ARE YOU BEING PENNY-WISE AND POUND-FOOLISH ABOUT IT SUPPORT?

Owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) have a lot of responsibility. Limited resources and twelve-hour workdays are the norm, not the exception. Trying to maintain quality customer service, employee productivity, and keeping the lights on can be a daunting task, and many SMB’s try to save money by adding IT support to the list of things they tackle themselves.  But in reality, paying for managed IT services from a trustworthy service provider could be less expensive than you think.  And taking technology issues off your plate so you can focus on serving your customers and growing your business could be one of the best decisions you ever make.

It’s only natural for a business to want to grow, but growing pains are inevitable.

Technology, and in particular your network infrastructure, can present a lot of problems during a period of rapid growth. Your IT infrastructure needs to be monitored and maintained in order to function properly, and if you don’t have a team dedicated to keeping your systems running properly, the responsibilities are usually left to someone with a little IT knowledge but who doesn’t specialize in its upkeep. And if you choose to do it yourself that means yet another task on your already over-burdened shoulders and even more late nights.

And what does this accomplish?  It might seem at first like a way to save money, but SMB’s often experience technical issues that can only be fixed by skilled individuals who specialize in network support and IT maintenance. Plus, just like in many other things, you get out of something what you put into it.

stock-footage-frustrated-businessman-sitting-in-front-of-computer-monitor-in-office

POOR IT MAINTENANCE INEVITABLY LEADS TO POOR NETWORK PERFORMANCE AND EQUIPMENT FAILURES.

If you or other members of your team are charged with the upkeep of your own technology, it can, and usually does, lead to several things:

  1. The job performance of your team will suffer.
  2. Your critical technology will be maintained by well-meaning but unqualified individuals.
  3. Aging and poorly-maintained equipment will inevitably lead to inconvenient and costly downtime and potentially huge repair bills coupled with a devastating loss of income.

Many industry sources suggest that business owners who would rather take matters into their own hands should consider that their staff would be far better off providing excellent customer service than performing even the most mundane technology maintenance.  The best performing (and therefore the most profitable) companies are those that use all of their resources to their best advantage.

Outsourcing your IT infrastructure support to TCT Computer Solutions is the simplest and most effective way to lighten your workload every day and improve the reliability and performance of your critical IT equipment and systems.

We can resolve technology problems, perform routine IT maintenance, optimize network security, and provide user support and more, most of the time without the time and expense of an on-site service call. This lets your team focus on the more important day-to-day and mission-critical tasks they were hired to do while TCT Computer Solutions takes care of the troublesome IT issues. With a reliable and properly maintained IT infrastructure, your business can grow to reach its full potential without the hassle of IT issues and poor technology maintenance getting in the way.

THE FINANCIAL BENEFITS OF MANAGED SERVICES

Here’s how the Hybrid Cloud Solution will save you money.

money-clouds

In order to provide an adequate basis for comparison between our Zynstra Hybrid Cloud IT Solution and a comparable stand-alone server with equivalent features and ongoing services, we have prepared the following Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison. This comparison is based on a real-world proposal prepared for one of our customers.

The Zynstra Hybrid IT Solution

Although many models and options are available, a standard Zynstra Model 1420 hits a sweet spot for many SMBs. Built on a locally installed Hewlett Packard rack-mount or tower Proliant server running Windows Server 2012 R2, it provides a domain controller with Active Directory, network services, and licensing to support 15 – 30 active users. Included are end-user file storage, a print server, firewall, local backup storage with offsite backup for disaster recovery, and 2 virtual machines for client applications. If you are using Office 365, single sign-on with your active directory credentials is supported, along with reverse backup of your Office 365 data onto the local server.

The whole thing is curated and maintained always current by Zynstra, and can be managed both from the cloud and from a custom-designed management interface on the server. Bundled with ongoing support for your client applications and the rest of your IT infrastructure from your traditional MSP, the whole package will run about $1100 a month plus tax on a 3 year contract. That monthly cost falls to about $990 a month plus tax if you opt for a 5 year contract. That’s right, a simple monthly payment…no huge up-front capital expense.

THE STANDARD SERVER SOLUTION

By comparison, a similarly equipped server bought on an up-front capital expense (CAPEX) basis running Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard, but without the server curation and “keep current” support, custom integration and virtualization, cloud management and custom local management capabilities included with the Zynstra product will run approximately $15,030.00

Adding in the on-going 24/7 remote monitoring, remediation, and patching; help desk support; and unlimited remote or on-site support as required to monitor, maintain, and “keep current” the server as well as the client applications and the rest of the infrastructure brings the ongoing support cost to approximately $1313/month, or a total cost over a three year period of $47,268.00

TCO Comparison

The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over three years for a stand-alone (CAPEX) server including services and support comparable to that provided with the Zynstra solution is therefore:
Three Year TCO for a server on a CAPEX plus monthly support basis $62,298.00

By comparison, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over three years for the Zynstra solution is:
Three Year TCO for the Zynstra (OPEX) Solution ($1100/mo x 36) $39,600.00

NOTE: Costs common to both alternatives such as installation and migration cost are not included in this comparison.

