The Anderson Technologies blog specializes in sharing the best ways for business owners to up their cyber security game, but sometimes accounts of tech gone wrong prove just as valuable.
Anderson Technologies spoke again with A. A., Chief of Staff of a wealth management firm located in West St. Louis County. Our last interview with A. A. discussed her firm’s network security audit experience and the projects to come with Anderson Technologies. This time, read about what can happen after the network security audit results and why it’s important to address problems as soon as they’re found.
“I should have listened,” A. A. says. “That’s the beginning and the end to this story.”
Before Anderson Technologies’ network security audit of A. A.’s firm in 2018, the firm already knew server reliability would be one of the first issues addressed. “You told us from the beginning that our server was a liability,” A. A. recalls. Her firm’s previous IT vendor had told her the server was old but still usable, while Mark Anderson flagged it for immediate resolution due to the amount of data and day-to-day tasks the server was responsible for.
“One of the reasons was security issues,” A. A. says. The server was the gathering point for all the firm’s and its clients’ data. “Our entire business is located there, so it was a huge risk for us.” Without guarantees that the server was reliably backing up the firm’s data, Anderson Technologies recommended that A. A. upgrade the server as soon as possible.
Like many other small businesses, the firm was hesitant to drop such a large amount of money on a piece of hardware right after signing on with a new managed services provider. The firm was planning a major update to their business model for mid-2019 and didn’t have a lot of wiggle room in their annual budget. “Anderson Technologies was really good with helping us prioritize what our first steps would be,” A. A. says.
You told us from the beginning that our server was a liability.”
After some planning with Senior System Administrator Eric Dischert, A. A. elected to migrate to the cloud in lieu of investing in a new server before the business model transition. “We already knew that we wanted to move to the cloud,” A. A. says, “so we said we can remove some of this risk by moving over our current files to Office 365.”
Headed for the Cloud
It may not have immediately solved the server problem, but moving to the cloud was a good choice for this particular firm. “We moved as much of our data over to Office 365 as possible,” A. A. recalls. The server remained in production as a bridge to log into the firm’s Active Directory and to scan and store documents locally.
Security was a huge factor contributing to the switch. “In the line of work we’re in as wealth managers, if something happened to our clients’ information, it could be the end of our business,” A. A. says. “It was exceedingly important for us to be proactive in being able to manage our clients’ data efficiently, effectively, and securely.” Migrating to the cloud also allowed for easier and more secure telecommuting, which was exciting for the firm as a whole. “It was simply fantastic to have everything set up and all you have to do is log in through Office 365.”
No Server, No Problem
While Anderson Technologies was preparing A. A.’s firm for the cloud migration, the worst happened. “Server meltdowns are like horror movies for business professionals,” she says, “worst case scenario.” Thankfully, Dischert and some preemptive measures taken by Anderson Technologies kept downtime to a minimum.
“One of the amazing things about the work you do, and especially Eric [Dischert], was he noticed right away before any of us were in the office that something was wrong with the server,” A. A. says. “He reached out to me, did some remote troubleshooting, and came into the office. . . then announced the time of death [of the server] later that afternoon.”
Since the firm had already been preparing for the cloud migration, the server was no longer business-critical at that point but could have created vulnerabilities if not taken off the network quickly. The only loss the firm experienced was scanned images stored on the local server since employees at the firm had already begun reorganizing their workstations’ data to make the transition to Office 365 smoother. “I knew everything would be okay,” A. A. says.
Everything Anderson Technologies did made an unfortunate situation much easier for us to handle.”
Downtime is a major concern when any business’s tech fails, and this firm was no different. “That was one thing that Anderson Technologies did aside from pinpointing the problem early on, ensuring that we did not have lost time,” A. A. recalls. The team was responsive, telling A. A. that “‘we can triage based on your schedules and make sure everyone’s ready the day before’ . . . I think we got a quote of two hours per computer, and they were able to complete everything in our relatively small office in less than half a day. We expected to be out at least a full day.”
In less than one workday, Anderson Technologies successfully migrated all user profiles and got the wealth management firm working from their new cloud platform. If Dischert and the Anderson Technologies team hadn’t flagged the problem during the network security audit and began the cloud migration process in time, the firm might have lost essential data and experienced significant downtime. Early intervention went a long way when it came to handling this meltdown, and A. A. and her team are especially grateful for the comprehensive approach.
Luckily, this is a story of lessons learned rather than a disaster. A. A. says, “Everything Anderson Technologies did made an unfortunate situation much easier for us to handle.”
Have you or your business been trapped under lifeless hardware and are considering a switch to the cloud? Cloud migration could be the best solution for you! Contact Anderson Technologies today to learn if you’re eligible for a free network security audit.
This February marks Anderson Technologies’ 25th anniversary providing exceptional IT services for clients in the St. Louis area and beyond. The milestone provides an opportunity to reflect on the company’s journey since its inception and provides a thoughtful lens on how the organization plans to forge a path for the future.
