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Creating a Cost Effective IT Strategy :: Top 3 IT Services You Need

Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Implementing a cost effective IT strategy will benefit your business in countless ways. For starters, it gives your employees the productivity tools they need to be successful, keeps employees educated on IT security, and keeps your business protected against security threats - inside and outside your network. The big question is, where do you begin? We've taken the guesswork out of it by laying out the services you need to build a foundation that supports your critical business applications.

What are the “must have” IT services?

SECURITY PROTECTION: You need protection from outside and inside sources to keep all devices safe. Email phishing and wire fraud are real threats that can be very costly; and ransomware is the leading risk for data loss and corruption. To avoid these headaches, executing an appropriate security solution is key.
1. Educate your staff – train employees on how to detect threats and phishing emails, use strong passwords, and always secure devices with a PIN
2. Purchase a cloud-managed firewall with integrated threat prevention
3. Use a layered security solution that protects all devices
4. Encrypt your drives and keep your systems up to date
5. Ensure your solution is actively monitored with reporting options that show your current security risk level
Pro tip when purchasing a security solution:

Always buy software that is user-based versus device-based. A user-based license can be used on multiple devices so that your employees are protected on every device they use.

DATA BACKUPS: Part of a great security policy is an even better data backup policy. Don’t keep your most valuable asset – your data – in one location. Implement a cloud-based backup and disaster recovery service that will provide in-house data backup and restore capabilities. It’s also important to confirm your backup solution is being actively monitored and you receive easy-to-understand status reports. Always regularly test your backups.
A properly configured backup solution should always:
1. Protect against accidental deletion, system failure, and Ransomware
2. Allow your business to keep running in the event of a loss
3. Encrypt the backups to prevent data theft
4. Follow or exceed the 3-2-1 rule - have at least 3 copies of your data, 2 of which are local and on different mediums and 1 copy that is stored offsite
Pro tip when purchasing a backup solution:
Tell your IT provider: “I want a backup solution that protects all my systems and data, regardless of where they are”. Also, make sure that you establish how often you want your data backed up and that the backup solution is compatible with your in-house infrastructure.

EMAIL SOLUTION: Everyone uses email but what about security and collaboration? Employees are working from everywhere and teams still need to come together to get stuff done. Your e-mail solution must allow you to securely communicate with your staff and customers from any device at any time.
1. Use a cloud-based email solution for the highest security, most features, and most cost savings. Moving from in-house email to Office 365 saves up to 90% in admin and maintenance costs.
2. Take advantage of the collaboration capabilities for both internal communications and with your customers – instant messaging, document sharing, video, instant meetings, etc.
3. You don’t have to do it by yourself – work with a certified Cloud Partner for ease of administration and maintenance.
Pro tip when choosing an email service:
Make sure it has built in security, encryption, secure access from any device, multifactor authentication, the ability to set policies to control access to files, and user based pricing so that you can have the service on multiple devices.

If you have any questions, are looking for additional information, or would like to discuss your IT strategy, please reach out to our sales team or give us a call at 616.837.6930. We’re happy to be a resource to your business.

Featured Service :: Emergency Broadcasting

Wednesday, February 08, 2017
EMERGENCY BROADCASTING WITH INFORMACAST
In the case of an emergency, imagine being able to notify all necessary recipients with the push of just one button. Whether giving directions in an emergency or sending out daily announcements, every organization needs to think about the best way to quickly communicate. Reaching all employees, students, patients, and residents can happen quickly and efficiently with the proper systems in place. How do you make sure your message reaches the right people and that they know what action is required of them?

MASS NOTIFICATION
InformaCast provides a network-based solution for mass notification, emergency communication, overhead paging and clock and bell scheduling. It allows you to simultaneously send an audio stream and/or text message to multiple IP phones, IP speaker endpoints, computer desktops, and overhead paging systems. With the push of a single button on an IP phone or a single click from a PC, you can send a live, recorded, or scheduled broadcast to one or more paging groups.

EMERGENCY OR EVERYDAY NOTIFICATION?
Think of your messages as falling into one of two categories: emergency and non-emergency. In the case of everyday notification, you have time to think through your message content and plan out what to say and how to say it. Many mass notification systems will even allow you to schedule broadcasts ahead of time.