THE NET SAVINGS WITH THE ZYNSTRA HYBRID CLOUD IT SOLUTION OVER THREE YEARS IS $22,698.00

That’s a 36% saving with the Zynstra Solution
and there’s no huge capital expense!

THE CASE FOR MANAGED SERVICES

What is meant by “Managed Services”?

Let’s begin by explaining what is meant by the term “managed services”.  This is a term used to describe the performance of routine IT services, such as those that might be performed by an in-house IT department, on a regular and on-going basis.  The exact nature, scope, and term of services to be performed or provided and the fee (usually a flat monthly rate) to be charged for those services are covered in a written agreement or contract.

Managed services usually include the installation of some form of remote monitoring and management (RMM) software by the Managed Services Provider (or MSP) so that notifications of an imminent or actual fault or failure are sent to the MSP for corrective action.  In some cases, the problem can be automatically remediated or corrected by the RMM software itself.  The RMM software also provides a way to connect remotely to the various servers, workstations, and other devices that make up the managed infrastructure so that timely corrective actions or help desk support can be provided without the need to schedule and dispatch a technician to the site.  However, some on-site support is usually included for those problems that cannot be corrected remotely.

So why should I consider Managed Services?

So now that I have described what “managed services” means, let’s talk about why a business owner should consider such an arrangement with their IT services provider.   Small and medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) frequently worry that if they sign up for Managed Services they are signing up for a monthly bill that they don’t really need and think that calling their IT services provider when the need arises, i.e. ‘on-demand’, is good enough and will be less expensive.  This is usually not true, and there are a number of reasons why:

  1.  1. On-Demand Rates:  Managed Services agreement customers typically pay a flat monthly fee for UNLIMITED routine service hours, and pay no after-hours or emergency rates regardless of when the work is performed. Customers who do not have a Managed Services agreement pay standard on-demand rates, which are much higher for evenings or weekends and for emergency work at any time.  This is necessary because the lower frequency of service visits and the absence of 24/7 monitoring for on-demand customers means the MSP does not stay as well informed about the customer’s infrastructure.  For such customers the IT service provider will frequently walk into a rat’s nest of partially-installed equipment, customer-attempted repairs, and ill-advised system restores which completely mask or otherwise compound the original problem. This makes the resolution more complex and time-consuming and frequently requires more senior personnel.  In addition, the inability to schedule or at least anticipate major changes such as system or software upgrades for on-demand customers means the IT service provider typically has to find staff to work on an evening, weekend, or emergency service call on very short notice when they may already be engaged in other work or planned family activities.  Higher rates help discourage such afterthought planning, pay for staff overtime, or at least help compensate for the hassle involved.  And as a final thought it is worth noting that even small businesses derive benefit from a Managed Services agreement because the flat-rate monthly payments are easier to budget for than the periodic expense spikes that typically occur with on-demand support.
  2. 2. Service Priority:  Managed Services customers get a higher priority of service than on-demand customers.  While good IT service providers always try to give every customer a prompt and complete response, in busy times a Managed Services customer will typically get responded to before an on-demand customer and if necessary the MSP may pull resources off of a routine on-demand job if those resources are needed for a Managed Services customer.  And some Managed Services providers will even offer a VIP level of services to customers that need head-of-the-line privileges over even other Managed Services customers.
  3.  3. 24/7 Monitoring and Help Desk Support:  Managed Services customers get 24/7 monitoring of their critical infrastructure and service functions and routine help desk support for their local and field personnel ; on-demand customers do not.  What does this mean in practical terms?  Well, a typical example that most customers can identify with would be system backups.  MSPs will monitor system backups for Managed Services customers so that the MSP will know if a backup fails and can therefore look into the failure and undertake the repair at once, in many cases before the customer even knew there was a problem.  An on-demand customer will monitor their own backups and call the IT service provider if a backup fails; the IT service provider does not watch the backups for the customer nor ensure that a backup is taken or sent off-site.  The same is true for many other scenarios as well.  Because of 24/7 monitoring, the MSP will typically know if the internet goes down, a server fails, or a network switch or router stops working.  An on-demand customer has to notify the IT service provider of these events and the IT service provider REACTS to the request as compared to a Managed Services customer where the MSP can be PROACTIVE because it has its hand on the pulse of the customer’s infrastructure.  And a Managed Services agreement that includes help desk support means that your personnel can call and ask for help with many routine problems like missing network shares, forgotten passwords, or account lockouts and the MSP handles those for no additional cost.  An on-demand customer will pay for each and every service call
  4. 4. Scope and Quality of Support: Some small business customers will have a person on-staff who handles day-to-day issues such as missing network shares, password changes, and simple user questions. Larger customers might even have an actual IT person on staff.  But even in these cases, those individuals will not typically be well-versed in the full range and scope of IT services being used in today’s workplace.  Services such as Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange,  SQL Server, SharePoint, VOIP, video conferencing, two-factor authentication for remote or traveling users, and wide-area networking between the corporate office and branch offices or project job-sites all require more sophisticated skills and training.  A full-time IT person with all of these skills will command a very high salary.  By utilizing an MSP, the skill-set of an entire enterprise-level IT department can be available when needed for far less than the cost of one average full-time IT support person.

