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5 Ways to Conserve Cash by Reducing IT Spend

TechMD’s sample 3-year budget summary

While we wait for the re-opening of the economy, most organizations across the country are still working through tough decisions about how to best conserve cash. Because IT spending is normally a significant line item in any organization’s budget, finding smart ways to reduce it can make a big difference in improving cash flow.

In big picture terms, labor costs make up the largest percentage of IT spend, so our best advice is to make sure you’re getting good value out of your IT provider. It’s also wise to get second opinions on large IT purchases—many businesses end up buying the Ferrari when they only needed the Toyota. However, there are a lot of things you can do in the short term to optimize your IT spending, and we’ve spent the last several weeks working through them with our clients.

Here are five things you can focus on right now:

1. Optimize Your Cloud Spending

If your organization has any IT infrastructure in the cloud, chances are you have idle resources that can be reduced or eliminated. One of the benefits of the cloud is that it allows you to pay for resources by the hour, so take advantage! If you’re only using cloud instances on weekdays, make sure you’re not paying for 24/7 usage. If you have cloud instances spun up for temporary projects, make sure they are decommissioned once the project is completed.

You should also look into Reserved Instances for AWS and Azure. These provide significant discounts in exchange for reserving a virtual machine for a set period of time. Many organizations see up to 72% savings by using Reserved Instances, so it can be worth it to finance them and pay up front to lock in your savings.

Finally, consider optimizing your backup storage. Any data that no longer needs to be stored should be deleted, allowing you to downsize your backup solution. If you have archival data that needs to be kept but not accessed regularly, you can move it into cheaper storage options. There are several good cloud options, like Amazon S3 Glacier and Azure Blob Storage, along with local hardware units like a Synology NAS.

2. Audit Software Licenses

Keeping software licensing up-to-date is one of those IT tasks that often falls through the cracks, and it’s common to see businesses paying for extra user licenses they’re no longer using. Do a thorough audit of every piece of software that your business works with and confirm that you still need all the licenses you’re paying for.

At TechMD, we recently gamified this process and empowered our team to search for wasteful spending on licensing. Our team scoured our SaaS applications and, in just two weeks, we were able to reduce our software expenses by over $1200 per month.

Most organizations can score a quick win here by looking at their Office 365 licensing and active mailboxes. Whenever we onboard a new client at TechMD, one of the first things we do is audit the client’s Office 365 users and licensing costs. In most cases, the client is paying for licenses associated with former employees, and we are able to immediately reduce their Office 365 costs by 10-20% per month on average. The savings add up!

TechMD’s “software licensing beach” before we kicked off our licensing reduction minigame

The end result of our licensing minigame!

3. Reduce Connectivity Costs

Internet speed and capacity has only gotten better over the past several years, but many organizations are still paying for an internet package from 5+ years ago. Asking your ISP for updated service plan options or shopping around with different ISPs often yields internet packages that offer better internet quality for less money.

The same goes for your phone system and cable service. They may offer temporary discounts for placing services on hold, or you may be able to find better options available for your office. Finally, many telecommunications brokers are offering free audits, so you can quickly and easily find out if you’re paying too much for connectivity services. If you need a good reference, contact TechMD and we will introduce you to someone that can help.

4. Leverage Partner Programs

Many large technology vendors have partner programs that can cover up to $15,000 in costs when updating or migrating your IT infrastructure. For example, Microsoft offers a wide variety of cloud readiness programs to help fund cloud assessments, Azure migrations, and Microsoft Teams adoption. This can represent huge savings on IT projects that were already scheduled and can also offer the opportunity to invest in modernizing your IT for no cost.

Partner programs are constantly updating their offerings, so we recommend reaching out to your IT provider for more information about what’s available right now from your vendors. If you need some additional guidance on this, you can always reach out to TechMD.

5. Conserve Cash Flow with Hardware Leasing Programs

Due to the global uncertainty, many companies are delaying the rollout of planned IT projects. However, if you have critical infrastructure upgrades that can’t wait until the crisis subsides, you may want to consider leasing options, especially since the assistance you can get from partner programs and discounts from vendors can help make these an even more attractive option. So if you need to invest in your IT right now, you can often conserve cash through leasing options.

