Archive for the ‘Managed IT’ Category

Police Your Company’s Software to Avoid Licensing Disasters

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

All too often, software license management is an area where many companies procrastinate. In theory, it’s important. But deadlines, anxious clients and bids for new jobs seem so much more pressing. The squeaky wheel gets the grease while the unlicensed software sits mild-mannered and quietly unnoticed, until an auditor pays a visit.

Not only do federal and state regulatory agencies care about your software licensing, more and more, auditors from software vendors are dropping by for what may quickly turn into not-so-friendly chats. And very costly chats. Most companies don’t budget for these lawsuits – if they had that kind of foresight, they would have complied with licensing – and it hits hard. According to an International Data Corporation report, 56 percent of companies audited by their software vendors had to pay up. And for 21 percent, the price tag exceeded a million dollars.

Getting motivated yet to move compliance off the back burner? Here are some issues and strategies to consider.

Centralize Licensing

Prepare for a vendor audit way before it happens. Depending on the size of your company, put a person or team in charge of monitoring all software licenses. This means practicing continual compliance, rather than checking in on licenses once a year or when somebody remembers and has a spare moment. For most IT departments strapped for time, outsourcing software asset management can be a better alternative.

Know Your Usage

Your software licensing compliance team will need good usage data. You’ll need to track exactly which software programs are being used and how much they’re being used. Also, which aren’t. This will determine which licenses must be kept in compliance, and which software can be jettisoned.

Gain Visibility

Stay in your colleagues’ line of sight. Once your compliance team is up and running, don’t let anybody forget the importance. Chart cost savings and risk reduction associated with your compliance efforts and post in a visible place. Publicize your successes to cement your relevance within the organization. The more buy-in you have from coworkers and management, the greater return your company will eventually see on their investment in you.

International Incidents

International companies may not have the expertise to properly manage licenses and it can require the help of an IT partner. Cultural differences, language, etiquette and local customs all affect how foreign offices will respond to compliance efforts. If you have offices in multiple countries, you’ll need to educate IT leads on best practices for software licensing management.

Software Management Tools

Software licensing compliance can be a huge task, especially if your company has upwards of 50 licensing contracts. Each contract requires monitoring, review and ongoing negotiations. But there’s help…in the form of more software. As the dangers of non-compliance grows, so do the software options that help you handle the job. If licensing compliance is too big a task for you and your staff, research the many programs that can help you stay on top of software licenses. You just might find the perfect program. One that’s worth one more license to deal with.

Managing software assets without effective tools is nearly impossible. Using the right tools not only makes managing software easier, it also reduces the burden on administrators and increases end-user satisfaction.

Tips for Forming a Team with IT Contractors

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Old-school team building involved pizza lunches, Christmas parties and maybe even the cliché trust game of falling backwards into a coworker’s arms. Nowadays, key team members might be in a different time zone or even another country. Shared pizza isn’t happening, and if your independent IT contractor falls backwards, he or she knows nobody is waiting to catch them. So how do you meld a traditional IT department with independent workers/contractors into one cohesive team? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Goals and Deliverables

Some managers are vague about what they expect, changing their minds from day to day. While this vexes onsite employees, it’s even worse for contractors. Independent IT contractors are juggling several clients. Be as specific as possible about deliverables and deadlines. Don’t verbally promise 40 hours of work and then only come through with 10. Make sure all deadlines are in writing. If dates change, notify your contractors immediately.

Communication and Feedback

Many contractors experience a great silence from the company – unless they fail to produce. But if they’re getting their work in on time and it’s adequate or better, the managers may not even comment. If you’re trying to build an IT team, this is a big mistake. Think about how you interact with onsite employees and coworkers. Informal feedback is a normal part of the day. But for the lone contractor across the city, state, country or globe, lack of comment is alienating. At the very least, acknowledge a deliverable with a, “Got it. Thanks!” How long did that take? Three seconds?