Founding Principals Mark and Amy Anderson met in college as Computer Science majors and started their professional careers in the late ‘80s as software engineers for McDonnell Douglas’ Avionics Laboratories. After several years, their entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and the company was incorporated in February 1995 as an IT consulting firm. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people and being entrepreneurial,” Mark recalls. Like many successful business owners, he has fostered that entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. Growing up in a military family as a seventh grader pushing a lawnmower around the yards of trusting homeowners, he’ll never forget the advice his father brought home from his commanding officer while stationed in Germany: “If in life you always strive to do your very best, work will seek you out.” This became a foundational idea in Mark’s outlook. By demanding honesty, integrity, and excellence in himself, everything else took care of itself. Amy’s strength has always been to implement Mark’s big ideas in a practical and risk-averse way, which fueled the birth of Anderson Technologies.
If in life you always strive to do your very best, work will seek you out.”
Initially the Andersons provided technology consulting to Fortune 500 corporations until the market shifted offshore in the early 2000s. This fueled the company’s move from software engineering to system administration and IT consulting. After the start of the new millennium, Anderson Technologies experienced what Mark and Amy describe as a “quiet decade” while their two children were still young. They gravitated towards custom projects that would serve as the foundation for a new division of the company, Anderson Archival. “We were approached by a client who asked us to do technical project management and archival work for them,” Amy says. “While that was going on, we were also performing system and network administration for a handful of companies and helping with their technology.”
Not only has Anderson Technologies evolved over the course of twenty-five years, but so has the IT industry. “At first there was no such thing as managed services on an ongoing basis, where clients would pay a monthly fee for proactive IT support,” Mark says. Once the IT industry’s standard break/fix model was transformed by the need for vigilant, comprehensive managed services, Anderson Technologies fully embraced and invested in this new way of providing outstanding services to its clients.
“Let’s pivot,” Mark remembers thinking, “to focusing on small and mid-sized businesses who will appreciate a relationship with an IT vendor they can look in the eye and wholeheartedly trust.” Developing this strong client-vendor relationship was the foundation upon which Anderson Technologies built itself.
In order to share this new, proactive managed services approach, the company started by asking small business owners what technical challenges they were trying to overcome—and if it didn’t have a solution for them, the team would find another vendor who could help. “We are known for being an organization who cares and who treats people fairly,” Amy says.
In 2020, Anderson Technologies is focused on growing into a new office space, which is about three times the size of the previous location. “It’s a huge milestone for us,” Amy says. “You can feel the momentum.”
Indeed, the firm blossomed over the last few years alone, nearly doubling in size and welcoming Farica Chang as a partner. For over a decade Farica has been integral to Anderson Technologies. “Farica is extremely talented,” Amy says. “When we make a promise to a client, she along with our wonderful employees, consistently find a way to deliver an exceptional result. Farica is key to the company’s current and future success, and we are so grateful she is now a partner.” Mark agrees. “Farica exemplifies the company’s values so well,” he says. “She’s fearless—there’s nothing she can’t do. Her character, work ethic, and talents have blessed all of us. We wouldn’t be the same company without her.”
Working for Mark and Amy after graduation from UCLA and her professional experience at Fortune 500 companies, Farica notes that the opportunities available as part of a smaller team are immeasurable. “Mark and Amy shared responsibilities with me that I could never have imagined had I been a small cog in the gears of a giant corporation,” she says. “Together we conquered thorny technical challenges and complex project management. They fostered an environment of mutual trust and support—nurtured my development as a leader—and showed me how to care for a client’s needs as we care for our own.”
Together we conquered thorny technical challenges and complex project management.”
Anderson Technologies wouldn’t be where it is today without its people. Each member of the team is a valued piece of the puzzle—offering key unique strengths and devotion to a job well done. “Honestly, I love my work because I love our team,” says Farica. “Even on the busiest days, I know I can turn to anyone for help. Many of my colleagues have been with us for five years or more. I’m so proud of their growth and can-do spirit.”
Mark, Amy, and Farica appreciate this moment to pause and reflect on how vibrant their IT company has become. The last twenty-five years have been busy ones, and they don’t foresee slowing down any time soon. “Our hearts are filled with gratitude,” Mark says. “Gratitude for our wonderful employees, clients, and business partners who have enabled us to realize a dream and together build something truly special.”
Here’s to 25 more years of Anderson Technologies!
For more information about the Anderson firms or to find out how Anderson Technologies or Anderson Archival can provide solutions for your organization, contact us today!
How one St. Louis practice shed an underperforming MSP and questions to ask so you don’t end up in the same situation
Relationship challenges occasionally happen, even between businesses.
It’s frustrating when a potential vendor promises epic solutions to all your problems, but over the course of months or years prove themselves not up to the task. This was the case for M. C., owner of a St. Louis healthcare practice. She recently sought the help of Anderson Technologies to replace her managed services provider of over a decade. “I was pretty loyal to them,” M. C. says, “but it was nightmare after nightmare for ten years.”
A self-described workaholic, M. C. didn’t have time to spend worrying about the technology that carried her practice. “IT is the skeleton of [most] businesses in America today. If you don’t have it, then your practice has no skeleton. It’s just a floppy amoeba.” Much like the revenue lost during business downtime, time wasted waiting for computers to meet performance expectations or techs to return your phone call is a drain on your business’s resources.