REACH EVERYONE
What systems will you use to make sure your notification reaches its intended audience? By using a diverse group of messaging systems, you are more likely to avoid missing any of your intended recipients.
- IP Phones Send text and/or audio
- IP Speakers Send text and/or audio to speakers connected to the IP data network
- Overhead Paging Systems Send audio to public address systems
- On & Off Network (Mobility) Email Send an email with text information and an audio file with instructions
- SMS Text Messaging It’s easy to send a text to all necessary recipients
- Web & Social Media Quickly publish content to the organization’s website, Facebook, and Twitter accounts
- Digital Media Displays Send text and/or audio to public areas of buildings
- Computer Desktops Send text and/or audio that immediately pops up on staff’s computer workstations

INFORMACAST IS IDEAL FOR:

- Organizations that need to be able to send emergency broadcasts, such as government agencies, schools, and hospitals
- Organizations that need to do large-scale paging, including across multiple facilities and locations
- Schools, retailers, and other organizations with complex scheduling needs, including the centralization of paging, clocks, and bells on a single server
We've partnered with Singlewire because InformaCast is a proven emergency broadcast solution that can deliver messaging and notification on your IP network. To learn more, contact us for a custom quote today.

INFORMACAST CASE STUDY
The Gary Comer Youth Center needed a multi-use paging, bell, and messaging system for their downtown Chicago facility. We installed the Singlewire InformaCast system with great results that exceeded their expectations. Download a pdf of our full case study here.

Featured Service :: Network Support and Engineering Services

Tuesday, January 03, 2017
Whether your business requires specific, one-time, technical assistance or complete IT support, our highly skilled engineers are here to help.

We specialize in network infrastructure, which includes local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), wireless solutions, security and virtual private networks (VPN), as well as storage networks (SAN and Blade). We also handle server applications including directory services, e-mail, database, and web; and we also work with storage including SAN and Blades. We have highly skilled network engineers who hold multiple certifications in the areas of virtualization and communication solutions (VOP, Unified Messaging, and Unified Communications). By using state of the art technology, we can connect to and service any of our customers’ locations worldwide with just a few clicks – keeping costs low for our customers while maintaining a stellar level of engineering service and network support.

CERTIFICATIONS
Our engineers hold a wide variety of certifications. While there are too many to list here, we've highlighted a few below.
- Certified E-Discovery Specialist (CEDS)
- CompTIA A+ Certification
Cisco
- Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)
- Certified Network Administrator (CCNA)
- Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
- Sales Expert (CSE)
- Unity Design Specialist
Microsoft
- Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
- Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST)
- Certified IT Professional (MCITP)
- Certified Network Product Specialist (MCNPS)
- Certified Professional (MCP)
- Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
- Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
- Windows 7 Certification
VMware
- Certified Professional (VCP)

If you have questions on network engineering, let's talk about your needs. Contact us today.

Featured Service :: Hosting & Colocation

Thursday, December 22, 2016
We offer many different packages for hosting, colocation, and SaaS, for businesses large and small. Let's talk about your individual needs.

HOSTING
From large to small, our hosting solutions can be as simple as a single off-site domain controller to a complete off-site replicated network environment. In order to best serve each individual client, we offer a number of different hosting plans featuring Windows® servers, Microsoft® Small Business Servers and Exchange hosting as well as off-site replication and failover services for e-mail and database systems. Server hosting starts at $75 per month. Call us at 616.837.6930 to begin your plan today.
- Server Hosting (Windows®/Linux/etc.)
- Microsoft® Small Business Server Solution Hosting
- Server replication & failover
- Off-site data back-up archiving
- E-mail antivirus/anti-spam
- Network faxing solutions

COLOCATION
Put your hardware into our data center for one low monthly fee. The rack unit (HP rack) and all utilities (electrical, cooling, backup generator, etc.) are included in the monthly service price. You can choose the bandwidth and number of public IP addresses you require, or you can provide your own telecom connections. Colocation is priced by individual rack units. Pricing starts at $28 per unit rack and discounts are available for full racks. Additional discounts are available for not-for-profit organizations. Engineering services to install and configure equipment are available at time and materials.
- Full colocation rack
- Customizable colocation racks
- Customizable bandwidth
- Monitoring services are available
- Backup services are available
- Engineering services are available

SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SAAS)
Subscription based software means no license fees, and because we manage the IT infrastructure, you incur lower costs on hardware and software. Another benefit is that we’ll automatically manage all updates and upgrades so you’ll never have to worry about it. The SaaS provider also manages availability, so there’s no need for customers to add hardware, software, or bandwidth as the user base grows.
- Microsoft® Exchange/Outlook
- Microsoft® Windows Server/Small Business Server/etc.
- DoubleTake® Replication Software
- Microsoft® Office Applications
- DoubleTake® Replication Software

If you'd like to learn more about how hosting, colocation, and Software as a Service can benefit your business, contact us today.