If the contractor’s work is not exactly what you wanted, try to convey where it’s coming up short. Contractors aren’t mind readers. And they usually work for many different bosses who want things done many different ways. Be clear about your needs and let contractors know if their work is sufficient, good, or needs improvement. And if so, spell out how.

Contractors appreciate that good communication is a balance between sufficient information sharing and time wasting. Managers that check in by email to make sure duties are clear and that objectives were received will be appreciated. But attempting to micromanage contractors from afar, or requiring them to participate in lengthy and irrelevant conference calls, will not be appreciated.

Try a social media channel, such as a closed Facebook group, for informal communication among team members. This will help relationship building and bonding. If contractors are local, invite them to brainstorming sessions or group social activities when possible.

Cultural Differences for Offshore IT

Many teams now include remote offshore IT contractors in India, the Philippines, or other far-flung places. Their lives may be very different than your employees’ as far as their housing, transportation, religion, family structure, career expectations and just about everything else. Be respectful. Try to keep assumptions to a minimum. Be aware of important holidays in other countries and try to accommodate your contractors’ desire to participate in religious or family events at these times.

Fair Warning

Sometimes a company knows a project’s end date but hesitates to inform the contractor. Maybe you’re afraid they’ll bolt and leave you stranded. If you know your project has an end date, give the contractor fair warning. This transparency will help build your relationship and develop trust if you want to call contractors back for future projects.

Motivation and Acknowledgement

So how do you motivate your team of contractors and employees? For one, by acknowledging when things go well. Don’t wait until something goes wrong to talk to your contractor.

Everybody enjoys tangible rewards, such as money or gift cards. You could give these as bonuses when certain goals are reached.

Contractors also appreciate less tangible rewards. Don’t underestimate the power of simply acknowledging that contractors are doing a good job and saying thank you. If you feel strongly about the contractor’s competence, you can offer to serve as a reference. And if you later hear of suitable openings for somebody with the contractor’s skill set, he will definitely appreciate a heads up.

Remember the Golden Rule

Offsite contractors – especially ones you’ve never met in person — are easy to overlook. But remember they’re just as human as your onsite employees. Treat them with respect, because it’s the right thing to do. And also because you never know what the future will bring. In a rapidly shifting business world, maybe one day you’ll be the contractor and that faceless person who’s working on your projects will be your boss. And then you’ll be really, really glad you built a team and formed a good relationship with them.

Confusion Still Remains Over Managed IT Services

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Like many technology definitions, what becomes a standard understanding of a term, radically shifts and expands as the technology grows. The end result is confusion in the marketplace and for “Managed IT Services”, it’s no different.

A recent study by Comptia found adoption of managed IT services is growing, yet confusion over the definition remains a central issue in measuring adoption and growth.

Everyone has a different perspective of Managed IT Services and truly, businesses utilize a provider in different ways. To highlight these differences, we decided to shed light on our observations of key stakeholder definitions of managed IT services.

How the CEO Sees Managed Services:

CEOThe CEO in most mid-market and enterprise level organizations is shielded from the day to day work of a MSP- at least in most cases.

When the CEO is exposed, it is often from an IT disaster or a significant IT investment, such as a cloud migration. Unfortunately, a majority of MSP’s are retained for short term projects either as backup to resolve an IT disaster or as experts to perform a specific IT function.

A successful MSP will become more visible to a CEO overtime, as it positively affects cost savings and productivity. However, most CEO’s view Managed IT Services as a temporary team to resolve a short-term IT project.

How the IT Department Sees Managed Services:

it departmentIT departments often have the most jaded view of a Managed IT Service Provider. For small companies, IT can feel threatened. Outsourcing any technology is seen as a threat to job security. Although numerous studies, including the recent CompTIA research have found that very few IT departments are completely outsourced to an MSP.

Many IT departments at larger organizations are likely to still share the sentiment of smaller organizations, sending tedious and autonomous tasks such as IT help desk support, network monitoring and software compliance to a Managed Service Provider. Although many MSP’s are happy to free up IT departments for more strategic work, partnerships can be more beneficial when collaborative.

