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IT Strategy

Webinar: Microsoft 365 and the Modern Workplace

Many organizations already have Microsoft 365 licenses but are not fully leveraging the productivity, collaboration, and security features that come built-in with Microsoft 365.

On May 6th at 11:30am, TechMD will be hosting a webinar on how to maximize ROI with Microsoft 365 and take advantage of some of the key features that most businesses overlook. You’ll come away from this webinar with some practical information about:

  • High-impact security features you should be implementing
  • How to maximize the effectiveness of Microsoft Teams in your organization
  • Best practices on how to securely share sensitive information
  • Collaboration and productivity tools you may not be taking advantage of
May 7th, 2021|

Help Your Team Get Things Done with Microsoft Planner

How to Get the Most Out of Microsoft Planner

Microsoft 365 comes with a suite of productivity tools that seamlessly integrate with one another, allowing organizations to manage their workflow, communications, and storage all in one place. Microsoft Planner is Microsoft’s task management tool that makes it easy for teams to collaborate and organize their work visually.

Planner allows teams to create project plans, assign and organize to-dos, manage project timelines, and collaborate in real time. Planner also integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, which means teams can store important links, files, and other content alongside their associated tasks. This ensures that everything related to a project is stored together and is never more than a click away.

Here are three best practices to help you get the most out of Microsoft Planner: 

1) Integrate Planner with Microsoft Teams

While you can access and manage Planner online, consider setting up plans and organizing tasks directly from within Microsoft Teams. This allows you to link up Planner’s project and task management system with Teams’ collaboration and communications platform, keeping everything in one place and dramatically improving your team’s efficiency. You can learn more by checking out our video on collaborating with Microsoft Teams. 

2) Organize Tasks by Action Priority

Consider organizing tasks by action priority: keep quick wins (high impact, low effort) separate from big projects (high impact, high effort) and fill ins (low impact, low effort). This allows your to prioritize activities based on time, importance, and effort.

3) Take Advantage of Views

Planner has three different views (board, chart, and schedule) that can be toggled between with a single click. The board view uses a kanban-style board to organize and structure your tasks, while the schedule view provides a high-level calendar view of a project’s timeline, and the charts view displays your progress visually. Learn more about views by checking out our One-Minute Wednesday video on organizing by view in Microsoft Planner.

For organizations already in Microsoft 365 and looking for a tool to help their team manage project timelines and organize and assign tasks, Microsoft Planner is the perfect fit. Its seamless integration with Microsoft Teams and the rest of the Microsoft 365 product suite allows teams to manage tasks, files, and communications all in one place, boosting productivity and efficiency across the organization.

April 15th, 2021|

Communicate Better with Microsoft Stream

How to Get Started with Microsoft Stream

Internal communications can be a headache—we’ve all received emails that were longer than they needed to be, and many of us have probably sent long emails that never got read. But there’s a better way: start sending short videos instead of long emails with a tool like Microsoft Stream. 

If you’re not already familiar, Microsoft Stream is a video app in Microsoft 365 that empowers users to create, manage, and share videos securely just as they would any other file. Stream makes it incredibly easy to record and share a short video with other team members, which saves time and headaches for everyone. 

Here are three ideas for effectively leveraging Microsoft Stream in your organization: 

1) New Employee Onboardings 

Rather than set up a series of time-consuming meetings whenever you hire a new team member, consider developing a suite of pre-recorded videos that can guide new hires through what they’ll need to know about your organization’s culture, processes, and day-to-day operations. This saves a ton of time and effort. 

2) Internal Training 

Training procedures, answers to common questions, and internal classes or meetings can be recorded and uploaded to Microsoft Stream for your team to reference later. This allows you to avoid scheduling redundant meetings to cover critical info when people in new roles need to get up to speed on how the company operates. 

3) Personalized Messages from the C-Suite 

Important communications from your executive team are more personable and high-impact when they come in the form of video recordings. Do away with long emails about the future of the company and get your CEO in front of the camera instead! This improves the quality of your communications and boosts employee morale. 

Stream videos are stored natively in SharePoint, which allows you to organize your content and provides you with all the access control features that apply to other files in Microsoft 365—you can manage who can view certain videos, set expiration dates on share links, and decide how widely you want to share content. 

To learn more about Stream, you can check out our One-Minute Wednesday episode on how to get started with Microsoft Stream. 

March 23rd, 2021|

Tech Talk: Get Started With Business Intelligence & Microsoft Power BI

How to Get Started with Power BI

On today’s Tech Talk, we’ll be discussing business intelligence (or BI for short), which is a process for discovering trends or patterns in your data and then presenting them in a visually-engaging way. Seeing your data fully visualized helps you understand what’s happening across your organization and helps informs your decision-making.