Your managed services provider (MSP) should be working with you, not against you. According to M. C., an MSP and the work they do for your business should feel like “a blessing from God.” Here are four questions you should be asking to determine whether or not your MSP relationship is benefiting your business.
- Are they professional? Can I unequivocally trust them in my office and home?
M.C.’s relationship with her former MSP started with a trusted colleague’s recommendation. System administrators were in and out of her office and home, providing service on her internal systems and home workstations for remote connectivity. Her practice used specific programs and hardware daily. It was essential that these functions were reliable and safe for patients.
“Anyone with an EMR [electronic medical records] system really needs to have the best IT possible,” M. C. says.
If you don’t have good IT, you’re out of luck.”
It was when M. C. needed to move her practice to a new location that she realized how many problems the vendor had overlooked or, in some cases, caused.
“I had just spent $10k getting all new computers and they still weren’t working,” M. C. recalls. “They recommended that I change phone systems to save money, but what they actually did is cut out my fax and the phone situation just got worse.” These issues surfaced when one of M. C.’s employees pointed out that on the day of the install, the MSP only spent ten minutes on-site. Along with a few other questionable interactions with the MSP’s team at her home, M. C. began to lose complete trust.
- Are they communicating effectively?
After M. C. realized the extent of her technical problems, she reached out to the owner of the company, a person she felt she could trust. However, the owner wouldn’t acknowledge that his employees had been careless and made mistakes.
Aside from her annoyance with the work the company did do, it was often difficult to reach help during her early and long work hours. “I was at the point where I had to demand they come and fix things,” M. C. says. Communication breakdown reached a head when M. C. contacted the owner once more, only to be berated. “I had spent thousands of dollars at this point, and all he had to say was, ‘Why are you bothering me? You’re a demanding client.’”
- Are they taking ownership of their work and keeping detailed records of all solutions?
One reason problems weren’t getting resolved was because the MSP seemed very unorganized. Every time M. C. or one of her employees contacted the company about a problem, they acted like they had never stepped foot in the office, let alone replaced all the hardware.
“Troubleshooting was nearly impossible,” M. C. says. “After ten years they knew nothing. No organization, no blueprints of what I had, what went where.” The company also constantly insisted on upgrades to the practice’s hardware, but would replace them with old computers that were clearly used and not up to enterprise standards. Hardware replacement policies are a common MSP requirement, but the level of disorganization around the “new” computers they were recommending seemed suspicious. “It’s like there were no records of any improvements or work done.”
Mark Anderson stresses with importance of industry software and documentation with Business News Daily.
- Are they keeping their promises?
It took ten long years for M. C. to face the facts: her business relationship with her MSP was no longer serving her well. The promises the MSP made at the beginning of their partnership had never been realized. “My practice’s management system was still getting popups and crashing, computers were still slow and congested, we still had outdated hardware, no fax, scanners, or remote connectivity,” M. C. describes. “Systems were still so slow, and even slower when working remotely.”
She felt the managed services company took advantage of her, taking her money and then slapping Band-Aids on problems to conceal the bigger issues. “I was nervous spending the money to start over,” M. C. says. “It’s like getting divorced and finding someone new. For ten years I had the patience of Job, but I think it wasn’t really patience—I was just scared.”
Thankfully, she reached out to Anderson Technologies, which was able to quickly extinguish the immediate fires. “Once Anderson took over, 99% of the problems went away immediately.” Instead of making huge promises at the beginning of the partnership, Mark Anderson and the team developed a strategic action plan to implement long-term improvements.
Anderson Tech is reachable, affable, quick, professional,” M. C. says. “It’s been nothing but professionalism and action, ‘true to their word’ situations. I have never gone this long in my ten years where I didn’t have a problem.”
Now that M. C.’s IT infrastructure is efficient, reliable, and secure, she can focus on her clients and allowing her business to really grow over the next ten years. Thousands of dollars and a decade of frustration later, M. C.’s practice is building a new relationship with Anderson Technologies: “I wish I had met you ten years ago!”
To find out more about reevaluating your IT partnership, give Anderson Technologies a call today. We can be reached at 314.394.3001, and look forward to hearing from you.
The true cost of ransomware.
Ransomware is a major threat right now. According to Datto, experts in data backup and recovery, 80% of managed services providers (MSP) report ransomware attacks in 2018, and 35% report that some of their clients experienced multiple attacks per day. Clearly, ransomware is nothing to sneeze about.
Surprisingly, though, it’s not the ransomware attack, but the downtime afterward that accumulates the greatest cost to your company. Time, manpower, customer and vendor trust are all affected. This increases the importance of defending your company against this threat.
Here’s a quick recap of what happens in a ransomware attack. First, your network or computer is compromised. Next, an intruder plants an infection that encrypts your data files, until, theoretically, you pay the “ransom.” Until then, you are stuck. You can’t use your hardware, applications, or access any of your data. Any employees who connect to your network for their job can’t work. Even if the ransom is paid, the likelihood of getting your data back as it was is fairly small. During this attack, your network is fair game to the cyber criminals, and you’ll have no idea which files they will exploit. In all reality, you might be starting from scratch to get your company up and running again. And that takes time. If you aren’t protected and prepared, you could suffer weeks of lost revenue with a high cost to recover.