What about projects?

An often misunderstood aspect of most Managed Services agreements has to do with ‘Project’ work.  Simply put, project work is work that is not normally or only infrequently required in the day-to-day operation and maintenance of a functioning IT infrastructure.  An MSP can readily estimate the level of effort required to provide support for an infrastructure of a certain size for a company with a certain number of users.  Many MSPs will have years of experience in estimating that kind of work.  But the MSP will not know at the time it estimates your agreement when and if you plan to replace any or all of your workstations this year or just part of them, and the MSP will not know if you are going to ‘cascade’ the old workstations to other users and if those users’ workstations will be further cascaded, and so on.  The MSP will also not know if you are going to buy another company and double the size of your infrastructure, upgrade your servers, add a VPN between your existing office and a new office in another city or state, or change your line of business application or your version of Microsoft Office on all or a large portion of your workstations.  These are infrequent ‘non-routine’ activities that the MSP cannot readily plan for when preparing an estimate for a Managed Services agreement, so many MSPs treat these types of evolutions as “projects” and estimate and bill for them separately.

Now one might argue that workstation change-outs, software upgrades, and equipment additions are routine activities in a normal growing business, and in a certain sense they are.  But what makes them non-routine, at least for the purposes of a Managed Services agreement, is that they are typically infrequent and only occur once every several years.  Further, an MSP typically does not have enough information on the scope and schedule for such activities at the time the agreement is being prepared.  Even if the MSP did have a preliminary estimate and schedule for such activities when preparing the agreement, such evolutions are often capital expenses and the budgets, scope of work and schedules frequently change as these efforts near implementation and the MSP cannot be certain that won’t happen.  So these perhaps normally occurring but infrequently performed tasks are also handled and billed as projects, just as an in-house IT department would handle them.

SUMMING UP…

Hopefully, this explanation of the key differences between an IT service provider’s on-demand services and a Managed Services model provides some food for thought when you are weighing the pros and cons of entering into a Managed Services agreement versus obtaining IT services on-demand.  A Managed Services agreement provides the most comprehensive support and offers by far the best value for most small or medium-sized businesses.  Managed Services let you focus on running your business while the MSP acts as your IT department and takes care of all those pesky help desk issues and IT problems.  A Managed Services agreement also ensures that your IT infrastructure gets regular attention, stays current with updates and maintenance activities, and gets restored to operation quickly if something fails.  Doesn’t the infrastructure that forms the central nervous system of your business deserve that kind of attention?

George Hefter
President
TCT Computer Solutions

WHY DO I NEED A SERVER?

… And why does a server cost so much?

Sooner or later, a small business that has been getting by just fine on two or three computers discovers that it is going to need a server. It may be because it has added staff or an additional location. Perhaps it has moved to more capable line-of-business software. Maybe the business wants to add enterprise features like Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint. Or the difficulties of controlling network security or providing user access to specific machines or individual folders and files in a simple workgroup or even a ‘Homegroup’ has become a tedious or impossible task. Whatever the reason, most small businesses will eventually evolve to a size or complexity where concerns about network administration, network security, user access, or centralization of important company files will make the need for a server inevitable.

Many business owners contemplating their first server tend to think of it as just a more robust workstation. This leads them into thinking that a server will probably cost around $2000, which would be in the ballpark for an expensive workstation. When presented with an actual server quote, the business owner’s likely first reaction will be “I didn’t think adding a server would cost so much!” This is not an uncommon reaction, but the rest of this paper is intended to help put the costs and benefits of a server into perspective.

It is easy to assume that adding a server involves just the cost of the server itself and that sets an expectation that the cost will be somewhere in the $2000 – $4000 dollar range… done and done. That is likely to be a significant underestimation for many reasons. First of all, a server costs more than even a very robust workstation because servers are designed to sit at the head and heart of a network and operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for design lifetimes of three to five years. Desktop computers, even expensive ones like CAD workstations, are not designed for that type of duty cycle.

Second, servers have many people and network components connected to them at the same time, all placing demands upon the server. All of those people and components need to have some response or another. Servers also typically provide backup services and administer network-wide anti-virus protection. And all the while the server must ensure that the network, the server itself, and all of the individual files and folders are only accessible to authorized personnel. Serving all of those demands simultaneously and promptly is what servers are designed to do. Again, desktop computers or workstations are not designed for that type of service functionality.

The server is what brings stability and robustness to your network

Finally, but perhaps most significantly, the server is what brings stability and robustness to your network in a way that simply cannot be achieved in a peer-to-peer network or workgroup. The end result is an expensive and complicated piece of equipment with many and unique component parts and software requirements, most of which are very different from the components and software used in a simple desktop computer or laptop.