5 IT Problems to Avoid in 2017

Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Data breaches, loss of information, and internet hacks happen, and it's usually a matter of when, not if. But, a lot of IT problems and emergencies stem from events that could have been easily avoided. Having the right tools, training, and resources available to your entire organization is key. Read our 5 most common mistakes that often lead to much larger problems.

Here are 5 common mistakes that often lead to much larger problems
1. Failing to back up your files
Regular backups keep your documents, files, databases, e-mail, images, etc. protected in the event of a system failure. There’s so many different ways you can lose data - from hard drive failure to physical damage, to viruses and theft. To avoid lost data, make sure your organization has a backup solution that protects critical data and functions. Using the 3-2-1 backup rule is a great place to start. This means always having at least 3 copies of your data, 2 of which are local and on different mediums and 1 copy that is stored offsite.

2. Not using secure passwords

As a business owner or decision maker in your organization, you should consider implementing a password policy. While users might find it a hassle, it's far less inconvenient than dealing with a network security or data breach. Simple first steps include resetting all your passwords periodically. The longer you keep the same password; the more time an attacker has to access it. When was the last time you changed your passwords? Learn more about password security here.

3. Lack of a BYOD policy

A BYOD policy protects your organization’s network when employees access it on their personal devices. When you allow your staff to work on their personal devices, including phones, tablets, and laptops, it’s important to make sure that each device is password protected. Also, ensuring there is an automatic lock code or timeout function and using Mobile Device Management technology is very important. There’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to BYOD policies and that’s why it’s important to work with a professional to design a policy and security plan that will meet the security standards of the company and still give workers the flexibility they need.

4. Not protecting yourself from internet threats
A Cloud based security platform is your first line of defense against malicious destinations on the internet, blocking malware, phishing, and other threats. Cloud security platforms provide powerful, effective security that can deploy in minutes. It’s important to have Cloud based internet security because it can block threats before they even reach your users. It’s a very easy and inexpensive way to protect your users and it adds one more layer of protection.

5. Not knowing who to call
Many companies are lucky enough to have IT staff, but sometimes problems can arise that require additional resources and knowledge. That’s where we come in; we can act as your IT department, an extension of your IT department, or as needed. We’re here to be a resource to your organization and to make sure your systems are running as efficient as possible so you can get back to what’s important – your business.

If you have any questions, are looking for additional information, or would like to discuss your security plan for 2017, please reach out to our sales team or give us a call at 616.837.6930.

Amazon Echo :: A Candid Review

Tuesday, December 13, 2016
We recently asked Andrew Smith, our Director of Technical Services, for his opinion on the Amazon Echo. Below you'll find his candid review.

The Amazon Echo is a success in the realm of home automation that begins a new era in home management and entertainment. The device may have started as a quick way to integrate Amazon with daily life and access music on demand through a powerful woofer and tweeter, but it has found a place that is truly awe inspiring, becoming an asset in every room.

When I got the Echo it had just been released and the features were slim. The number of “Easter Eggs” built in to the system actually outnumbered the add-ons but that isn’t really true anymore. Now the Echo, known as Alexa, has improved voice recognition and abilities to listen to more applications, listen to better news, recipes, home automation, and a host of other items that are continually updated in the cloud, making the system more useful each and every week.

When I got the Echo I was impressed with the sound, and it got really, really loud when I turned up the volume. The speaker and the actual device are solid, with the speaker weighing in as a heavy item that pushes air well. Tied with my music library I can hear the bass in a song and it feels really good.

That’s not all, the Alexa application can be a fun entertainer that can interact with people in spite of disabilities. A good game of trivia, a word puzzle, or just fun facts can make the Echo a part of daily fun, and keep you entertained even when you were not sure you wanted to be.

I rarely miss a day of asking Alexa for a joke, or setting multiple alarms to remind me of whatever I need reminding in a day, but have had even more fun asking stupid questions or saying silly stuff and finding that the programmers actually did put an answer in it. Ask Alexa how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood and see what you get.