Implementing BI used to be a heavy lift, but tools like Microsoft’s Power BI have done away with the need for expert coding skills, and the process is now a lot simpler than most expect. Here’s how you can get started with Power BI in 5 simple steps:

#1 Download and Install Power BI

Power BI has a free version that you can easily download and start using. Be mindful that Power BI Pro licenses are included with a Microsoft 365 E5 or Ofice 365 E5 subscription, so may already have access through these plans.

#2 Data Sources

BI’s results will only be as good as the data you import, so ensure that your data is organized. With Power BI open, click on Get Data to start importing a data source. BI is flexible, allowing you to import data from multiple sources.

#3 Model Your Data

At this stage, you can begin building relationships between your data. Power BU allows you to drag and drop columns between tables and perform analytics with the data you’ve imported.

#4 Build Your Reports

Now, you can begin to create visualizations that present your data in an organized and fun way. Utilizing a menu of templates, you can drag and drop data to be presented in the way you wish.

#5 Ask Questions of Your Data

Power BI gives you the ability to ask questions of your data by typing into a query, similar to a Google search. It’s a great feature that uses machine learning and natural-language processing to navigate through your data and stay informed.

Power BI is essential to how TechMD functions every day. Here are a few examples of how we use data to provide the best IT experience possible:

SLA Dashboard:

This dashboard tracks our open support tickets and ensures efficiency when responding to our clients.

Customer Satisfaction Dashboard:

This dashboard contains our average NPS score across time, lets us compare ourselves against national NPS scores, and displays our team members with the best customer satisfaction score.

Hopefully now you have a better idea of what business intelligence is capable of, why your organization might want to use it, and how to get started with Power BI. You can find several resources for further learning about Power BI below. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Further Resources

About TechMD

TechMD is an award-winning IT services firm that specializes in managed IT services in Orange County and Los Angeles, managed cybersecurity, cloud solutions, and strategic IT consulting. We are passionate about bringing enterprise-level productivity, scalability, and security to small and medium businesses.

March 11th, 2021|

Top 3 IT Priorities for 2021

2020 was an unprecedented year, and businesses with inflexible IT solutions were caught off guard and had a rough time during the pandemic. And with continuing uncertainty, most organizations we talk to are trying to avoid getting surprised by sudden IT issues and costs over the upcoming year. 

In light of that, we’ve been looking at some new priorities as we discuss our clients’ IT strategies for the upcoming yearranging from budgeting to cybersecurity to cloud technologies. Here are three key priorities to make sure your business isn’t caught off guard by IT in 2021: 

1) Develop an IT budget 

With tight budgets and an uncertain economy, the last thing most businesses need is a big surprise IT expense in 2021. Believe it or not, IT budgets can be created and followed with the right team and good prioritiesYour IT budget should align with your goals, ensure you can invest in the technology you need to run your organization effectively, and plan to respond proactively to cybersecurity risks. It should also include plans for key expenses, such as: 

  • Large IT infrastructure projects 
  • IT support and maintenance agreements 
  • New hardware & licensing costs 
  • Telecommunication costs: ISP, VOIP, etc.
  • Cybersecurity Insurance 

During this process, make sure that you involve your organizations leadership team and stakeholders. If you don’t have a C-level IT employee at your company, you may want to look into engaging a fractional CIO or company like TechMD to help guide you through the process.  

2) Avoid Cybersecurity Surprises 

It seems unfair, but the reality is that ransomware attacks grew immensely during the pandemic. Cybercrime Magazine recently reported that a company was successfully attacked every 11 seconds in 2020. For that reason, 2021 has to be the year that your business creates a cybersecurity incident response plan. It’s critical to have a clear policy and procedure to follow when your organization is hit with a data breach or a ransomware attack.

If you feel lost creating that policy or are unclear about what your cybersecurity risk profile looks like, 2021 should be the year to invest in a cybersecurity assessment, which are not as expensive and impractical as you may think. All businesses should conduct a Security Maturity Level Assessment (SMLA) that follows the clearly published guidelines of the two cybersecurity authorities: the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) and the Center for Internet Security (CIS)The SMLA process provides you with a clear picture of your organization’s most critical cybersecurity vulnerabilities, along with your official Security Maturity Level Score (ranging from 0 to 5). From there, you will be able to create a prioritized and customized action plan that will maximize the ROI of your cybersecurity program. You can learn more about the SMLA process here. 

3) Invest in Your Remote Workforce 

2020 was a mad rush to the cloud, as the pandemic forced businesses to find and implement remote workforce solutions quickly. Many organizations ended up with stop-gap solutions that left important details unchecked, which is both a cybersecurity risk and a drag on productivity. 