Network

And then there is the knowledge required for the proper installation, setup, configuration, and ongoing maintenance of a server compared to desktop or laptop computers. Although there are some similarities between simple workstations and servers, there are vastly more differences than the average person would suspect. Servers utilize different operating systems than desktop or laptop workstations so that they can perform their functions of regulating access to the network and to files and system components. They must respond to the demands of both local and remote users, and act as the host of multiple programs and databases that need to be accessed by multiple users – all the while keeping those users and the various programs from interfering with one another.

Many people who are comfortable with their home or business computer feel that they have what it takes to properly maintain and administer their server, only to call for help in a panic when something they have not encountered before happens to their server. It is not a job for the inexperienced, and even what may seem to be familiar tasks like installing updates often require more knowledge than the average casual user brings to the task. And casual users soon find that the cost of having regular professional support ends up being far less expensive than calling for professional help after inadequate attention leads to a botched update or a component failure. Such occurrences can lead to days of downtime and costly emergency support to repair the damage and restore the server to proper operation.

Although the people, equipment, and tools you use may be the backbone and the hands and feet of your business, your network is certainly the central nervous system with the server as the brain. It ties the pieces together, ensures and enforces the security of your network, provides information for estimates and invoices, allows for proper accounting, provides a repository for important business information and records, and helps avoid duplication or contradiction of effort among many of these important functions of your business.

I didn’t start my business to provide cheap but inadequate solutions for my customers. Cheap equipment and break-fix support may cost less in the beginning, but cheap solutions will invariably cost more over time and make it more likely that an unexpected failure will disrupt your business at the most inopportune time. Benjamin Franklin is credited with an observation that I have found true more often than I can count: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” So true, so true.

There’s no denying that adding a server to your network makes your IT infrastructure more sophisticated, complicated, demanding, and costly. But what do you gain? You gain security, stability, robustness, flexibility, and the ability to grow as your business grows. You gain the ability to focus on improving your business without every step you take hindered by the need to solve some problem or overcome some limitation of an entry level infrastructure or an inadequately maintained server. What would all of that be worth to you?  Call us today and let us help you configure a solution that fits with your needs and your budget.

NEW HYBRID IT SOLUTION

New Hybrid IT Solution offered by TCT Computer Solutions …

If you’re sick of never-ending upgrades, costly repairs, and large capital outlays to maintain a robust and reliable IT Infrastructure for your small or medium business,we have a great solution for you.

When Microsoft announced the retirement of the Small Business Server (SBS) line of products, it looked like small and medium-sized businesses would have to pay enterprise-level prices to get the same set of enterprise-level features formerly offered in the SBS products. A few companies tried to offer a bundle of hardware and software products to fill the gap, but all of these tended to be far more costly and less well-integrated than the SBS products and so they met with limited success.

But Zynstra, a UK company founded by software entrepreneurs, had a better idea: an integrated suite of standard Microsoft applications and services offered in a stable and reliable virtual machine environment on a state-of-the-art on-premises HP Proliant server. The whole package is monitored, managed, and kept current from the Cloud but with local control through intuitive management consoles specially tailored for both local users and their IT support staff or service provider.

To reduce the reluctance of clients to upgrade their high-cost infrastructure when it really needs to be upgraded, Zynstra offers its products on an all-inclusive monthly subscription basis, reducing the need for periodic high-dollar capital expenditures and replacing them with 3 or 5 year subscriptions paid on an easy-to-budget monthly basis. The hardware is automatically upgraded at each 3 or 5 year subscription renewal, eliminating the need to budget for those huge capital expenses that often cause companies to keep their aging infrastructure in place far longer than they should.

TCT Computer Solutions has partnered with Zynstra to introduce a cutting-edge hybrid IT hardware solution for small and medium-sized businesses, especially those who will be affected by the expiration of support for Windows Server 2003

After enjoying great success and winning awards in the UK, Zynstra is now offering its innovative line of Hybrid Cloud IT server appliances in the US. TCT Computer Solutions, a Pacific Northwest IT solution provider, was the first company in North America to place one of these Hybrid Cloud IT Solutions in service for a client and is now pleased to offer this solution to other small or medium-sized businesses ready to upgrade their aging infrastructures.

 

cloud

If you are looking for a low cost high value solution with the flexibility of the cloud then reach out to TCT Computer Solutions today and lets discuss how you might benefit from this unique and powerful hybrid server solution.

TCT COMPUTER SOLUTIONS NAMED TO INGRAM MICRO’S 2014 SMB 500 LIST

TCT Computer Solutions Named One of Ingram Micro’s Fastest-Growing SMB Channel Partners in the U.S. World’s Largest Technology Distributor Recognizes Adventures in Technology LLC’s (dba TCT Computer Solutions) Achievements and Success in Annual Ingram Micro SMB 500 List at Inaugural IMOne Event in New Orleans #IMOne2014 Kennewick, WA, July 16, 2014 – TCT Computer Solutions today announced it was named to the Ingram Micro 2014 SMB 500. The annual list recognizes the top 500 fastest-growing Ingram Micro U.S. channel partners serving the small and midsize business (SMB) market. Ranked at number 321, TCT Computer Solutions expanded its business with Ingram Micro Inc. (NYSE: IM), the world’s largest technology distributor, by more than 30 percent in the past three years.