Leasing has come a long way since the old days of traditional equipment financings. Organizations can now include software licenses, labor costs, and even Reserved Instances (see #1 Optimize Your Cloud Spending) into digestible monthly payments. If you don’t know where to look, let us know and we can point you in the right direction.

IT spending can often feel like it’s out of control, impossible to understand, and woefully opaque. At TechMD, we don’t think it should be this way—IT costs can be transparent, budgeted for, and planned out in advance. For example, you can take a look at a sample 3 Year Technology Budget Summary that we use to guide our clients through their upcoming IT expenditures. If you have any questions about how you can reduce IT spending without sacrificing critical IT infrastructure, TechMD would love to help. Contact us today to start a conversation.

May 7th, 2020|

Are all your IT eggs in one basket?

5 Principles to Eliminate IT Risk

Can you evaluate risk with your organization’s information technology? Unfortunately, many businesses that we speak with on a regular basis do not realize they are one unexpected circumstance away from a business disaster.

The story goes something like this: the keys to the IT kingdom are placed in the hands of one IT employee or IT consultant. They have full access to all the email, data, software, configurations, and credentials that run your business, and little to no contingency plan is put in place. Then something unexpected happens: they get sick, incur financial hardship, their service quality suffers, they place your data and systems in an IT “vault” where you have limited access, or you suffer a cybersecurity breach. Disaster strikes and now it is too late. 

By now we are all aware that we’re living and running our businesses in uncertain times, but IT does not need to be a single point of failure situation. Here are 5 practical principles you can implement to ensure you spread out your IT eggs in more than one basket.

    1. Have an IT Overflow Button

    If your strategy for handling an increased IT workload is to make your IT manager work overtime and take less vacation, you’re in a tough spot. If put in that position, your IT manager will either quit or be forced to leave important work unfinished.  

    Every IT manager needs an overflow button and every company should consider an outside IT partner. This is especially important for small businesses, since their IT department normally consists of just one or two people, and it’s impossible for them to possess all the technical skill sets your business needs. For IT professionals: think about your workload today and ask yourself if you would be offended if an outside company took over the boring work of making sure backups are running properly or applying security patches outside of regular business hours. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that those tasks are automated and handled consistently?

    Now is the time to address this major business risk and find an overflow button service. Setting up a backstop for your IT will ensure that your IT eggs are not all in one basket.

    2. Improve Your IT Toolbox

    If your IT support is not simple and automated, there is something wrong. Even if your staff are working from home, IT support should be able to immediately remote into their computer, view their screen, and fix the problem. If software needs to be installed or removed from company workstations, IT should not be required to sit down with every user to complete that task. Most of the time, you can create a script and push it out to all endpoints. Professional IT tools like IT support ticketing platforms, network monitoring tools, and IT documentation software all streamline and simplify IT so that you are not dependent on one individual to get things done. It’s much easier to navigate through complex times when your IT foundation is stable and your IT toolbox empowers IT professionals to maximize their effectiveness. What does your foundation and toolbox look like? If it’s not great, reach out to an IT partner for help.

    3. Audit Your IT

    You audit your books. You have your finances and taxes reviewed by a CPA or accounting firm. Your operations might go through an annual audit to meet an ISO certification standard. Businesses are used to auditing critical systems, but most fail to do so for their IT.  

    In 2020, IT can make or break your business just as easily as accounting or operations. The risk is there and the trends are shifting: data privacy and security regulations have increased; technology landscape is changing quickly and becoming more complex; cybersecurity threats are without a doubt a top risk for any business. Internal IT teams need guidance from outside professionals just like accounting departments. If your business has not completed an IT or cybersecurity audit recently, this needs to move up your priority list. Reach out to an IT consulting firm that offers this service and get the details. 

    4. Don’t Let Private Cloud Providers Trap Your Business

    The cloud provider you choose can easily trap your business and steal your potential. Operating systems, databases, code and technology changes happen so quickly that a significant amount of capital is required to keep custom built IT systems secured and up to date with modern standards. Make sure your cloud providers are backed by well-established companies.

