FPA Technology Services, Inc.
818-501-3390
Newsletter
Username:  Password:  
Login
Support

Money Saving Technology Tips

 Permanent link

Now more than ever, during these tough economic times, it's important to keep our eyes on the ball, cut costs where necessary, and invest in things that can have a measurable return on investment. At times like these, it's easy to think about cutting costs in technology investments and expenditures.  However, technology can provide many opportunities for returns with a huge bang for the buck.

We've put our collective heads together and compiled a list of Money Saving Technology Tips which can quickly impact your business' performance. This list is not all-inclusive and each component is not necessarily applicable to every organization – the purpose of this compilation is to provide insight into unexplored avenues of business growth and to serve as a "grab bag" of ideas that we hope will inspire you to take action that you haven't previously considered.

Automate

  1. Automate your KPI's (Key Performance Indicators). Many times the automation of this reporting can save days or weeks of time in providing the information you need to run your business successfully. Whatever accounting or ERP system you're using, there are always ways to streamline the process of creating this data in a more timely, accurate, and efficient manner.
  2. Invest in the technology needed to provide remote access so that you and your staff can work more efficiently. Why sit in traffic for an hour when you can work at home during rush hour and then only take a half hour to get in? This simple change would improve your productivity by 2.5 hours per week which equals over 120 hours per year.
  3. Build an intranet to improve your effectiveness and better share documents and information across your staff and locations.
  4. Implement EDI with your strategic partners to save money by eliminating the need for data entry and the costly printing of paper documents.

Enhance Systems

  1. Look to implement a VoIP phone system to increase capabilities while significantly reducing your ongoing telecommunication costs. VoIP is bundled with features such as conferencing abilities, caller ID, and call forwarding at no additional cost, and not only makes securing calls easier, but allows for user location independence.
  2. Scan documents and save them on the network rather than printing them. This will help you avoid ongoing costs associated with paper, toners, printer maintenance, storage space, and more.
  3. Implement bar coding and scanning if your business requires heavy data entry. Implementing bar coding and scanning in your warehouse can capture data entry at the point of origin and eliminate after-the-fact data entry. This will not only save you money by eliminating or minimizing reliance on data entry personnel, but will also reduce data entry errors.

Review Tech Expenses

  1. Audit your telecommunication costs, especially if your contract is over two years old.  This is an area where we're seeing HUGE cost savings with many of our clients.
  2. Audit your internet costs. Odds are, if your contract is more than a year or two old, better deals are available now.
  3. Organize and review your ongoing software and hardware maintenance fees. This is an ideal way to track down licenses you no longer use and allows you to discontinue payment and unnecessary coverage.

Go Paperless

  1. Configure your accounting application to email or fax client invoices and statements. This will help make your accounting functions flow more smoothly and efficiently and save you hundreds of dollars by eliminating printing costs.
  2. Switch from printing paper forms to using computer-generated forms.

Conserve Energy

  1. Implement a policy to have staff power off their computers, printers, and peripherals each evening as they leave the office.
  2. Have an IT Support Provider automatically shutdown all business devices at the end of each night and power them up before your office opens for business each morning.

Improve Hosting

  1. Change various applications from the purchase model to SaaS (Software as a Service) to run them hosted via the internet. This includes Anti-SPAM filtering, MS-Exchange Hosting, and much more.
  2. Move servers to a third-party co-location facility to eliminate the cost of server rooms. This can also serve as a great disaster recovery solution!

Outsource Your IT Services

  1. Consider replacing in-house IT staff with outsourced support, eliminating all of the costs associated with full-time staff (salary, payroll taxes, workers' compensation, benefits, vacation days, sick days, training, etc.).
  2. Eliminate vendor responsibility avoidance by outsourcing. There is no multi-vendor finger pointing when there is just one, resourceful solution provider.
  3. Do away with technology that is not the right fit for your business model. An outsourced IT provider with an intimate understanding of your business can guide your technology decisions based on your business objectives while steering you away from hidden pitfalls and overspending on unnecessary purchases and upgrades.

Modernize Marketing

  1. Look into advertising on social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, if business appropriate.
  2. Generate email blasts using simple, outsourced online companies such as Swiftpage, Constant Contact, or Campaigner.
  3. Implement a contact manager or customer relationship management (CRM) system to allow you to effectively manage your customer list, generate email blasts, or various marketing and advertising campaigns.