Sure, there is room for improvement, but that's what Amazon has done, improve. They continually make additions and make the Echo a better and better product. I have sent in several suggestions and some of them have eventually turned up, probably not from me, but for the good of the system. (I am sure I was not the only person who asked.)

So if you need a way to control your TV, a way to laugh a little, look up items quickly, order stuff, listen to music, listen to audiobooks, and generally be involved in a lot of stuff, the Echo is a good choice for you.

Big Tax Savings for 2016 with Section 179

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
How would you like to upgrade your equipment and save some money on taxes? Sounds like a pretty great deal, and it's something you can take advantage of now. With only a few weeks left in 2016, it’s time to start thinking about the Section 179 tax break and how it can be applied to your year-end business purchases. This is a great opportunity to maximize your purchasing power by taking a large tax deduction on qualifying equipment and software.

The limit for 2016 is $500,000 and a 50% bonus depreciation will be extended through 2019. Businesses will be able to depreciate 50% of the cost of equipment or software that is put into service during 2015, 2016 and 2017.

How does it work?
The Section 179 tax code allows business owners to deduct the full purchase price (up to $500,000) of purchased or leased equipment from your gross income instead of requiring the cost to be depreciated. Once the equipment is purchased, you will complete a special IRS form and you’re all set!

What qualifies for the deduction?
Any physical equipment or software that is purchased for business use and put into production between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. Some of the qualifying purchases are:
· Computers
· Business Vehicles
· Office Equipment
· Off-the-Shelf Software - any software without a custom code, that is available for the general public and is used in your business as an income producing activity.

Use it or lose it!
If you plan on purchasing business equipment including computer hardware or software, it’s financially in your favor to make those purchases prior to the end of the year so that it will be in place by midnight, December 31, 2016. Use this handy calculator to see how much you could save and check out all of the equipment and software that qualifies!

What should you do now?
· Schedule a time to talk with your financial advisor or accountant to determine how your business can best utilize this tax break.
· Contact your sales rep or our sales department and we can begin planning these purchases with you.

Happy saving!

2016 Gadget Gift Guide

Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Christmas is right around the corner and that means it’s time to find the perfect gift for the special person in your life. Here is our annual list of staff suggestions for the best 2016 tech gadgets. We've got ideas for every budget and you can’t go wrong with one of these gifts!

Echo Dot
This Amazon device is hands-free and voice controlled with a small built in speaker.The Echo provides information, news, sports, weather, music and more.



Surface Book
If you have a larger budget to work with, you can’t go wrong with a Surface Book. We recommend the 512 GB solid state drive, 16 GB memory, Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce graphics.



MyQ-Garage

This device allows you to monitor, open, and close your garage door from anywhere, using your smartphone. You can also set up alerts when the garage door opens or closes.



LifePrint Photo and Video Printer
LifePrint has created a portable photo printer that can attach to social media or their platform and when the picture is viewed the video plays over top of it. A special memory to carry around, or just to use as a quick color printer on the fly, this device is just plain fun!



R2-D2 USB Car Charger
This is not your ordinary car charger. R2-D2 whistles sadly when a device runs out of power, and when devices are charged fully he bloops and bleeps – which means “yay!”.



Google Pixel
The Pixel has the highest rated smartphone camera, a battery that lasts all day (seriously!) and endless storage for your podcasts, videos, and photos. We speak with experience when we say this phone is awesome and worth the investment!



Google Home
This is a competitor to Amazon Echo and is also a voice activated speaker but the Home is powered by Google Assistant. You can easily use this device to control your home, plan your day, and manage tasks. If you already have Google Play or Chromecast, Google Home will integrate seamlessly.



Mofily YoCam
This is a super action cam that is waterproof out of the box without any extra accessories and can mount on a tripod or on a variety of accessories to fit bikes, cars and other items. The pictures are high quality and yes, it really does work underwater!



BaseCamp
The Biolite BaseCamp cooks for you and makes power from the heat at the same time. It converts heat into usable electricity for large-format cooking and charging. Use fallen branches or small pieces of firewood to make wood-fired meals and charge devices all at the same time. This is a must have for the adventurer in your life.


Did we forget something? Let us know what gadgets are on your list by commenting below or posting on our Facebook page!

Featured Services :: Wireless Solutions

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Giving your employees the freedom from being tied to one location can increase productivity and teamwork. A well-managed wireless solution can integrate voice and data, and make critical business systems available to all employees throughout the organization. Whether your business requires a simple access point or a fully integrated mobility solution, we can provide a cost effective and secure wireless solution customized for your needs.