The best solution for defending your company against ransomware is a multi-layer approach. To keep your network safe, you must have the following:
- A properly configured hardware firewall
- An internet content filter
- Email scanning prior to delivery
- Antimalware/antivirus software on each workstation
- Current operating system and third-party application updates
- Consistent, reliable, and tested backups
Whether it’s a cyber attack, human error, or hardware failure, a multi-layer approach is a safeguard for when one layer is compromised.
Read more about ransomware!
Backups are one of the most important aspects. They are your insurance policy to eliminate a huge amount of downtime. If ransomware infects your network despite all of the safeguards in place, your current backups will ensure your data is retrievable. Consulting with your IT department or MSP to ensure your backups are properly configured will keep the ransomware from infecting the backups as well.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t have all of these measures in place, and when ransomware hits, things get chaotic. Downtime can turn a disaster into a catastrophe.
Studies show that downtime has twelve times the cost of the actual ransomware attack. To calculate downtime, you must take into consideration direct employee costs, productivity losses, halted company production, and even more importantly, how your clients are affected. Are they getting the products and services they paid for? How does that affect their trust in you?
To counteract these detrimental costs to your company, it is important to focus on prevention and prepare for the worst, so when something does happen, your downtime is minimal. Backup services provide disaster recovery as a service to ensure your peace of mind no matter what.
Ransomware isn’t the only cause of downtime, though. There are other things potentially sapping your company’s productivity every day. Poor performance due to outdated hardware, slow internet speeds, and hardware failure. How much are these often-overlooked daily experiences costing your business?
Old Hardware – New Software
Continually spending money on hardware can be frustrating. Unfortunately, that is the reality in the tech world. One year, the latest technology comes out with a wow and a bang, and by the next year, that amazing equipment is already out of date. Within a few years, it’s obsolete and can no longer handle even the most basic software updates.
Older hardware simply wasn’t designed to handle the latest resource-intensive apps.
Because technology changes so quickly, Anderson Technologies recommends replacing computers every three to five years, depending on your specific requirements. Replacing 20% of your machines per year keeps all equipment on a five-year rotation and your budget reasonable.
How can this plan save your company from downtime?
By upgrading your hardware regularly, your systems stay efficient and fast. You won’t have to wait those 30 seconds for an app to load when it should load in a fraction of that time.
Thirty seconds of downtime doesn’t seem like much until you calculate the cost of those accumulated seconds lost every week.
Hardware failure, be it a laptop or server, will happen, and inevitably it will occur at the worst possible moment, like during your busiest time of year. Because of this, it’s best to be proactive. If you’re continually refreshing hardware, not just computers, at the rate of 20% per year, everything will be less likely to experience failure due to age.
Just like with ransomware, the best insurance policy against hardware failure is having up-to-date backups. Failed hardware can easily be replaced, but the information stored on it may be lost unless it’s backed up regularly. Your MSP can help you determine the frequency of backups and provide backup options to ensure that your company can get up and running as quickly as possible.
This is probably the most common downtime-inducing culprit. There are several factors that may contribute to slow internet. The first step is to double check what speed you pay for with your internet provider and make sure it matches the speed you observe on your network. If the two speeds match, then you may need to invest in more speed.
If you’re paying for a higher grade of internet, but still experiencing slow speeds, there may be something misconfigured in your firewall or switch. If the firewall or switch are over five years old, they might need to be replaced. Older firewalls or switches are just like the old hardware we mentioned earlier – they can’t keep up with the traffic going through them and act like a bottle neck. For instance, your LAN switch may be running at 100 Mbps, but you’re paying the ISP for a 400 Mbps internet connection! Upgrading to a gigabit switch in this example is a simple, cost-effective solution. A properly configured and updated firewall and network switch will give each user the full speed the internet allows instead of bogging it down.
Do you trust your computer’s security to anonymous department store employees?
For many, the low price, high convenience, and ease of taking a home computer or laptop to a store like Office Depot or OfficeMax for maintenance or repair far outweighs any risk that would normally be associated with a stranger sifting through your files. A solid reputation for service makes a free scan from stores like Office Depot seem like the perfect solution to minor computer issues.
Unfortunately, between 2009 and 2016, one corporation violated the trust that comes with that reputation.
PC Health Check
During this time, Office Depot/OfficeMax utilized an application called PC Health Check and ran the program as part of its in-store computer services. The program’s free scan was marketed to check the “health” of PCs by scanning for malware. However, instead of actually checking the computer, if any one of four signs of probable malware were selected by the user, PC Health Check automatically reported the presence of malware and suggested the user pay for PC cleaning and repair.
PC Health Check was licensed to Office Depot and OfficeMax by Support.com, who received a percentage of each purchase. In late March, the FTC reported on their ruling that the companies will now be prohibited from making deceptive claims, and will pay $35 million in fines to the FTC, which the government will then distribute as refunds for fraudulently-triggered purchases.