Optimize Website Function

  1. Consider adding B2B capabilities to your website to automate your interactions with your strategic partners. This will help automate and standardize correspondence.
  2. Add eCommerce capabilities to your website and sell your wares online!
  3. Allow your customers to enter orders through your website. The less time a client has to spend to place an order, the more likely he or she is to do business with you.
  4. Integrate order taking on your website with your back office accounting to eliminate data entry costs and errors.
  5. Optimize your website for search engines to drive more traffic and potential customers to your site.
  6. Launch a pay per click campaign with Google or Yahoo to drive more traffic and prospective customers to your site.

Please let me know your thoughts on this subject...

Tech Travel Tips

 Permanent link

There's nothing worse than the feeling you get when you're stranded when traveling.  And by stranded, I mean because you're having problems preventing you from connecting up remotely and accessing the information you need access to. Here are some tips to help you with your technology when you're traveling:

Create a Travel Kit

Keep your various travel computer accessories - such as USB flash drive and hub, cable lock, extra phone battery, power strip, VoIP (Voice Over Internet protocol) headset, and webcam - in one place or kit.  When you're ready to hit the road, grab the kit and you're good to go.

Practice Logging in, and on

Don't try logging on to the corporate server or logging in to your remote accounts for the first time once you're on the road. Practice remote data access from the stress-free environment of your home.

Have IT on Standby

Information Technology people are your lifeline if you run into connection issues on the road.  Keep your IT Help Desk and support names and numbers handy.

Work Smart

Stay in hotels that provide free internet access and an in-room work space as well as fax, copy and print servies.

Keep a Neat Desk

Straighten up things at the office before leaving on an extended trip.  An organized desk will help co-workers find files or documents that you -- or they -- might need while you're away.

Schedule Time to Stay in Touch

Chasing down your staff or keeping in touch with family members can be challenging if everyone's on different schedules or time zones.  Before departing, setup call-in times.  Alternatively, start or end the day with e-mail updates.

Protecting Your Online Financial Info

 Permanent link

Consumers are conducting more and more of their financial transactions online.  Consequently, they may become vulnerable to tracking, hacking, identity theft, phishing scams, and other online risks.  While nothing can guarantee complete safety while online, much can be done to understand and minimize your exposure to risk.

Here are some basic ways to help maintain privacy and secure your information while on the web:

Understand Privacy Policies

Before conducting any financial transactions online, carefully read the privacy policies of each institution with which you plan to do online business.  Find out how the business intends to maintain and secure your financial information.  If you don't understand the legal jargon, ask questions.  You can always email or call a business and request a simplified explanation of its privacy policies.

Avoid Using Easily Decipherable PINS and Passwords

When deciding on PINS, passwords, and other login information, avoid using your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of our Social Security number, your kids names, or your phone number.  Avoid other obvious choices, like a series of consecutive numbers or your home town.  Also, avoid using the same PINS and passwords on multiple sites.  Then, if your PIN or password is discovered on one site, the others will remain secure.

Use Secure Web Pages Only

Use only secure browsers when shopping online to guard the security of your transactions during transmission.  There are two general indicators of a secured web page.  First, check that the web page URL begins with "https".  Most URL's begin with "http" - the "s" at the end indicates that the site is "secure".  This means that passwords and other information will be encrypted before sending back and forth to the server.  Second, look for a "lock" icon in the window of the browser.  You can double-click on this icon for details about the site's security.  Be cautious about providing your financial information to websites that are not well known.  Larger companies and well-known web sites have developed policies to protect the rights and financial information of their customers.

Keep Your Operating System Up-to-Date

High-priority updates are critical to the security and reliability of your computer.  They also offer the latest protection against malicious online activities.  When your computer prompts you to conduct an update, do it as soon as possible.

Keep Your Firewall Turned On

A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to delete information, crash your computer, or steal your passwords or credit card numbers.  Make sure your firewall is always turned on.

Do Your Homework

To learn more about securing your computer and protecting your personal information, visit www.getnetwise.org, www.onguardonline.gov, or www.wiredsafety.org.  These websites provide valuable information to help you protect your private information when conducting financial transactions online. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace.

While maintaining anonymity on the web can be challenging, it's important to protect your financial information and the financial information of your family.  In time, more protective measures will be established so that you can feel assured that your financial information will be protected from unknown third parties.  In the meantime, it's up to you to safeguard your financial information by being vigilant in your online practices.