How the CFO Sees Managed Services:CFO

The CFO is applying a financial filter and comparing the cost of retaining a Managed Service Provider with technology cost savings, one of the biggest benefits to using a MSP. Although productivity is another benefit, it is more difficult to measure. Unfortunately, many CFO’s don’t have the business analytics to measure productivity gains from a Managed Service Provider, failing to see the full scope of work.

How the CIO Sees Managed Services:

cio_iconA CIO is best able to grasp the full scope of work and benefits from utilizing a managed IT services provider. Many CIO’s view MSP’s as a strategic asset, adding more predictability and flexibility to IT services, reducing hiring headaches and improving the performance of technology. In some unfortunate cases, the CIO could use an MSP as a scapegoat for larger organizational issues.

Of course, for organizations that don’t have a CIO, virtual CIO’s are provided by Managed Service Providers, giving IT a voice to the leadership team and making technology a strategic component to a business.

How NCC Data Sees Managed Services:

As a Globally ranked MSP, NCC Data views Managed Services with where it is headed, and is focused on becoming a long term, collaborative advisor for clients. Managed Services is no longer constrained to tedious IT tasks such as backups, monitoring and help desk support.

The scope of managed IT services has greatly expanded, with MSP’s at the forefront of leading businesses towards growth, cost reduction and overall organizational improvement.

How Managed Services Evolved to the Cloud

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Your IT infrastructure, services and needs are complicated (nothing new to you, we know, but hear us out).

Organizations today have come to expect – even require – services personalized to their exact needs; speed not only in accessing data, but in the ramp up of new services; flexibility in the usage of services as well as in using different services together.

So managed service providers became savvy. The smartest of the smart did more than just re-engineer their networks. Instead, they provided customers with entirely new metrics of scale, all the while reducing costs and improving efficiencies, allocation of resources, and an expanded service offering to meet these needs.

To be honest, a “Wow!” is called for here. We’re serious.

Now that you understand more clearly the ways in which your service providers have evolved to meet your needs (those providers still in business), we’d like to talk about how they did so: basically your IT service providers have moved/are moving their managed services to the cloud.

Doing so has meant that the delivery of services can be automated and applied across multiple storage and network functions, allowing service providers to deliver those services from a pool of resources – a very flexible pool of resources – automatically and on demand. In addition, they can personalize not only the services, but the delivery of those services for each customer.

The evolution of managed services to the cloud will continue for the foreseeable future.

As the cloud evolves, so will managed solutions in the cloud. It’s inevitable, as there are many positives to cloud computing, the bond between managed services and cloud computing will only strengthen in the years to come…

The evolutionary changes likely will include seamless integration of solutions and services as customers share virtual business systems beyond their own organizations. Cloud providers are going to adapt and manage even more end-to-end business processes. Community/industry clouds could appear which provide a good amount of process and supply chain integration.

Technical challenges will have to be overcome as managed services continue their evolution. Just a few: interoperability standards, integration frameworks and their tools, and digitalization of business processes.

Yet as cloud service providers evolve, so too should their customers. IT managers and CIOs should expect that the current extent of control they now possess probably will lessen, and possibly considerably so because their cloud service providers’ offerings could well develop to the point that they are covering multiple operations.

Managed services evolution to the cloud has required that organizations take a second, third, even fourth look at their infrastructure and services strategies. It has also meant that firms need to re look at how to optimize spending on IT.

In short, cloud computing and managed services within the cloud have meant – and will continue to mean – fundamental shifts in how your organization will access and oversee IT services. And if you still doubt the possibilities of cloud computing, we recently covered how 2015 is the year it will really go mainstream!

NCC Data Ranked in MSP Mentor

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

NCC Data, an independent IT consulting company based in Addison, TX has been ranked in the MSPmentor 501, a global ranking of the world’s top 501 managed services providers.

msprankings

NCC Data placed 362 out of 501 Global Managed Service Providers, many with significantly more employees. The MSPmentor 501 ranking and survey, is the premiere list of Managed Services and IT Consulting Providers. The MSPmentor 501 results are based on an annual survey, conducted in December/January each year. The results rank MSPs based on annual recurring revenues, dollar growth, percentage growth, devices managed and plenty more.