    Public clouds like Microsoft Azure and AWS have an infinite amount of resources that will provide stability to your organization, and there are well-established exit strategies if their systems don’t perform to your expectations. Additionally, it’s easy to find IT providers to help manage your Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure, but if you are working with a private cloud, you are stuck with one option and they know it. Getting out of private cloud providers tends to be costly and complicated, so avoid them if possible. If you’re already in a private cloud, double check your contract for exit terms.

    5. Leverage the Public Cloud

    Cloud-focused companies were able to quickly and easily adjust to work-from-home requirements when the pandemic hit. Most companies operating out of an all-cloud infrastructure probably didn’t even notice much of a change while companies with a more traditional IT stack hit the panic button. Solutions like Microsoft 365, Azure AD, Microsoft Teams, and Virtual Desktops are a good fit for a vast majority of businesses out there. Cloud is mobile by design and can easily scale up and down as businesses grow and shrink. Right now is a great time to evaluate your cloud strategy. Have an honest conversation about what didn’t work during this recent shift to work-from-home and see how to improve your position for next time. If all your IT resources are still on-premises at your office, all your IT eggs are in one basket. 

Whether you’re an IT Director, IT Manager, CFO or CEO at a small business, these principles can help focus your attention on the risks that may exist within your information technology. Stay healthy, be smart, and strengthen your IT resources today. Who knows how long this crisis is going to last! 

About TechMD: TechMD is an award-winning Managed IT Services Provider that is dedicated to making co-managed IT the most effective partnership for companies with under 500 employees. TechMD is an extension of internal IT departments. Our solution is effective, well-defined, and affordable. It offers both IT staff and business leaders the peace of mind that you have a partner that can help you weather storms like the current coronavirus pandemic.    

Check out our reviews on Clutch or contact us today for more information on how TechMD can help eliminate IT risk in your business.

April 13th, 2020|

Tech Talk: Working Remotely With Microsoft Teams

In this Tech Talk, we’re going to overview Microsoft Teams. Teams is the ultimate collaboration tool for your organization, allowing you to conduct chats, video calls and more. Let’s take a look!

Collaborating Effectively

Microsoft Teams enables effective company-wide communication through a series of special features. Some of the functionality it includes are video meetings, instant messages, and multi-user document collaboration. Different conversations are conducted around Channels, which organize chats by different topics or departments.

Channels

These channels themselves have some important tabs. The first is the Posts or Conversations tab, which acts as a central component to house the history of chats across a channel. So here, you can see the full thread of messages and files that have been shared.

Conversations Tab

Secondly, we have the Files tab, which lets you upload and collaborate on different documents without having to switch between individual apps or windows.

Files Tab

The Wiki tab is a place where you can store information or links that are relevant to the Channel.

Wiki Tab

You can also add custom tabs to each Channel, which combines both Microsoft and third-party apps. Customizing a tab means you’ll have the best apps on hand for even better communication and workflows for your different channels.

Custom Tabs 01

Custom Tabs 02

Lastly, Teams houses several tools in its sidebar menu. The Calls tab replaces your company’s phone system, allowing you to make internal and external calls from within Teams.

Calls

The Chat feature is a great way to have 1 on 1 discussions without the need for sending emails back and forth.

Chats

You also have the power to schedule and conduct meetings inside Teams with the Meetings Tab as well.

Meetings

And finally, the Files tab lets you quickly find and access files from OneNote, OneDrive, and SharePoint.

Files Tab

So overall, Microsoft Teams gives your organization the productivity boost it needs by centralizing all your communication and collaboration needs into one package. Thanks for checking out this Tech Talk and reach out to us if you have any questions about how to get started with Teams!

March 30th, 2020|

Tech Talk: How to Develop an IT Strategy for the Coming Year

5 Things to Consider For Your IT Strategy


At this time of year many of our clients are finalizing their budgets and plans for the coming year. Part of our job at TechMD is to help them develop and implement a sound IT strategy that aligns with their business objectives. With that in mind, here are 5 things you should consider while developing your IT strategy for the coming year.