The Latest Trend - BYOD & MDM

 Permanent link

Now that Managed Services and the Cloud have had a little bit of time to percolate, without many business owners realizing it, another new wave of technology has snuck up on them. While Blackberries were once the defacto standard corporate answer to accessing email remotely, iPhones and Droids were taking over the personal device market. And while this was happening, a subtle but forceful wave has swept over the business environment changing just about everything related to remote access. The iPad came and added some serious inertia to this movement. What is this wave I'm talking about? Well, if you haven't heard - it's called BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This is the concept of staff bringing in their own personal devices and accessing various pieces of corporate information - email, documents, even remote access right into network resources.

While this concept (remote access) isn't all that new, the capabilities of these new devices along with the concept of actually managing them and controlling them is. While BYOD has its own inherent obstacles to overcome, they can all be wrapped up into the concept of MDM - Mobile Device Management. This is the overarching concept of how the IT department goes about managing these devices - both personal ones as well as company issued. From an IT management perspective, it's becoming one of the most difficult things to control. And we're only at the infant stage of this movement.

I’ve seen estimates that the worldwide cloud opportunity is anywhere between $166 billion and $280 billion in the next few years. Compare this with the estimates of mobility representing between $1 and $2 trillion dollars! This only begins to show what we're talking about here.

Anyway you look at it, without an organized approach, a defined set of policies to implement, and the appropriate tools to do it, Mobile Device Management is just a concept to most. While MDM can be quite a messy undertaking, it's critical to understand its importance. Without the appropriate approach, hours and hours of time could be wasted setting up and managing these devices manually. Without managing and controlling access to these devices, proprietary information could now be accessed from anywhere by anyone. What would the cost be to your company if your competitor got a hold of your client list? What would the cost be if you lost proprietary intellectual property? If you were a CPA firm, could your business continue if your clients knew that all of your tax returns were in some unauthorized person's hands? If you're an investment advisor, what are you doing to ensure you're meeting your fiduciary responsibilities and SEC compliance? If you're in the health care field, what are you doing to ensure these devices are controlling access to information to ensure you're meeting HIPAA compliance?

In the old days, all of these issues could easily (relatively speaking) be controlled within the confines of the computing resources within the four walls of your office. Even with the advent of "The Cloud", these are still relatively controllable issues. Mobile devices (and the different flavors of them all) add to the level of complexity exponentially.

This is where we come in. As a Managed Service Provider we have the systems, processes, and resources already in place to take this on for our clients. Mobile Device Management is just another opportunity for us to help our clients manage and control their information resources as well as their information. This is within our area of expertise and provides a great value proposition to our clients. While this is a new trend now, I believe it's going to be the future of computing - and we're just the right guys to help our clients navigate through these waters. I'd love to hear what you think of this latest "trend".

Knock, Knock. Who's there? RIM. RIM, who?

 Permanent link

Knock, knock. Who's there? RIM. RIM, who? RIM! Research in Motion. Remember us? Will RIM executives be able to resuscitate the company, once the leader in smartphone technology, or will it end up as a punch line to a joke?

While they still claim over 80 million users, BlackBerry's market share plummeted from 44% two years ago to just over 11% today and still falling AND it's lost nearly 75% of its market value since last June. This week RIM told investors that it probably will face an operating loss for the current quarter and announced that it hired bankers from JPMorgan Securities and RBC Capital Markets to help it with a financial "transformation." The company did not say if the restructuring would mean selling itself in whole or part, or closing weaker operations such as smartphone manufacturing. But it does realize that drastic measures are needed.

BlackBerry's early success was based on its strength in handling mobile messaging and email. Now, this compelling reason has become common place among iPhones and Droid mobile devices. Other than selling on security, its existing customer base, and its own proprietary App World, what does it really have to offer the market that's unique? Will RIM be able to salvage itself before it's too late or disappear into the technology history books like Palm, Compaq, Borland, and Ashton Tate? Hard to say, but objectively speaking - it's hard to ignore the writing on the wall.

So, what does this mean to you if you're still using a BlackBerry? Is this something you should "hightail" away from? Analysts consider it unlikely that the firm might shut down completely, especially because many government agencies, including the Defense Department, still use BlackBerry devices. However, if your plan is coming up for renewal any time soon, it may be the opportunity to change before any interruption of service occurs.

Something to consider before the knock, knock joke emails start flowing and you miss them all because RIM's servers have shut down.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

 Permanent link

Do you have a company supplied smartphone or do you use your personal one to get your company email?  There used to be a clear line between company and personal when it came to smartphones and accessing company data.  Within the last few years, this line has more than just blurred - it's been obliterated.  What was once only done on a company supplied smartphone is now being done all over the place on personal smartphones and tablets.  Because of this, it used to be that company data was easier to manage and secure.  Smartphones themselves are (relatively) "easy" to manage.  With the line so much more blurred, smartphones are now a major issue when it comes to the impact they have on IT staff to manage them, support them, and secure them.