NCC Data was one of the few independent companies based in Addison, TX recognized in the 2015 list.

Selecting a Managed Services Partner

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Choosing a managed services partner is a big decision. Outsourcing all or some of IT managed services is a growing trend with small and mid-market companies.

Many companies shop around, simply choosing the least expensive service. Other businesses select a partner based on experience or connections to personnel.

But, not all managed service companies are the same. Many of these companies claim to offer 24/7 service, yet few are available on site at all hours. Other managed service providers fail to offer the latest in cloud technology services.

In order to select the right partner for your business, consider the following in your selection.

What Services Do You Need?

IT employees are often spread thin, yet more so during peak times in the week or during a critical migration. Outsourcing your IT to a third party consultant is often more cost effective than hiring more in-house employees. And if you’ve delegated a non-IT person to oversee IT functions, they’ll be thrilled to relinquish these duties and instead concentrate on their strongest areas.

But what, exactly, do you need? Different managed service providers offer different services. And options vary between plans offered by the same company.

Many small businesses want 24/7 monitoring of network and computer systems. Are the firewalls in place? Are the servers stable? Anything unusual going on? Anti-virus protection and monitoring are also good things to outsource, but availability will vary based on the plan you choose.

Outside help for critical backups of data and servers is also common. This could include regular daily backups of all your data, plus recovery and safe storage of data in case of emergencies.

Different managed service providers also offer various types of help. You’ll need to gauge the needs of your office staff to determine which type is best. Are your employees level headed enough to be satisfied with assistance by email? Or do they need a soothing voice on the phone when they run into tech trouble, or even an on-site visit? Some services will visit your office to fix problems and install new software for you.

Managed service companies can also write and organize all your IT reports. And really, does anybody in your office actually want to do that?

Does The Managed Service Company Understand You?

You know so much about your business you might forget that all the details are completely foreign to outsiders. It’s okay. Not everybody needs to understand you. But your managed services company does. When you’re shopping around, ask for references in your industry or at least a similar industry. The needs of a law firm can be very different from a manufacturer, retailer or nonprofit.

Shop until you find a company that takes the time to consult in person and listen to your needs. You need a managed services provider that respects your expertise and is able to communicate their IT expertise without losing you in jargon. Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all plan. The right 24/7 managed services partner will make your work life easier. Ultimately, giving you a feeling of relief and security, knowing your IT systems are in capable, trustworthy hands.

 

Five Reasons To Look for a New Dallas IT Consulting Partner

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

There comes a time when a relationship sours with a strategic partner and it can occur for many reasons. Any business involved in consulting aims to partner long term with clients, yet many partnerships will fall short. It’s a natural cycle of the business, consulting companies are always selling because there’s always change. Just like a real interpersonal relationship, companies change over time and sometimes in opposite directions. Whether the client or consulting company adapts to the changes caused by the other can be a make or break situation. One important item to address, don’t take a fall out with your IT consulting partner personally, there was initially a very compelling reason for you to trust and invest in your strategic partner. Whether this partnership lasted a few months or several years, let the 5 indicators below guide you towards deciding if it’s the right time to split or stick it out.

1. Your Strategic Partner has Become a Vendor

There should be a difference between your information technology consulting partner and the other vendors you use to run your business. If the lines are blurred or it’s hard to distinguish between the two, it’s likely time for a new Dallas IT consulting partner. Unlike a vendor, an effective partner protects your interests and truly identifies all options, providing unbiased recommendations. Many IT consulting companies have partnerships with many vendors, but there should be flexibility in their recommendation. They should look at your existing technology solutions and determine how to maximize the products you already own. An IT partner can quickly become rigid when they recommend the same solution to many clients and begin to protect their own self-serving interests over the client. Is your partner an advocate?