Channel partners named to this year’s SMB 500 list were identified at Ingram Micro’s inaugural 2014 IMOne event, held May 6-10 in New Orleans. As part of the more than 20,000 U.S. solution providers
and MSPs who work with Ingram Micro’s U.S. SMB Business Unit, these top-performing companies achieved a three-year compound growth rate of more than 42 percent.

Ingram Micro’s annual SMB 500 list is developed in close collaboration with channel research services firm The 2112 Group, Ingram Micro’s Business Intelligence team and U.S. SMB Business Unit. Criteria
for selection to the list includes size, overall technology category revenue growth and innovation across SMB engagements.
George Hefter, president of TCT Computer Solutions had this to say about making the SMB 500 for the second consecutive year: “We couldn’t be more proud of achieving SMB 500 recognition for the second time. We have a wonderful relationship with Ingram Micro and our strategic alliance is a big reason that we continue to enjoy unprecedented success in the SMB marketplace.” “The Ingram Micro SMB 500 is representative of solution providers who are focused on business excellence and recognize the value in teaming with Ingram Micro to deliver a superior customer experience and grow their business faster,” says Jamie Ferullo, director of SMB sales, Ingram Micro U.S.

“We congratulate this year’s SMB 500 and applaud their success.”
Performance metrics, trends, best practices and other key findings from the Ingram Micro 2014 SMB 500 list will be produced by The 2112 Group and noted on the Ingram Micro SMB 500

site: www.imsmb.com/smb500. Additional information and research is available on 2112’s Channelnomics, a news andanalysis website dedicated to channel business trends.

RESPECTING THE VALUE OF YOUR IT INFRASTRUCTURE

It doesn’t matter if you are a one or two person company with a single shared PC or a 70 person multi-office company with three servers, 50 workstations, printers, plotters, CAD stations, and more – one fact remains true regardless of the size of your business. If you need a computer at all, you need to recognize that your IT infrastructure, i.e. all of the various network and computer hardware and software that your company uses, represents the central nervous system of your organization. Oh sure, you may manufacture stuff, sell widgets, or serve food and you will need people and probably other hardware as well, but what ties it all together, tracks costs, place orders, prepares invoices, calculates payroll , and facilitates communication between employees, vendors, and customers are all of the digital pieces and parts that make up your IT infrastructure. And like a human central nervous system, a failure anywhere in this system can make running your business very hard or even impossible.

So why is it that every day we find small or medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) where the sales floor is all marble and chrome, trucks are wrapped with the latest in glitzy vinyl advertising, and leather couches and fish tanks decorate waiting rooms. But the ancient server equipment is in a cluttered, poorly ventilated and insecure broom closet (or a ladies room – you know who you are), and employees are using 10 or even 15 year old computer systems, obsolete software, and aging networks built with long-abandoned technology. When we point out the myriad risks ranging from downtime to loss of critical business data, identity theft, and even total failure of the business, we are more often than not greeted with shrugs, skepticism, and an utter failure to appreciate the critical role that the IT infrastructure plays in the health and well-being of any modern business. As mentioned earlier, IT is the Central Nervous System of most businesses, and yet it is treated as less important than a haircut or a new suit. Outward appearances count for more than the equipment and services that the success of the business, indeed its very survival, depends upon.

KEY RATIONALIZATIONS USED TO DEVALUE THE IMPORTANCE OF IT

If the importance of a robust and capable IT infrastructure is so fundamental to the success of an SMB, what’s behind this seeming indifference or downright aversion to the many important reasons for keeping the IT infrastructure up-to-date and well maintained? After 23 years as an IT services provider, I find that there are five typical rationalizations that SMB’s characteristically embrace:

1. BUSINESS INERTIA – “It’s working fine, why change?” This is avoidance exemplified. Not only does the business ignore or minimize the risk associated with aging equipment, it completely fails to appreciate the economical and operational benefits presented by newer technology.

2. VALUE/COST INSENSITIVITY (or hypersensitivity) – Most often seen as “Cadillac ambitions but a Volkswagen budget”, this can also appear in the opposite form, i.e. fear of the required cost keeps the business from looking for or considering worthwhile upgrades.

3. RISK INSENSITIVITY – Failure to appreciate the increasing risks associated with aging technology. Those risks might be physical, such as hardware failures, or they might be operational, such as slow performance or lacking newer but necessary features.

4. OBSOLESCENSE INSENSITIVITY – Failure to comprehend the ever increasing rate of technology changes, or conversely, the increasing rate of obsolescence of the IT infrastructure. This is actually a failure or reluctance to embrace or keep pace with new capabilities, security measures, or technologies. In many ways, this is another form of Business Inertia

5. CAPABILITIES OVERESTIMATION – In more simple terms, this is an inflated sense of the available in-house IT capabilities. Increasing professional or casual familiarity with technology, such as that often seen among medical professionals who use sophisticated diagnostic and laboratory equipment, leads many otherwise very capable professionals to think that they (or sometimes an employee or relative) can handle their IT infrastructure on their own. While they may grasp the basics, such persons for whom IT is a sideline at best seldom have a complete appreciation of the scope and complexities of their IT infrastructure or their needs.