While most smartphones are purely personal, we're seeing more and more of these devices being connected into the networks we're managing.  This means more and more of them have company information on them - emails, texts, documents, etc.  So, what does this really mean?  Well, from the IT channel's perspective it means MDM (Mobile Device Management) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) have become hot topics.  Clearly the line is blurring.  The issue for us AND our clients is the impact to the organization.  One of the bigger issues relates to the additional threat BYOD brings to company security.  And here's why: a little known, but startling fact is 70 million smartphones are lost each year, with only 7 percent of them being recovered!  Most companies are unaware of this statistic and most are NOT doing anything to protect themselves when it comes to this potential loss.

We recently upgraded our monitoring and alerting system and one of the latest additions to it gives us is the ability to monitor and manage Android devices and iPhones.  Not only do we have the ability to monitor them, but we also have the ability to wipe their contents if they've "gone rogue".  This is a HUGE benefit to our clients who want to allow access for personal smartphones yet limit the risk these devices bring.  Regardless of where it's at, we can ensure everything that's on them won't get into the wrong hands.  This is huge!

So, what are you doing to protect your company's data sitting on your staff's phones right about now?

Cloudy with a Chance of Murkiness

(Business Before Technology) Permanent link

When they came up with the word the "Cloud", I'm thinking they (whoever "they" are) were looking for a way to package this nebulous thing that would be accepted easily as opposed to something more appropriate - like the "Swamp" or the "Sandbox" or "that place that we can't quite describe where we want you to store everything you have and never have to worry about anything IT again".  I can only imagine the guys from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft behind a mirrored window watching focus group after focus group trying to come up with some lovely addage so that they could get everyone to buy into it.  The Cloud.  Close your eyes and imagine a white, puffy, soft, and warm place.  It certainly evokes a positive image way more than the reality of the unknown that it currently is.  I don't say this in any condescending or negative way.  Really.  I actually mean it in the most affectionate way.  Unfortunately, "The Cloud" means so many things to so many people that it's about as murky as the letters "IT". 

What exactly is the Cloud?  Well, it's so interesting to me that I've heard so many different ways it's been described from so many different people lately.  If you use Gmail, your mail's in the cloud.  If you use Dropbox, you're in the cloud.  I recently heard from someone in IT who said none of these are "the cloud".  He told me, to him the cloud means complete virtualization of everything down to the desktops.  So, anything less than this is NOT the cloud.  Intel sells a "Hybrid Cloud Solution".  There are "Virtual Private Clouds".  Again - this is the murkiness I was referring to.  Way too many different definitions.

For those of us responsible for managing IT, right now the negative related to the cloud really isn't about the loss of work this "evolution" looks to be (at least for those of us who don't provide IT as a commodity).  Nor is it about the loss of control - over the systems we manage nor the client relationships we value.  At this point in time, I believe the most difficult thing is helping our clients and prospective clients understand the complexities of this change and to properly and valuably navigate the waters of this change for them.  And it certainly does look to be a significant change.  What will work for one type of business may not work for another.  And what will work for one size business may not work for another.  And what will work for one business process for one business may not work for the exact same process for another business.

Beyond simply the initial capital costs, the ongoing maintenance costs, and ultimately the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), what we're seeing as significant differences between the Cloud and on-premise solutions is more about the impact to work flows, overall computing functionality, security of information, etc.  Things that really make a difference impacting the productity and efficiency of the staff of growing companies.  While this move to the Cloud certainly looks to be a way to continue to promote the ever increasing value of IT, as experience has shown us navigating these waters alone or just with the channel selling to end users will end up with IT as a commodity for our SMB friends.  Which will ultimately mean more and more businesses losing the ability to further leverage technology to its fullest.  And this is where we, our clients' Trusted Advisor, always fit in - providing that bridge between the technical solution and their business needs.  Business Before Technology - We Get IT!

About the Author
Craig Pollack
Craig Pollack Blog Profile Image Craig is the Founder & CEO of FPA Technology Services, Inc. Craig provides the strategy and direction for FPA, ensuring its clients, their business owners, and key decision makers leverage technology most effectively to achieve their business objectives. Craig focuses on ensuring that the technologies implemented by clients are "business centric" and key components of their businesses' success, and that this approach is shared by every staff member of FPA.
Twitter LinkedIn



 

RSS Feed

By Date



Recent Entries