential credentials or information, or send a booby-trapped URL or attachment.

“But my staff is careful,” you might say. “They know what to look for,” you argue. But do they? Some phishing attacks are often just the first part of a much larger hacking campaign. Once they are inside your system, hackers can do devastating damage by rifling through confidential customer lists, intellectual property, and emails; even deleting critical data or encrypting it with ransomware. Companies that fall victim to phishing schemes risks:

  • Reputation damage
  • Loss of market value
  • Competitive disadvantage
  • Legal liability and compliance problems

Let’s look at a possible spear phishing scenario and how it plays out: After cataloguing the executives in the “Our Team” section of the Widget Co. website, the attackers create a cross-reference of social graphs, using Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to build lists of who knows whom inside Widget Co. Then, by piecing together the social information, the attackers are ready to go spear phishing.

The attackers find an HR employee at Widget Co. named John Smith. Posing as Mr. Smith, the hackers target Smith’s Facebook friend and colleague, Jeff Jones, an HR manager at Widget Co. To build trust in the faked email address, the hacker posing as Mr. Smith sends his “friend,” Mr. Jones, a note asking about the family vacation he is currently on (according to pictures posted to Facebook). If Mr. Jones responds, the hacker is off to a good start. He’s successfully impersonating another Widget Co. employee and is starting to build trust in the faked email with his target. Mr. Jones replies and says he is enjoying his time away with his family. The two continue to banter about Mr. Jones’ family vacation as well as things going on in the office, including the names people that have been researched and associated with the social circle.

How can the attacker get away with this? Doesn’t Mr. Smith have a unique, domain- specific email through Widget Co.? Yes, he does. However, due to Widget Co.’s “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy, employees are able to use personal mobile devices to send messages to one another. In this case, the attacker knows from LinkedIn that Mr. Smith’s personal email address is johnsmith1@gmail.com. The attacker creates a Gmail account for johnsmith.1@gmail.com. Mr. Jones doesn’t notice the difference, and the stage is set for the real attack.

The hackers know from LinkedIn that Jane Doe is a new employee working with Mr. Jones. The hacker posing as Mr. Smith sends to Mr. Jones a PDF file of “new employee paperwork” that actually contains key logging malware. If Mr. Jones opens the file, his device is instantly infected, his credentials sucked up, and the network is breached.

Alternatively, the fake Mr. Smith could send a note that says, “Hey, Jeff — I’m on the golf course, but I need to call the bank and make sure Jane Doe’s retirement plan is all set up. I can’t remember the login for the employee database system — can you help me out?” If Mr. Jones shares his login for the database, the hacker is inside. Either way, the phisher can collect Mr. Smith’s login credentials — a free pass to invade the Widget Co.’s private networks. Any confidential employee data is at risk of being improperly accessed.

It could just as easily have been in corporate finance, marketing and sales, IT, or any other department. Most employees have more than enough personal information about them in the public realm to allow their identity to be utilised to swindle another employee and compromise your network.

 

cyber security - What Role Does IT Play in the Modern Company?

What Role Does IT Play in the Modern Company?

By | QCS Group Blog

As technology expands to impact nearly every business process, from customer service to business strategy, the role of the IT department is expanding along with it. IT is no longer only responsible for setting up computer systems, maintaining the server, and running the help desk.

The IT team is the keeper of the treasure that data has become. With IT’s services, leadership teams can better understand their customers, predict changes in the market, understand how to streamline business processes for improved productivity, determine where inefficiencies are cutting into profits, and spot new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Thanks to developments in technology, IT has moved from a cost centre to a revenue generator. According to a 2016 survey by CIO, 84% of IT executives agree that their role is becoming more important to the company they serve. And it isn’t just large companies that benefit from the insights that IT can provide. Smaller companies who outsource their IT can take advantage of the same data intelligence that in-house executives offer enterprise-level companies.

If IT doesn’t yet have a seat at the decision-making table in your company, pull up a chair. IT can deliver value in myriad ways, but here are five of the most significant.

1. Smarter Decision-Making

Intelligent decisions are based on facts and data. In order to guide their companies well, leadership teams must have the research that the IT department can provide. CRMs can be mined, customer surveys can be sent and results analysed, business intelligence data can be examined for insights. The IT department, whether internal our outsourced, can deliver the information that the decision-making team needs and provide recommendations.

2. More Effective Marketing

To communicate in a compelling way, you have to know your audience inside and out. As modern culture becomes more individualised, both business buyers and consumers expect companies to provide personalised experiences that align with their interests and needs. IT can create detailed customer profiles that allow companies to micro-segment and deliver custom messages to each. Without this data and technology, companies will waste a majority of the marketing budget on ineffective initiatives.

3. Better Customer Support

Personalised experiences don’t stop with marketing. Smart companies continue to provide individualised service throughout the customer life cycle. The IT department can help company leadership understand their customers’ changing preferences and predict behaviours so appropriate action can be taken to retain customers. IT can also improve customer communication via a multitude of channels, delighting customers and heading off potential problems before they begin.

4. Profit-Boosting Productivity

IT can create systems and provide tools that allow people and process to work as efficiently as possible. Wasted time is converted to productive time, so more gets done faster. Inefficient processes can be simplified, reducing costs. The IT department can facilitate everything from document management to inventory tracking to problem solving, all with a positive impact on the bottom line.

5. Reliable Security

With advances in technology come risks. Hackers have an unprecedented number of ways to infiltrate servers, and ransomware looms as a threat to companies of all sizes. Businesses have always depended on the IT department for security, but the value of an IT department that can provide reliable security is higher now than ever before.

As companies depend more and more on technology to compete and to grow, IT’s role will only become more important. Rather than being viewed as the stereotypical socially-challenged, video-game-loving nerds who can fix computer issues, IT professionals are now being seen as the heroes who can lead the company to levels of success that were never before possible.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

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