A SOLUTION FOR INTERNET SPEED AND BANDWIDTH ISSUES
When students from a Big Ten University complained about slow internet speeds and sub-par bandwidth, we were brought on to find a solution. Our technicians conducted an internet-speed test on the existing system and, to no surprise, the findings were unacceptable: 11 mbps for the download speed and 10 mbps for the upload speed, well below the acceptable standard. A case study was done on the situation and the findings were featured in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon publication, The Record. Download the story here to see how we remedied the situation.

Featured Service :: Remote Monitoring & Reporting

Thursday, November 10, 2016
We handle the problems so you don't have to. Frequent backups, a fast and efficient internet connection, and virus checks are all vital to your organization. But when the day-to-day operations of running the business come into play, those important elements become easy to overlook - that’s why automatic monitoring is so important.

Remote Monitoring and Reporting is one of the best ways to effortlessly manage risk. The program provides daily monitoring and monthly reports so if an issue arises, our staff is notified immediately and will contact you to work to resolution, should you desire. Remote Monitoring and Reporting works by automatically detecting new devices in your environment and invoices accordingly.

Increased Efficiency
In addition to taking the responsiblity off your organization, remote monitoring can alert you of any issues before they take a toll on your business. Our Remote Monitoring and Reporting program works to increase efficiency at the most cost effective price while embedding IT automation into your organization. With Remote Monitoring and Reporting we are able to look for the following issues:
- Health checks, including backups, updates, and antiviruses
- Internet connection monitoring and alerting
- Enhanced internal device and network monitoring and alerting
- Software patches & deployment
- Backup management
- As needed bandwidth and network utilization reports

Beneficial Reporting
Remote Monitoring and Reporting can also provide beneficial information and reports for the following:
- Info Management
- Backup
- Asset Analysis
- Updates
- Patch Health
- Events
- Inventory
- Service Statistics
- Intrusion
- Disk
- Antivirus
- Usability

Investment
Our customizable plans will work with any size organization because your monthly investment is calculated by the number of items being monitored per month, and the type of device.

Starting at only $2 per device, IT Resource can offer your organization management monitoring for all of the following managed devices:
- Workstations, servers, printers, and mobile phones
- Network attached storage (NAS) devices
- Uninterruptible power supply
- Network: VoIP devices, cameras/scanners, firewalls, routers, and switches
- Network Wi-Fi access points & controllers

ADDITIONAL OPTIONS
Mobile Device Monitoring
Need to secure your mobile device? Mobile Device Monitoring covers smart phones, tablets, mobile internet devices, cameras, and more. A monthly report is generated to give highlights of inventory, summary, and data usage. There are tools that can be utilized to increase employee efficiency and provide a manager or supervisor with solid reports to back it up. Mobile Device Monitoring increases efficiency by routinely monitoring and reporting with ease.

Mobile Device Key Features
- Remotely wipe or lock any device if it becomes lost or stolen
- Geographically look up and locate any device
- Constant monitoring and alerting if an unforeseen issue rises
- Restriction and block features
- Employee restrictions from websites, YouTube, use of camera, etc.- Detailed data usage tracking - Historical device location to monitor employee’s past location(s)

VoIP Monitoring
VoIP Monitoring allows IT Resource to be alerted immediately when an issue pertaining to a phone system arises. This allows for increased efficiency and prompt service on our part. For a nominal fee, this data can also provide solid information if anything needs to be revisited concerning a phone call. It is helpful in phone training to review or listen in on actual calls.

VoIP Key Features
- Automatic alerts if any phone system issue is shown
- Provides reports of overall health of VoIP performance
- Monitor live calls

Software Asset Management

Control costs and optimize software investments with Software Asset Management, which can improve security and compliance, and anticipate future software needs.

Bandwidth Utilization
Know how network resources are used so you can properly distribute bandwidth between applications. Some applications may not receive enough bandwidth, while others like video streaming can use large amounts. And, because viruses and malware can consume large amounts of bandwidth, monitoring can be utilized in discovering these issues early on.

Bandwidth Utilization Key Features
- View bandwidth any time
- Alerts when bandwidth is reaching historical highs
- Pinpoint where higher bandwidth is coming from
- Locate bandwidth bottlenecks within your organization and proactively increase efficiency

Have the peace of mind that your entire network is being remotely monitored by an IT professional. Contact us to get a quote.