Ars Technica reported that in November of 2016, this scam was exposed by Jesse Jones of news station KIRO 7 in Seattle. The investigations team ran six brand new computers through PC Health Check, and four of the six were flagged with symptoms of malware, even though the computers had never been connected to the internet. These same computers were found to be malware-free by an independent IT services provider!
After this report, Office Depot/OfficeMax pledged to take appropriate action and pay the agreed-upon fine. According to the FTC, that had not yet happened, though the PC Health Check program’s use was discontinued.
Read about Anderson Technologies’ approach to managed IT services here!
This FTC ruling should serve as a warning to anyone soliciting unneeded maintenance and repair, but it’s also a warning for consumers. The security of your business machines and network shouldn’t be trusted to just anyone.
Ask questions. What evidence does the IT services expert have for the action they propose? Does the software they utilize for diagnostic purposes have a solid reputation? Have other individuals and businesses experienced positive results after working with the expert or team?
At Anderson Technologies, we recommend cultivating a relationship with your IT services provider over time. The best results come from managed services providers who interact with all levels of your network and computer systems. Of course, emergencies happen, often when we least expect it. In those cases, resist the temptation of a quick fix even from a brand name.
Could you be eligible for a refund from the FTC in this case? Click the Get Email Updates button on their announcement. Seeking an alternative to cookie-cutter IT support? Contact Anderson Technologies and see how we’ve earned our reputation over twenty-plus years.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you might recall that we’ve written about Anderson Technologies’ avoidance of canned, one-size-fits-all solutions for IT. As a small business that specializes in serving other small businesses, we know that different clients have different needs. What works best for a small local nonprofit organization might cause more problems than it fixes for a bustling assisted-living facility.
A St. Louis law firm experienced this firsthand when they were looking for a new IT services provider.
A Personalized Approach
Founded in 1986, this law firm began as a family-owned and -operated law firm. Attorney L. C., stuck to the firm’s guiding values and became the third partner in 2010.
The firm specializes in tax law, as well as business and commercial law and estate planning. “We do the type of planning that you find at a bigger firm,” L. C. says, “but we do it in a way that’s more approachable to the business owner.”
We can put ourselves in their shoes and say, ‘This is what I would do for my business if I were you.’ I think that’s a value that you don’t get everywhere.
Much like Anderson Technologies, this law firm focuses on serving local small businesses. “The types of planning we do for our clients you would traditionally find at larger firms, where most of the people you’re meeting with are partners but they don’t know what it takes to run the business,” L. C. says. “They can’t tell you those things that small business owners really do feel.”
L. C. continues: “Most of [our clients] are business owners, so we treat them the way we’d want to be treated—or better. We can put ourselves in their shoes and say, ‘This is what I would do for my business if I were you.’ I think that’s a value that you don’t get everywhere.”
Appealing For Change
L. C. recalls that when she first started at the law firm, the firm only had a server without backups to the cloud. If something went awry, their one-man, paid-by-the-hour IT provider would come and perform a quick patch job. Though this was a solution for any immediate emergencies, L. C. knew that they could benefit from investment in a new server backup system or better IT services altogether.
“Like any business owners, we don’t have time to deal with anything unnecessary in our day and we certainly don’t want to deal with technology that we don’t understand causing us issues,” L. C. says. “It’s crucial to have somebody who will always be available to answer those questions for you, because they do come up, even if you try to be proactive about it.” For L. C., moving to managed services seemed like the right option.
After transitioning to a different IT company who advertised remote service capabilities and made empty promises of new hardware,the law firm decided to reevaluate their needs and priorities concerning tech. “Maybe we should look at that relationship,” L. C. remembers thinking of their previous IT partner.
The final straw happened when they moved the law firm to Office 365 and OneDrive. This enterprise-grade business software has numerous benefits, but to this law firm, without guidance from a managed services provider, it was more of a hindrance than an upgrade. “No one was telling us proactively ‘don’t put your computer to sleep’ or ‘don’t turn them off when you leave the office,’” L. C. says. This led to broken processes and incomplete data syncing that, even though the law firm had all new computers, were working less effectively than before.
I’m just going to get out a typewriter and write letters that way because it would be faster than having to deal with my computer.
Instead of getting to the root of the OneDrive syncing problem, the law firm’s previous IT company created a workaround that was inconsistent for the firm’s daily functions. Even less helpful was the company’s unapologetic attitude about the entire situation. “I didn’t get that they really gathered how annoying that glitch had been for us,” L. C. says. She remembers telling them “I’m just going to get out a typewriter and write letters that way because it would be faster than having to deal with my computer.”
Finally, L. C. met Anderson Technologies’ Principal Amy Anderson at a local networking event, and she decided to get a second opinion about their conundrum. “I’d heard her talk about their complimentary technology assessment,” L. C. says. After hearing about what the law firm had experienced, “[Amy] said, ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Office 365 and OneDrive are widely used. It must not be configured properly because there’s nothing unique about your situation that would cause it to work so poorly.’”