Cybercriminals have been specifically targeting remote employees this year, and taking steps to secure remote workforces should be a top priority for most businesses in 2021. Here are a few critical items to prioritize: 

  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is one of the best cybersecurity tools or policies in terms of return on investment: a recent Symantec study found that over 80% of all data breaches could have been prevented by 2FA. If you’re not familiar with how 2FA works, you can check out our One-Minute Wednesday episode on 2FA. 
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) is a solution that allows users to log in once, using a master username and password, and then have those credentials provide access to all their other business apps. You can learn more about SSO by reading our recent article here. 
  • Secure your VPNs by enforcing complex password policies and requiring two-factor authentication. Additional policies such as blocking certain geographic regions from accessing your VPN is also a good idea. 

Remote work isn’t going anywhere, so 2021 will also be a good year to look at how to fine tune your company’s culture and increase engagement and productivity with your remote workforce. Here are a few tasks and tips to add to your list: 

  • Figure out how to communicate more effectively on platforms like Microsoft Teams. Use of Teams, Zoom, Slack and Google Chat/Hangouts all spiked to record levels in 2020, and in our experience, usage grew organically with little to no management oversight. 2021 will be the year to create standards for how messaging gets distributed throughout your organization. Take a look at the Teams, communication channels, and security user groups that exist today and think about how they can be organized more effectively.
  • Clean up and secure your cloud file storage platform. The remote workforce in 2020 also led to increased usage of apps like Dropbox, SharePoint, OneDrive, Box, Google Drive, etc. Does your company have policies and protections in place to clearly dictate what your staff can and cannot do with company data? Have you double checked your user and folder permissions to confirm that employees can’t access confidential company data or share sensitive information? Have your IT team take a look at the configurations and make sure data is separated and secured properly. 
  • Consider upgrading your old phone systemThe modern remote workforce requires the ability to take work calls from home in the same manner as at the office. Many businesses are still working off a legacy system that made transferring and answering calls a painful experience in 2020. Modern phone systems can be hosted from the cloud and soft phone apps can be added to mobile devices to make communication nimble, professional, and effective. Be sure this is on your budget and engage a VOIP consultant to help find the right solution. If you don’t know a good VOIP consultant, contact TechMD and we can refer you to someone 

Get Proactive in 2021 

2020 highlighted the importance of staying proactive about IT, and 2021 will likely be no different. Businesses will need to prioritize creating a budget for IT, developing a robust cybersecurity posture, and making sure their remote workforce is flexible and productive in order to stay ahead of the curve. If you are looking for help with any of these areas or feel like you could use some guidance about planning out your year, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

December 16th, 2020|

Tech Talk: NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Despite knowing how important cybersecurity is for their organization, many business leaders don’t have clarity about how secure their organization is today and what cybersecurity controls are the most important for their protection. On today’s Tech Talk, we discuss how the internationally-recognized NIST Cybersecurity Framework can help any organization understand where they are in terms of cybersecurity, where they should be, and how to get there.

About TechMD

TechMD is an award-winning IT services firm that specializes in managed IT services in Orange County and Los Angeles, managed cybersecurity, cloud solutions, and strategic IT consulting. We are passionate about bringing enterprise-level productivity, scalability, and security to small and medium businesses.

August 12th, 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!

About TechMD

TechMD is an award-winning IT services firm that specializes in managed IT services in Orange County and Los Angeles, managed cybersecurity, cloud solutions, and strategic IT consulting. We are passionate about bringing enterprise-level productivity, scalability, and security to small and medium businesses.

July 20th, 2020|

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!

About TechMD

TechMD is an award-winning IT services firm that specializes in managed IT services in Orange County and Los Angeles, managed cybersecurity, cloud solutions, and strategic IT consulting. We are passionate about bringing enterprise-level productivity, scalability, and security to small and medium businesses.

June 30th, 2020|

Top 5 Cloud Trends for SMBs in 2020 

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically accelerated the pace of cloud adoption, as organizations nationwide were forced to migrate to a fully remote workforce in a matter of daysEven as many organizations return to the office, remote work and cloud infrastructure is here to stay. 

Here are our top 5 cloud trends for small and medium businesses: 

1. Cybersecurity for Office 365 and G Suite Must Be Tightened 

The pandemic has radically accelerated the pace of cloud adoption—for example, Microsoft added 58 million new Office 365 licenses in Q1 of this year (a 29% increase). Predictably, cybercriminal attacks on Office 365 and G Suite have gotten even more aggressive with the increase in new usersThese cloud services were already the number one target for cybercriminals before the pandemic, so tightening up their security is more important than ever. 

The Department for Homeland Security recently released specific cybersecurity recommendations for Office 365, which are equally relevant for G Suite. Here’s the high-level summary: 

  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA), also known as two-factor authentication (2FA). 
  • Protect Global Admins from compromise and use the principle of “Least Privilege.” 
  • Enable unified audit logging. 
  • Enable Alerting capabilities.
  • Integrate with organizational SIEM solutions. 
  • Disable legacy email protocols, if applicable, or limit their use to specific users. 