1) Develop a technology mission statement.

Consider how you want technology to support your organization’s goals. The basics like email and file storage are similar in all organizations but what you need to figure out is the unique way you want your technology to impact your specific business. In general, you need to determine where your company is going and how technology can help take you there.

2) Perform a technology SWOT analysis.

This is where you outline your company’s technology related strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Doing this will help you see areas where technology can help mitigate weakness and threats or provide you with the ability to capitalize on strengths and opportunities. A sober word of caution: just about all organizations should have cybersecurity in their threats column.

3) Review your short- and long-term goals.

Knowing what your organization is working to accomplish will help you think about which technologies are worth investing in and how they can bolster your team to better achieve those goals. The business world is rapidly moving towards cloud technology. If you haven’t considered this already, next year needs to be the year where you consider how the cloud will impact your business. The digital transformation is happening, and your response could make or break your business.

4) Address the training and development needs of your team.

You’ll want to prioritize cybersecurity training for your staff, because they are the number one target for cybercriminals. You’ll also want to consider what new skills need to be learned as you adopt new technologies and how you will educate your employees who utilize those skills.

5) Develop an IT budget.

Many businesses leaders we talk to consider an IT budget an oxymoron; they feel like IT costs are always surprises and investment is always out of control. But with the right focus and team an IT budget can be created and followed. The IT budget should align with your goals and ensure your company can properly invest in the technology you need to run your organization effectively.

The most useful IT budgets are based on a 3-year cycle and provide you with great visibility into the investments required for that time frame. During this process, make sure that you involve your organizations leadership team and stake holders. If you don’t have a C-level IT employee at your company, you may want to look into engaging a company like TechMD or an outside IT consultant to help guide you through the process.

We’d love to help!

If you have any questions about how to build your IT strategy for the coming year, we’d love to help. Please feel free to reach out to us here.

For more information about the cloud and cybersecurity, please check out the links below:

Further Reading

December 16th, 2019|

Tech Talk: 3 Practical Steps To Avoid Getting Hacked

In today’s technology landscape, cybercriminals are now primarily targeting individual users rather than breaking into systems. In today’s Tech Talk, we’ll review three best practices you can implement to protect yourself from cyberattacks, whether at work or home.

    1) Phishing Scams
    Understand how to identify and avoid phishing scams. Phishing occurs when a hacker sends an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate institution or company to trick users into giving up their personal information. They mimic real logos, web addresses, and language from real companies to prompt you into clicking malicious links, downloading harmful files and logging into fake websites. Once you enter your credentials to log in, the criminal on the other end steals your username and password to breach your account. Another common tactic is a CEO scam, where a fake email appears to come from a CEO or top executive asking employees to transfer money to them. To combat scams that invade your inbox, make sure you never click on links or open attachments that look suspicious. If someone asks you to transfer money or sensitive information via email, you should think twice and verify that request with the sender in person or on the phone.
    2) Password Discipline
    A good password strategy is also imperative to being connected online. The media is replete with headlines of data breaches where millions of accounts are compromised. Some of this can be attributed to the mistake of using simple, repeat passwords across different accounts. Thankfully, there are tools like LastPass and Dashlane which can generate complex passwords for your various accounts and house them in one location. Today’s password management isn’t complete without Two-Factor Authentication, or 2FA. 2FA works by creating an extra layer of security by validating login with a text message or app prompt on your smartphone. Implementing 2FA can prevent over 90% of security breaches.
    3) Phone Scams
    Lastly, cybercriminals are targeting smartphones for their attacks. This occurs when a hacker contacts you personally, such as pretending to be from the IRS or a law enforcement agency and will coerce you into paying back taxes or doing a wire transfer. The tactics you’d use against phishing emails should also be used here, so don’t give out sensitive information or send payments in response to unsolicited phone calls.

In conclusion, healthy cybersecurity is built on knowing how to spot phishing emails, improving your password management, and knowing when you’re receiving a call from a scammer. Make sure you follow these three principles to stay safe wherever you are!