The red flags that came up in their 2018 assessment were things that small businesses usually don’t realize they should be looking for, such as the lack of an enterprise-grade firewall and wireless internet routers—which their previous managed services provider should have immediately remedied. Since the law firm deals with sensitive client data, ensuring they had a secure infrastructure was a top priority. And the issue with 365 had to be resolved in order to ensure their data was being replicated and shared internally properly.
After working with Anderson Technologies, L. C. says: “I trust that they’re not going to do something wrong and that they wouldn’t be telling me to buy something I didn’t need or that they wouldn’t do for themselves.”
Although L. C. is very enthusiastic about Anderson Technologies’ technical work, her real trust lies in Anderson Technologies’ accountability and responsibility to clients. Like the law firm, Anderson Technologies is a small business for small businesses, and this value assures that the client’s best interests always come first. “That’s kind of their approach,” L. C. says, “that if they were me, they’d do XYZ. . . . They’re going to actually do what they say they’re going to do.”
They’re going to actually do what they say they’re going to do.
Anderson Technologies continues to assist this law firm with onboarding new employees and installing hardware, including a high-speed scanner. Tax season is a very busy time for the firm, so it’s especially important that their computer infrastructure is now stable, ideally configured, reliable, and secure.
Over the past 20-plus years, Anderson Technologies has seen what works really well in the IT industry and what should be avoided. Simply completing a project is the bare minimum needed from your IT partner and shouldn’t be where managed services ends. Along with technical knowledge and skill, three key traits improve the relationship between client and IT team more than any other – excellent communication, logical systemization, and earned trust.
Technical Knowledge and Skill
One of the primary reasons you hire a managed services team is for their technical expertise and they should be capable of handling most any technical challenge you face. This really isn’t a secret! Additionally, dedication to maintaining a high level of technological skill should be key for any IT firm.
It can be difficult to determine if a managed services provider prioritizes technical skills, especially for a small business owner who isn’t familiar with the technology industry, but there are a few clues for the layperson. In addition to checking their history and references, information like certifications, education, and satisfied customers can reveal much about a managed services provider, even before they’re hired.
Fixing what’s broken is the fundamental requirement for any managed services team but when building the Anderson Technologies team, technical knowledge and skill is only the first ingredient we look for, and just the beginning of the “secret sauce” of IT services.
A huge part of managed services is acting as an interpreter.
Every industry has its own language, whether it’s attorneys, dentists, nonprofits, finance, manufacturing, engineering, etc. It’s probably easy to remember an incident when communication was a barrier rather than a bridge. The best managed services providers can explain a problem and its solution in laymen’s terms as well as industry-specific vernacular, and easily translate between the two for clients. Poor communication between system administrator and client makes gathering accurate information and completing a project successfully unnecessarily difficult.
Clear communication is vital to not only providing clients the best service but helping them understand what needs to be done and why it is important.
Hand-in-hand with excellent communication are the systems and processes a managed services provider follows to deliver truly excellent service.
- Logical Systemization
A huge part of systemization is establishing ideal methodologies and creating processes and specialized documentation designed to produce consistent, repeatable results. Taking the time to develop these best practices and build a structure around them can be easily overlooked by busy entrepreneurs. Members of an effective managed services team should be enthusiastic about combining technical and communication skills into this vital process documentation. Keeping accurate and detailed records not only helps you, the client, but maintains a consistent level of service throughout the team and ensures requests are resolved quickly and correctly.
Systemization and record keeping aren’t incidental to the best managed IT services teams – it should be built into their approach from the beginning. Included in Anderson Technologies’ managed services plans are an extensive client onboarding process, regularly scheduled proactive maintenance designed to prevent breakdown, periodic audits of client infrastructure, systems for tracking project progress and responding to user support calls.
Process documentation and customized methodologies enhance the performance of managed services providers, and, even more important, the performance of the client.
- Earned Trust
For some IT firms, an individual’s technical ability trumps everything else. But the system and network administrators hired to interact with your most confidential data and technological vulnerabilities should be a team you can implicitly trust.
When building our managed services team, Anderson Technologies seeks those who align with our core values: Integrity, Respect, Dedication, Team-Oriented, Dependability, Initiative, and Client Focused.
These qualities are the most important ingredients in our “secret sauce.” They define our organization’s character, which has been developing over two decades. It is who we are as a team and what we represent and strive for every day as a company.
The best managed services firm goes beyond that skill to provide service on another level. Excellent communication, logical systemization, and earned trust combine to make the secret sauce that comprises an IT managed service that truly shines.
At Anderson Technologies, your business’s IT security is our highest concern.
To that end, last year we implemented a documentation platform called IT Glue after recognizing the benefits of storing critical information in a single, organized repository. Our team consolidates knowledge, building a shared, encrypted library that helps address your needs better than ever before and ensuring your network isn’t reliant on how well one person can remember details.
What Is IT Glue?
IT Glue is an efficient documentation repository that keeps your relevant IT information readily at hand in a customizable environment. Documentation platforms help managed service providers maintain their internal processes and client credentials.