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is especially important, as it is the single most effective tool for fighting off cyberattacks. According to Microsoft, it can prevent up to 99% of automated account breaches. 

If you’re not sure whether your organization’s Office 365 or G Suite accounts are secure, check with your IT team or reach out to us for help. You can learn more about our cybersecurity offerings here. 

2. Exponential Growth in Cloud-Based Collaboration Tools 

Unified Communications platforms and cloud-based productivity suites have seen exponential growth over the last few months. For example, Microsoft Teams adoption grew from 32 million daily active users on March 11 to 75 million users on April 29, a 235% increase over a 7week period. G Suite’s Google Meet has seen similar growth, with Google reporting a “30-fold increase in usage since January”. 

In other words, remote work is here to stay, and businesses are looking to adapt to new communication and collaboration challengesUnified Communications platforms like Microsoft Teams are the perfect solution to fill in these gaps, allowing team members to seamlessly collaborate via voice, video, and chat no matter where they’re working. 

At TechMDMicrosoft Teams has replaced a significant amount of our day-to-day email correspondence, improving productivity and collaboration. During the pandemic, it has also enabled us to continue holding meetings with full video support, without exposing ourselves to the security risks associated with consumer-grade video platforms like Zoom. 

If you’re on Office 365 or Microsoft 365, you likely already have Teams licenses included with your subscription, and if so, you can get started right away. To learn more about Microsoft Teams, check out our recent Tech Talk covering what it can do, how it works, and how to get started. 

3. Mobile Workforce Creates Access, Identity, and Data Control Issues 

The mass adoption of cloud platforms like Office 365, Teams, and G Suite means that people are now using personal devices to connect to corporate networks on an unprecedented scale. Company data used to live in a controlled environment, where it was accessed primarily by company-managed devices, but this is no longer the case. The new distributed workforce will require a new approach to managing access, identity, and data governance. 

There are plenty of tools available to help sandbox personal devices and secure company data, but most businesses have not yet adopted them. We expect that this will change over the next year, with cybercriminals increasingly targeting personal devices as an entry point into sensitive corporate networks.  

For our money, Microsoft 365 is one of the best options for this, offering a full suite of security tools that allow organizations to implement secure bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policiescontrol how company data is accessed and shared, and remotely manage identity and mobile devicesFor example, you can prevent users from downloading or saving sensitive documents onto personal devices, and you can manage access permissions for those documents remotely. You can also sandbox company data on personal devices, allowing you to wipe data or revoke access remotely, without affecting any personal data on the device. For more on how this works, check out this quick video from Microsoft. 

Access, identity, and data governance tools will become a key feature of business cybersecurity strategies over the next year, allowing teams the flexibility to work conveniently without sacrificing a robust security perimeter. If you have any questions about this, you can contact us here. 

4. Big Players Begin to Dominate the Cloud Desktop Space 

Remote work is becoming the new norm, but many organizations still rely on legacy applications that are not yet cloud-native and cannot be easily accessed outside the office.  

This is where cloud desktop solutions from major players like Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop or Amazon’s WorkSpaces come inThese solutions provide a feature-complete desktop that is fully hosted in the cloud, providing access to all your software applications, files, data, email, and contacts from any device, no matter where you are. This gives your team the flexibility to handle remote work without sacrificing productivity or access to critical line-of-business applications. 

Cloud desktops also reduce dependence on computer hardware during a time when it is difficult to support and replace company computers. When combined with the proper cybersecurity measures to protect company data, cloud desktops could allow organizations to migrate away from owning computers at all. Employees can bring their own device and access everything they need via their cloud desktop, while the company cut costs on computer hardware without sacrificing their cybersecurity posture. Learn more about cloud solutions here.

5. Cloud-Based Phone Systems Become the New Standard

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many organizations to reconsider their phone systems. We’ve talked to many businesses recently that ran into issues migrating to an all-remote workforce because their phone system required specific phone hardware and was inoperable from outside their office.  

For many organizationscloud-based VOIP has been the lynchpin holding business operations together under workfromhome requirements. It provides employees with the flexibility to make or take calls from anywhere on any device, ensuring businesses can remain available to their clients and coworkers without being tied to a desk in an office building. It also tends to be more cost effective than maintaining the telecom hardware and infrastructure associated with conventional phone systems. 

We were already seeing significant growth in adoption of cloud-based VOIP solutions before the pandemic, and the rapid adoption of remote work has only accelerated this trend. If you are looking for guidance on why and how to move to cloud-based VOIP, contact us and we can put you in touch with someone who can help. 

June 3rd, 2020|

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. You can find more information about implementing cloud solutions here.

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: 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: 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|