October 22nd, 2019|

Tech Talk: Five Reasons To Consider Microsoft 365

In this Tech Talk, Sebastian Igreti explores the top five features within Microsoft 365 that your business needs to know to defend itself from growing security threats and improve its productivity. Let’s dive in!

  • #1 – Online Protection

    With Exchange Online Protection, you get an email filtering service that guards you from malware hiding in emails and attachments. This also comes with ATP or Advanced Threat Protection, a cloud-based solution that monitors and pinpoints cybersecurity threats lurking in your inbox.

  • #2 – Mobile Device Management

    Mobile Management is a feature that contains a Bring Your Own Device Policy, which lets your employees use their own devices to access company data. Your team members can work on their personal phones, laptops, or tablets while connecting to company files without the worry of getting breached. This gives your company the convenience to work flexibly while getting a robust security perimeter.

  • #3 – Built-In Security Features

    With Azure Information Protection, you can control who can access sensitive content housed in documents and emails, while blocking outside users. Also, files like spreadsheets or Word docs containing information like credit cards and social security numbers are kept from being shared with Data Loss Prevention.

  • #4 – Windows 10 Pro

    Windows 7 is approaching its end of life, which means that in 2020, support will be lost and it’ll be time to move to the latest system. So included with Microsoft 365 is an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. This also gives you Windows Autopilot which ensures that new devices are business-ready right out of the box and contain apps installed from the cloud.

  • #5 – Microsoft Teams

    Finally, Microsoft 365 for Business comes with Microsoft Teams, a communication tool that allows you to collaborate with coworkers via phone calls, meetings and individual or group chats. It’s available on PC, Mac, phones, and tablets, giving you the convenience to connect and collaborate from wherever you are.

In conclusion, Microsoft 365 is packaged with all the applications you need for effective IT security and helps your company’s success with great productivity tools. So feel free to reach out to us as you explore how Microsoft 365 can benefit your organization!

September 13th, 2019|

Tech Talk: Windows 7 End of Life

Microsoft has recently announced that support for the widely-used Windows 7 will be coming to an end in January 2020. Join us on today’s Tech Talk as we dive into the steps your business will need to take to prepare for these upcoming changes.

Windows 7 Support Is Ending

The start of 2020 will mean the end-of-life for Windows 7 support, along with Microsoft Server 2008, Exchange 2010 and SQL Server 2008. The most important thing to be aware of is that software patches for all of these systems will cease. This is so important because without continued patch updates, those systems will remain susceptible to cyber security issues, increasing the chance that your organization will encounter a data breach or ransomware attack.

You might be wondering what steps to take? First, if your business has workstations running Windows 7 with computers that are three years old or less, we recommend upgrading them to Windows 10 before the deadline. For computers that are older than three years we recommend replacing them entirely.

Thankfully, the new Microsoft 365 package includes upgrade licenses from Windows 7 to Windows 10 Pro. So, if your organization is looking for a cloud solution and wants to beef up your security, you now have the opportunity kill two birds with one stone. Also, Microsoft is offering free extended support if you chose to transfer your server workload to Microsoft Azure.

With this knowledge, you can plan out to your strategy for the upcoming end-of-life for Windows 7. We at TechMD are committed to helping your organization stay up-to-date with ongoing changes and move your business forward. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions and have a great day.

April 9th, 2019|

Tech Talk: Is AI Ready For Small Business?

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is rapidly emerging technology that is set to change the landscape of all kinds of industries. But with so much news surrounding new developments, you may be wondering if AI is right for small and mid-sized organizations today.

First let’s dispel some myths. The first thing to know is that AI will not instantly solve all your business needs. And despite its growth, implementing AI will require both massive commitment, resources and the right set of skills to integrate it into your systems. Also, you’ll want to avoid adopting AI for AI’s sake alone; 99% of businesses don’t actually need AI to be profitable right now. Instead, ensure new technology aligns with your business needs.

Tools You Can Use Right Now

Now with that said, there are some current AI applications that you can leverage today, ranging from marketing, logistics and operations to fraud detection and more. For example, Fin is an app that utilizes machine learning in tandem with skilled remote staff to act as your personal virtual assistant. Using speech-to-text technology, you can have a variety of tasks performed on your behalf.