The website securely stores configurations, domain expirations, contacts, locations, passwords, security specifics, wireless data, backup schedules, and documents in its easy-to-access dashboard. Information is updated as needed by various team members, but controlled access allows the data to be viewed by the client via separate accounts as well.
Another helpful feature of IT Glue is that it easily integrates with other tools IT consultants use—like their PSA (Professional Services Automation) application—with two-way retrieval of data. This ensures information entered in one is automatically synchronized to the other. Too often, clients that Anderson Technologies inherits from other managed service companies arrive with minimal or outdated records. Documentation platforms make record keeping easier and more integrated while strong security implementation keeps the data safe.
Keeping Your Sensitive Information Locked Down
To login to the secure documentation platform, users must activate multifactor authentication (MFA). After entering a username and password, MFA requires the use of a third-party app configured on a mobile device to generate a single-use, six-digit code that expires after 30 seconds. Once the code is entered, the user is granted access.
Multifactor authentication provides an important added layer of protection to keeps accounts secure by preventing unauthorized logins. If someone has the password but not the MFA device, any login attempt will be unsuccessful. The concept is similar to showing your ID when using a credit card in a store. Secondary verification mitigates the chances of a thief taking your stolen credit card on a mall shopping spree.
IT Glue organizes passwords so users can easily access the multiple accounts for websites, email addresses, computer logins, and applications clients use every day. Credentials are organized in a user-friendly way, and URLs can be launched with the passwords populated. This saves valuable time, whether you’re monitoring servers and firewalls or updating a web page. IT Glue allows for granular permission levels as well as user-based permissions and group permissions, allowing contributors to specify who should be able to access each addition to the system.
SOC 2 compliance means that IT Glue is audited by a third party and its security and best practices are verified. Among other things, this helps companies comply with HIPAA—an essential for those providing IT consulting services to health organizations.
IT Glue’s website says, “To pass the audit for SOC 2 compliance, IT Glue had to demonstrate best security practices in terms of its physical infrastructure, the software that it uses, the personnel involved in governance, both automated and manual processes used, and data. The audit can only be passed when each of these areas of IT Glue’s system are compliant with SOC 2 standards.”
Organization Equals Efficiency
Efficiency for our IT team means your IT service is more capable with these shared resources – providing resolutions faster and reducing your frustration and down time.
IT Glue’s dashboard allows for speedy access by keeping track of recently accessed data. It also offers two types of searches—organizational and global—which helps our IT professionals quickly find information with just a couple keystrokes. Instant indexing of all uploaded data helps expedite the process for troubleshooting and problem solving.
Anderson Technologies tracks client domains within the system to keep DNS records readily at hand and has configured the platform to send an email alert if a domain is expiring. Our team documents license keys for apps and programs, allowing us to quickly install programs on new computers. IT Glue logs all user access as well as deletions and revision history within the app, providing a full access log for each team member. By combining this data with a robust feature set, the platform gives us the ability to thoroughly document client information for more efficient service.
The key to achieving the full potential of a process documentation platform is to realize it only manages as much information as you provide it. This means it works best if clients help keep it updated with any changes, such as passwords and other credentials that may be needed in the future.
Elena Estrada, Anderson Technologies’ IT Support Coordinator says, “Whenever we’re notified of a change in the client’s environment, we add that information into IT Glue. Keeping us up to date is essential. When clients fail to share updates with us, it can get confusing. The information stored in IT Glue is only helpful when it’s accurate and current.” An important feature for documentation repositories is input of information by users.
Anderson Technologies is committed to efficient, accurate, and professional service. Using IT Glue as a documentation repository is one of the ways to serve you better. If you would like more information on IT consulting services, call 314.394.3001 or email us email@example.com.
By now, most companies are working hand-in-hand with cloud providers. Cloud storage is unavoidable, incredibly useful, and becoming more relied upon every day, especially for companies moving toward a paperless office. Therefore, an important question to consider is: are your providers working for you, or do they end up being a hassle?
Cloud services should be seamlessly integrated into your network and IT system as a whole for best practice. Above all, cloud services should be reliable and secure. If they are affecting productivity or leaving you vulnerable to data breach, it’s time to start thinking about changing to a new cloud service provider!
Assess Your Needs
Every company has specific needs their cloud provider must meet. Usually, this includes security, reliability, speed, and regulation compliance related to their industry. Companies in the medical industry need a provider that is HIPAA compliant, while organizations in the investment industry need one that’s SEC/FINRA 17a-4 compliant. Whatever your needs, it’s vital to ensure that your provider meets those standards.
Your company’s unique environment dictates different network and system requirements. For instance, a company that centers on remote access requires different security measures compared to a company that works solely from a single main office. Budget, granular permissions, and whether you need a dedicated server environment must be taken into consideration when assessing and choosing a cloud service provider.
Cloud Provider Warning Signs
There are several cloud provider warning signs to look out for.
Data loss and lack of flexibility or scalability are major red flags. Data loss should never happen. If you lose data due to a failure within the cloud provider, they are either not testing backups or not doing them—neither of which is acceptable. If there is an outage and you don’t get your data back, that alone is reason to switch.