2. Your Strategic Partner Isn’t Strategic

An effective IT consulting partner plans ahead, providing a road-map for adoption, implementation, or both depending on the service. There are different approaches for different situations, some implementations require a long term plan while others require a fast change transition with old technologies turned off and new technologies turned on with little interruption. An IT partner becomes strategic when they can effectively implement technology recommendations using the best approach for the situation, and at the anticipated cost, date and scope. It takes strategic planning and prior formulation to pull off any project and hit all of the project constraints. If your partner is giving you excuses or playing the ‘blame game’, call them out on it, as it really comes down to strategic planning.

3. Your Strategic Partner Isn’t Up to the Times

There aren’t many other industries that have changed more than information technology in such a short of time. That said, your IT consulting partner should be constantly learning about your business and recommending new technologies, updates or changes. A strategic partner must seek an up to date understanding of your business and the solutions available on the market to solve your problems. Ask yourself the following questions: 1. Does your IT consulting partner feel removed from your company? 2. Are they consistently learning about your changing technology needs? 3. Are they providing you with industry news and updates or is it the other way around?

4. Your IT Consulting Partner Isn’t Full Service

At one time, your partner might have met all of your needs, but now either to the growth of your business or another factor, you are working with multiple independent consultants or businesses each addressing different areas of your technology needs. This is not only wasteful; it’s also not practical or efficient in information technology. A full service IT consulting partner will be better able to meet your needs controlling all the strings and moving parts of your technology initiatives.

5. Your IT Consulting Partner Can’t Perform in Emergencies

What has been the response time when you faced a critical technology meltdown? If you haven’t had one yet, do you feel your IT partner would be able to quickly perform? Emergencies can truly test the effectiveness of your IT partner. All of the problems with your IT partner that might be apparent will become extremely visible in an emergency situation. When you’re facing a crisis, your partner should be putting their best resources on the situation, working with you and other decision makers and providing a plan to prevent a future crisis. Sometimes emergencies can’t be avoided, but many times they can. Scheduled maintenance, upkeep and monitoring can prevent mission critical technologies from failing. Ask your partner if the emergency could have been prevented. If your business is facing several or all of these indicators, it might be time to find a new Dallas IT Consulting Partner. Contact NCC Data for more detail on how we can prevent these factors from ever occurring.

Author

Daren Boozer is the President & CEO at NCC Data. NCC Data specializes in IT outsourcing and managed services consulting. It is one of the top independently owned IT services and communications companies in the Dallas-Fort-Worth Metroplex.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Which of the following statements are true?

  • 845 million people actively use Facebook.
  • Over 50% of the population in North American uses Facebook.
  • Facebook accounts for 1 out of every 5 pageviews on the internet worldwide.
  • There are 2.7 billion likes every single day on Facebook.
  • Facebook has 425 million mobile users.
  • Facebook is a favorite target for cybercriminals.

If you said that they all were true, you’re right. Obviously Facebook and other social media networking sites are a boon for businesses, an opportunity to reach enormous amounts of potential customers. But the last statement is also true. Facebook and other social media sites hold stores of valuable information, and draw cybercriminals like pirates to buried treasure.

This particular type of crime is on the rise. Security research labs report a 20 to 40 percent increase in malware targeting social networking sites. Just this January, a campaign disguised as a friend request attacked Facebook users, who not only didn’t get a new friend, but ended up connecting to a site hosting a malicious JavaScript.

Right about now, you may be wondering why a network support provider is blogging about friends and social media sites. But Facebook and the other sites aren’t just about friendship. Just one look at the numbers shows you the impact they can have on your business. The negative impact can also be huge. The number one cause of data breaches is malicious attacks. Not stolen laptops or accidental sharing, but attacks that arrive via the Internet and more and more often through social media. And social media has a wide range. Your business may have a page. You employees may access Facebook on breaks. They may use company laptops off hours.