A few types of SMB’s embrace all of these rationalization, but even the most enlightened embrace some of them. It goes with the territory, a part of being a small or medium-size business. There’s never enough cash for everything, so where do I cut corners? Sadly (albeit illogically), for one or more of the above reasons IT expense seems to be the go-to choice for SMB’s. Enterprise-level companies don’t commonly suffer from this lack of appreciation for their IT infrastructure – and it just may be that that is one of the key reasons they became Enterprise-level companies.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS THAT EMPHASIZE THE VALUE AND IMPORTANCE OF IT

1. BUSINESS GROWTH – If you ever hope to have more than one location, or more than a hundred customers, more than a few employees, or offer more than a few products or services, face it: you are going to need a computer to keep track of the myriad details that go along with running a growing business. And the more you grow, the more equipment you need and the more important that equipment, that infrastructure, becomes. Look at your business today: Could you operate at anything close to full capacity if you lost a server, an important workstation, or your access to the internet? Judging from the service calls we get at my IT service business, the answer is almost certainly NO!

2. VALUE/COST – Any realistic analysis of the value that your business derives from your IT infrastructure will almost certainly justify the cost of maintaining that infrastructure and keeping it current. Penny-wise and pound-foolish decisions like using a residential firewall/router or pressing an already obsolete home computer into service as your business server will cost you plenty in downtime, poor performance, and lost productivity. And those $399 big-box store computer bargains you see in the Sunday paper are typically underpowered and come with consumer versions of the operating system software that will not network correctly with a business server or more than few workstations. And for heaven’s sake, keep up to date with anti-virus and anti-malware software, and with the upgrades and security patches for your operating system and line-of-business applications (e.g. bookkeeping or estimating software). Saving $100 by not buying or upgrading that software can cost you $1,000’s in lost productivity if your computers get hacked or infected with a virus or ransomware.

3. RISK – The older your IT equipment becomes, the more likely it is that you will experience a hardware failure or exceed some capacity limitation that will bring your business network to its knees. When (not if) that happens, how long can you afford to be without your IT equipment? For many SMB’s, the loss of their IT infrastructure means lost productivity and lost revenue that adds up at a staggering rate. Think about your own business and how long you could operate with a server, important workstation, or your internet access down. Chances are the answer is ‘not very long’ before your reluctance to buy new equipment or make necessary repairs becomes far less important than getting your IT infrastructure back up and running.

4. OBSOLESCENSE – A good Rule of Thumb for replacing business servers is every five years AT MOST, and for workstations the typical replacement period is more like every three years. Why? Well, for starters business equipment is used more steadily for longer periods of time than the typical home computer so they experience more wear and tear. But other reasons include increases in the performance and capabilities of newer equipment and increases in the hardware requirements for new operating system or line-of-business software. And the five and three-year rules of thumb are not a complete license to keep using your equipment for those periods. With the increasing rate of change in capacity and capability for newer versions of hardware and software, coupled with the increasing demands of a growing business, your IT infrastructure could be obsolete in shorter periods. If you find yourself limping along from one major IT repair to another or suffering from the poor performance of your servers or network, you are probably fighting obsolescence and are desperately in need of updated equipment.

5. IN-HOUSE CAPABILITIES – Just because you run a small network at your house or can operate sophisticated diagnostic equipment, it doesn’t automatically follow that you are the best choice or even an OK choice to set up or administer a business-class network. You, or your nephew, or an employee, may be an IT legend in your own mind, but if you were that good at it why are you not doing THAT full time? We run into this every day, and these ‘local experts’ create plenty of service calls for us. There are lots of details associated with business-class network administration and server operation that the educated user or home hobbyist just doesn’t get exposed to often enough to be any good at it. My advice? You will save significant money in the long run, and have a better business as well, if you leave network administration and server configuration and operation to the experts and instead focus on being the best at your primary occupation.

SOUNDS EXPENSIVE? IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE.

So we are back to the crux of the matter. Operating and maintaining a robust and reliable IT infrastructure may be the best thing for your business, but how about the cost? Well, it’s been my experience that when the cost question comes up, most SMB’s picture the huge capital expense that they have to face every three to five years in order to put in place and maintain a solid IT infrastructure. If you have plenty of capital that kind of periodic outlay may work for you, but most SMB’s typically become catatonic at the thought. They eventually reach a point where they can’t avoid it anymore, but that is all too often after experiencing a catastrophic failure and long after they should have upgraded to properly support their business.

The good news is there is a way to avoid those periodic large capital expenditures and make your overall IT expense for hardware, software, and service a predictable monthly operating expense that is far easier to budget for than the less frequent but much larger capital improvement projects. It’s called “Infrastructure-as-a Service” (IaaS) and from my perspective as an IT service provider it makes a lot of sense for many of my SMB customers, and for my business as well.