Some cloud providers also fall short with granular file-based permissions and cloud applications that don’t allow companies the control they need over their files and don’t allow them to assign permissions for individual employees. The lack of cross-platform support and poor mobile apps is another reason companies switch providers. As your company grows, scalability becomes incredibly important. You should be able to double your cloud infrastructure in the same day. If the cloud provider isn’t prepared for an increase in infrastructure, it’s a problem. Flexibility is one of the driving forces of cloud computing, so don’t be dragged down by poor scalability.
How to Assess Your Cloud Provider
According to Joseph Baker, systems administrator at Anderson Technologies, companies should pay attention to four things when assessing their cloud providers:
- Uptime/Service Level Agreement (SLA)
The most important thing to look at is uptime/SLA. Major companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Dropbox have very good guaranteed uptimes and SLAs.
- Data Ownership
Some cloud companies claim that if data is stored on their servers, it’s theirs. They are not going to use it to copy your business, but if you don’t pay your bill or if you decide to migrate, they could legally hold your data ransom.
- Data Center Locations
Partner with a cloud service that has data centers in the same part of the world as you to decrease latency. Many low-cost cloud vendors are located in China and India, but the latency will be noticeably higher than with a domestic choice.
- Multi-Tenant or Single-Tenant “Dedicated Server” Environments
Some businesses care about multi-tenant environments. This means your data is stored on a remote server along with someone else’s data, or even a few different clients’ data, depending on resources needed. This is generally safe and the data is segregated, but sometimes there are compliancy requirements, and there is a chance that if someone’s data is infected, it might affect the entire server. If you want the peace of mind and are willing to pay more, a single-tenant “dedicated server” is another option.
After checking these things, don’t forget to look at the front-end, too. Make sure you ask the following questions:
- How do I access the cloud provider?
- Is the provider antiquated and forcing me to use outdated Internet Explorer or can I use any browser?
- Does the provider have a smartphone app?
- Does the provider work with Mac, Linux, and Windows?
- Will my legal compliance be met?
Compliance isn’t always ubiquitous, even among the bigger companies. If your company has a specific compliance requirement, request the specific certification for it from your cloud vendor.
Is Your Provider the Most Economical Option?
There are a wide variety of cloud service providers, and each with different options and services, depending on what you need and are able to afford.
If speed and reliability aren’t a priority for you, it may make sense to go with an overseas data center. There will be some latency, but the vendor will be cheaper.
For cloud storage, you want to purchase a plan that fits your needs. If you know that you need somewhere close to 500 GB, it is wise to purchase that right off the bat so you have it and won’t need to change plans. If your company is planning to grow, but you don’t know at what rate, a “pay as you grow” plan may be your best solution. You will pay for what you use on a per GB basis.
Some providers charge overages for unexpected traffic spikes. If you have a cloud-hosted website, this could mean outages or huge overage charges to keep your site online. Keeping your cloud services economical depends on what’s important to each individual company.
Speed, reliability, and ease of access should always be vetted before making a decision. On the most basic level, as long as your internet is decent, you should be able to upload something and walk across the office to another workstation and access the file.
Hybrid solutions are another option to consider. Many companies like having cloud storage in conjunction with physical storage, just in case something happens to either storage service. They also like knowing that what they have is theirs instead of being reliant on another company. Hybrid solutions can be cost efficient and simple to implement.
OneDrive Might Be the Solution for You
Anderson Technologies recommends using Microsoft’s Sharepoint OneDrive and Office 365 because they quickly, reliably, and seamlessly integrate with many common Microsoft applications. It’s one of the only cloud providers that can be combined with other apps—and still work! Not only does it work, but Office 365 is HIPAA, FISMA, and HITRUST compliant, which can be a big relief.
Baker says that once someone switches to OneDrive, they note that “their previous cloud application didn’t allow them the control they needed over their files,” nor did they have the ability to permission them out to employees. “OneDrive uses NTFS permissions which is the same thing as all the versions of Microsoft Windows, so a lot of people are used to setting that up, and it’s a little more intuitive.”
Contributor at Forbes and owner of Evans Strategic Communications LLC, Bob Evans says, “Microsoft remains an absolute lock at the top due to four factors: its deep involvement at all three layers of the cloud (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS); its unmatched commitment to developing and helping customers deploy AI, ML and Blockchain in innovative production environments.” Behind Microsoft, Evans ranks Amazon’s and IBM’s cloud services as the next best options.
Originally, consumers dismissed OneDrive because it wasn’t as feature rich as Dropbox, but with so many people moving to Office 365 and the improvements Microsoft has made to the system, it’s now a much more viable option. OneDrive is extremely reliable with an uptime of 99.9% for each of the last four quarters.
Are You Ready for a New Cloud Service Provider?
If you are paying for a service you aren’t getting, or if you have lost data because of unreliable services, talk to your IT provider about a more reliable and economical system. Managed IT services can assist you in the migration process if you choose a new cloud service provider, and help with all IT needs.
Your time is valuable, and you want your cloud service to be working for you! Call Anderson Technologies at 314.394.3001 for a free consultation.