Salesforce’s Einstein is another example that uses artificial intelligence to gather predictions and recommendations based on customer data and business processes. You can then use that data to automate responses and actions to improve sales, and in so doing, happier customers. Also, if you feel that your business objectives are in line with the capabilities of AI and machine learning, be sure to check out the solutions provided by Microsoft Azure, AWS or Google’s Cloud AI.

Steps To Take

Understand that the key to AI is good data, so make sure you are implementing effective solutions to collect and store data so it can be leveraged in the future. Lastly, follow these steps to keep up with AI trends:

  • Capture your most important data digitally so it can be leveraged in the future.
  • Stay on top of AI advancements in your industry.
  • Don’t hesitate to leverage AI and machine learning today if you have clear business needs that might be accomplished with today’s AI technology.

Thanks for watching this Tech Talk and come back next time to learn more!

Further Reading

November 6th, 2018|

Tech Talk: Enhance Workflows with Process.st

In this Tech Talk, Sebastian Igreti talks about how Process.st has revolutionized how we manage workflows by combining a documentation platform with media-rich checklists. This means our team is constantly exposed to business-critical documentation while working through process checklists, while also encouraging us to update documentation as we go.

Find out more about Process.st at https://www.process.st.

August 21st, 2018|

Tech Talk: Conquer Your Inbox with Sanebox

If you’re anything like most professionals, you probably receive hundreds of emails on a daily basis, and filtering through them to find the ones that need immediate attention can be time-consuming. In this Tech Talk, Sebastian Igreti discusses how Sanebox has helped TechMD team members filter bulk email, remind me about unaddressed emails, and automatically categorize incoming messages for organized reading.

July 10th, 2018|

Tech Talk: Work Seamlessly with Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 includes a wide range of cloud applications that can revolutionize productivity, collaboration, and work mobility. In this Tech Talk, Sebastian Igreti tours Office 365 and discusses how it can transform the way businesses leverage the traditional Office software stack.

January 25th, 2018|

Tech Talk: Trakstar’s Employee Evaluation Software

If you’re looking for a better way to do employee performance reviews, consider taking a look at Trakstar. In this Tech Talk, Sebastian Igreti covers how we use Trakstar to measure, track, and report on employee performance, and why we love how it helps us manage performance reviews and maintain a customer-focused company culture.

You can learn more about Trakstar on their website: https://www.trakstar.com/

January 9th, 2018|

Tech Talk: Streamline Hiring with SparkHire

At TechMD, we believe that finding the right people for the job is central to the success of our business. On this episode of Tech Talks, Sebastian Igreti discusses how we leverage SparkHire to streamline our hiring process and help us find the right candidates. SparkHire allows you to reduce the need for time-consuming phone screens, gather quality information about candidates before meeting them in person, and easily collaborate between hiring managers.

You can learn more about SparkHire at https://www.sparkhire.com.

August 25th, 2017|

Tech Talk: How OfficeVibe Boosts Employee Morale

Looking for a better way to facilitate employee engagement and improve morale? In this Tech Talk, Sebastian Igreti covers how OfficeVibe enables businesses to capture feedback from team members, provides improved visibility over employee engagement and morale, and helps business leaders address festering issues before they affect company culture.

July 18th, 2017|

Tech Talk: Five Essential Steps to Protect Yourself from Cybercriminals

Threats and attack vectors from cybercriminals continue to evolve, and businesses need to stay on top of the changing cybersecurity landscape to ensure their critical business and customer data is protected. On this episode of Tech Talks, Sebastian Igreti discusses five essential steps to keep your business safe from cybercriminals.

July 11th, 2017|

Tech Talk: Microsoft Azure VDI: A Game Changer

Microsoft recently announced their Azure Virtual Desktop Solution, which allows organizations to move their entire IT infrastructure into Microsoft’s first-class cloud environment. If you’re interested in learning more about what’s on the IT horizon and how it can benefit your organization, check out this episode of Tech Talks, where Sebastian Igreti discusses the latest in cloud technology.

July 5th, 2017|