I have a few business associates that have, after many years of trying, succeeded in converting their customer base to this service model, and their customers have enjoyed better reliability, stability and performance as a result. But it takes a lot of time and service provider capital, engineering, development, and finally marketing to convince an SMB to convert to a homegrown IaaS service model developed by their own IT service provider, so many SMB service providers don’t offer IaaS.

But a company in the UK founded by some highly successful software entrepreneurs has taken advantage of current trends towards hybrid infrastructures and made IaaS not only relevant but also easy and affordable to implement. The company is Zynstra (www.zynstra.com) and after enjoying much success and winning awards in the UK they entered the North American market in September 2014 with a line of Hybrid Cloud SMB IT Appliances offering enterprise-class services on a cost-effective all-inclusive monthly or annual subscription basis. At the renewal of each 3 or 5-year subscription period, the server is replaced to ensure use of the latest technology, and upgrades within a subscription period can be entertained although the monthly price will rise to reflect the larger resource capacity and license usage.

Using highly regarded HP Proliant servers, the Zynstra solution lets you choose what to run securely on‐premises, and what to run and store in the cloud. It includes innovative features to manage the infrastructure remotely, keep it current, keep it safely backed up in the cloud, and deliver a robust virtualization environment to efficiently run line-of-business applications. These servers come in sizes that support from as few as 5 users to as many as 250 users, and they can be clustered in a high-availability configuration or used at multiple sites throughout a distributed wide-area network where local performance is important.

Now Zynstra may not be the only company that offers an IaaS solution, but they are certainly the first to enjoy widespread success. And most importantly for SMB’s, they offer a way to avoid altogether the periodic large capital outlays for infrastructure renewal and instead have an always-current infrastructure with both on-premises and cloud capabilities at a steady and predictable monthly cost. No more huge capital expenses, just an easier-to-budget monthly operating expense for the costly majority of your IT infrastructure.

IN CONCLUSION

For many SMB’s, the shift from the large capital expense (CAPEX) model to a more manageable operating expense (OPEX) model via IaaS promises to address the major factor behind most of the rationalizations that lead SMB’s to devalue their IT infrastructure: fear of the unplanned or hard-to-budget-for capital expense. Moving to Infrastructure-as-a-Service removes that fear and will quickly demonstrate the considerable value of an always-current, properly maintained, and periodically renewed IT infrastructure.

George

MANAGED ANTI-VIRUS – LET US HELP!

Are you tired of anti-virus and anti-malware programs that either don’t work, are complicated to use, or force you to make choices you don’t fully understand? Well, we do these things every day and we are very good at it; you have better things to do than tackle a complicated virus or trojan removal. Our innovative MANAGED ANTI-MALWARE solution can let you get back to your business or personal computer use without all that worry and hassle. Here’s how it works:

For no more than the typical cost of a retail-box Internet Security package from any of the 10 or so big name software vendors, we can provide a top-of-the-line anti-virus/anti-malware solution that WE manage! That’s right, WE manage the solution: we monitor the software, we get the alerts (and notify you), we ensure that the appropriate corrective actions are taken and, if complicated configuration changes are needed to make your system more secure, we make those changes as required after checking with you and discussing the implications. We do the work for you!

Because no anti-virus/anti-malware program is perfect, the first line of defense against these threats is a careful and informed user. So as part of this service we also provide useful tips and advice to help you spot risky websites, embedded links, and emails and avoid stumbling into these traps.

Let us help you protect your valuable business and personal data. Give us a call and let us tell you about this innovative solution and answer any questions you may have.

Another reason why TCT Computer Solutions is the SMART choice for IT Services!

SPOTTING A RISKY EMAIL

TO ALL OF OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS:
(and anyone else who reads this)

We have had a number of customers infect their own computers and company servers in recent days by clicking on infected email attachments or embedded links in email.  Although the risks of opening unsolicited attachments or clicking on email links have been pointed out many times on TV, on the radio, and on-line by internet personalities, anti-virus and anti-malware software vendors, and in popular forums such as Facebook, we still find people who blindly open any email they receive and click on a link or open an attachment that they shouldn’t have.   The results are usually costly in terms of recovery time, and if the infection is from ransomware such as Cryptolocker, the loss of data could be catastrophic to your business.

You might wonder why your anti-virus protection frequently doesn’t protect you in these cases.  Well, first of all remember that these programs typically guard against attacks against your computer from the outside.  When you click on a link or attachment, you have effectively invited that infection into your computer.  And even when a well-designed and up-to-date anti-virus program does notice that the user has opened something risky, we often see users so focused on opening that attachment and seeing what’s inside that they ignore the warnings and give the attachment permission to proceed.

The simple truth is this: the FIRST and BEST line of defense against viruses and malware is a skeptical user.  It is simply not that hard to spot a risky email if you simply keep a few simple things in mind:

1. If you didn’t ask for it or otherwise expect it, DON’T OPEN IT!  It doesn’t matter if it sounds like it is from a friend or relative or a known business associate – sender’s addresses are easily faked and more than likely means that supposed sender’s computer has been compromised.