But don’t write off social media—it’s too valuable. Instead, we suggest using a two-fold security strategy: education and technology… First, educate your employees. Make sure they use strong passwords and don’t click on links that seem even slightly suspicious. If you know of a particular threat, make sure everyone at your company knows about it. And for the technological half of your security, call us at NCC Data, the leading provider of IT services in the Dallas Fort Worth Area. We stay up-to-date with the newest security solutions and monitor the latest threats, so you don’t have to. You can take advantage of the opportunities that social media offers, knowing that NCC Data, your network support provider, is protecting you from the dark side.

The App Internet: The Death of the Web?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

According to some IT experts, the Web is on its way out, and a brave new world of apps will take its place. As the leading provider of IT services in the Dallas Fort Worth Area, we want to be your guide to the ever-changing world of technology, whether it be web-base or app-based. We’re not just a network support provider, but an IT management consulting firm who’ll help you to navigate future shifts and take advantage of new opportunities.

What exactly is the “App Internet?” Forrester CEO George Colony explains it this way: “Two ways of computing have dominated over the past 20 years. The first I’ll call the “Microsoft model” — where local personal computers do most of the work. The second model is the Web/Cloud model, in which most of the work happens on remote servers. Both are outmoded. The Microsoft model fails to leverage the economies of scale in the Cloud; Web/Cloud fail to leverage the exponential growth in the power of local storage and processors.

“So what comes next? Something I call the “App Internet.” In this model, powerful local devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets) run applications that simultaneously and seamlessly take advantage of resources in the Web/Cloud. If you want to see this model in action, check out iPhone and Android applications.”

Forrester isn’t the only IT expert to proclaim the coming of the App Internet. “Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display,” writes Wired’s Chris Anderson. “It’s driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing, and it’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule. And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen). The fact that it’s easier for companies to make money on these platforms only cements the trend. Producers and consumers agree: The Web is not the culmination of the digital revolution.”

What would this change mean to the Web as we know it? Traditional PCs would be out, replaced by mobile devices. Websites would be replaced by apps (or whatever apps will have evolved into). The App Internet could limit the impact of cloud computing. It will certainly require different IT architecture.

But will the shift to the App Internet really happen? According to Forrester, the tide is already turning. Their research has found that 15% of tablet users say they use apps more than the web. And it’s not just app use that will increase. Forrester predicts that tablets will account for $8.1billion in global app sales in 2015, up from $300 million in 2010.

The App Internet could provide amazing opportunities for businesses savvy enough to embrace it. NCC Data can help your business to take advantage of these opportunities. Whatever the future of computing, our IT experts offer the business strategy consulting that can put your company on the right track, and the computer network support you need to keep you there. We do more than provide IT services in the Dallas Fort Worth Area. We provide you with a guide to the future.

Consolidate Servers, Streamline Your Life

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

If you’re running your own servers, you’re losing money. Have you considered server consolidation? Server consolidation means taking your group of servers, which typically run at only 15-20% capacity each, and reducing the number of servers through resource sharing to increase efficiency and eliminate redundancies. NCC Data can help you maximize ROI on your data center through this server consolidation process.

Consolidating your servers presents a new array of complex processes in data center management, though, so the most efficient way to manage this is through sever virtualization, which simplifies the data-sharing processes by hiding the more complex details to make server management easier for the average user. These two processes help streamline your IT needs and, while the upfront costs may be significant, the money saved by consolidating your server (not to mention the energy saved through this “green” process) make it a legitimate venture for your company.

Some facts and figures:

  • A worldwide financial group used 52 servers in 2005 and through virtualization, is running on only 14 in 2010.
  • A mid-sized New York law firm has ‘gone green’ through virtualization, reducing its electric consumption. At the same time, the firm has increased network uptime, simplified its disaster recovery backup process, and freed up IT staff to work on other projects. (Source: Network World)

NCC Data has the skills and professionals in place to seamlessly transition your servers to a consolidated system- call us at 972.354.1600 to discuss how we can help you consolidate your servers and cut your IT costs today!