2. If the sender is a company and the email looks legitimate, take a moment to look for other clues such as the return address.  We have seen supposed emails from Microsoft containing very legitimate-looking logos and text with a return address such as ‘service@micro-soft.com’ or ‘customer.support@mic-soft.com.ru’.

3. Another dead giveaway is the grammar, spelling, and syntax of the email.  If words are misspelled, capitalization is odd, the sentences sound like they were written by someone from another country, guess what? They were!  No reputable company of any size would let a poorly composed email be sent out.

4. Embedded links in email should also raise questions.  Hover your mouse over the link (DON’T click on it) and you should see the destination of the link pop up.  If the email is from Amazon or your bank, but the link goes to ‘12746538.alfresco.yahoo.com’ it should be clear that the email is not legitimate.

5. Lastly, consider what the email asks you to do.  If all it says is “You’ve got to see this” and wants you to open the attachment, don’t do it.  If it is from the IRS and says ‘Please click on the attached file to read the details of our audit.”  You should recognize that the IRS will never correspond with anyone by email, so don’t open it.  And if the email says “Please click on the following link and confirm your account details, again DON’T CLICK ON IT!  A legitimate request would direct you to go to the company’s web site to log on the way you normally would and then update your account details.

I could go on with examples all day, but these illustrate the kind of things that should easily tip you off to a risky email.  But it all depends on you and your willingness to pay attention to a few easy-to-spot clues before you open an attachment or click on a link.  If you don’t review your email with a little skepticism, no anti-virus or anti-malware program in the world will be enough to protect you.

Warm regards,

George Hefter
TCT Computer Solutions

TCT COMPUTER SOLUTIONS NAMED TO INGRAM MICRO’S 2013 SMB 500

TCT Computer Solutions Named One of the Top-Performing SMB Channel Partners in the U.S. by Ingram Micro  

World’s Largest Technology Distributor Recognizes Adventures in Technology LLC
(dba TCT Computer Solutions) in Annual Ingram Micro SMB 500 List  

Kennewick, WA, Nov. 6, 2013 – Adventures in Technology LLC, dba TCT Computer Solutions, today announced it has been named to the Ingram Micro 2013 SMB 500. The list was revealed at Ingram Micro’s 2013 Fall SMB Invitational and celebrates the top 500 fastest-growing Ingram Micro U.S. channel partners focused on small and midsize businesses (SMBs). TCT Computer Solutions continues to grow its business and ranked 226 by Ingram Micro Inc. (NYSE: IM), the world’s largest technology distributor, in this year’s SMB 500 listing.

The Ingram Micro 2013 SMB 500 list was derived from the more than 20,000 U.S. solution providers and MSPs who work with Ingram Micro’s U.S. SMB Business Unit. This year’s top performers posted growth of nearly 250 percent. Developed in collaboration with Ingram Micro’s Business Intelligence Center and U.S. SMB Business Unit, as well as channel research services firm The 2112 Group, the list also takes into account select criteria such as company size, overall technology category revenue growth and innovation with SMB business engagements.

George Hefter, president of TCT Computer Solutions, had this to say about making the Ingram Micro 2013 SMB 500 List: “We have worked with Ingram Micro for the majority of our 21 years in business and it is an honor to be recognized as one of Ingram Micro’s top-performing SMB channel partners.  It is very important to our success and to our customers’ satisfaction that we have access to the wide-ranging selection of top-of-the-line products and services offered by Ingram Micro.”

“Having the right technology solutions and services in play can bring significant advantages to small and midsize businesses, and can be the difference between good and great companies,” says Jamie Ferullo, director of SMB sales, Ingram Micro U.S. “Our SMB 500 list represents the ‘who’s who’ in SMB when it comes to top-performing VARs and MSPs. We’re thrilled to announce this year’s winners and congratulate TCT Computer Solutions on its growth and success.”

The complete 2013 Ingram Micro SMB 500 list can be seen at http://www.im-smb.com/smb500.

Additional information, content and resources are available atwww.channelnomics.com/smb500.

More information about TCT Computer Solutions is available at www.tctcs.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TCTComputerSolutions.

About Ingram Micro Inc.

Ingram Micro is the world’s largest wholesale technology distributor and a global leader in IT supply-chain and mobile device lifecycle services. As a vital link in the technology value chain, Ingram Micro creates sales and profitability opportunities for vendors and resellers through unique marketing programs, outsourced logistics and mobile solutions, technical support, financial services and product aggregation and distribution. The company is the only global broad-based IT distributor, serving approximately 160 countries on six continents with the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of IT products and services. Visit www.ingrammicro.com.

About TCT Computer Solutions

TCT Computer Solutions offers a full range of IT services from consulting and strategic planning to complete IT infrastructure design, installation, configuration, troubleshooting, and on-going management.

# # #

Press Contacts:

George Hefter, President
TCT Computer Solutions
(509) 627-4808 x201
george@tctcs.com

Marie Rourke
WhiteFox Marketing (for Ingram Micro)
(714) 292-2199
marie@whitefoxpr.com