ICS Adds Cisco Umbrella to Product Line

Cisco Umbrella is a sophisticated security system for the cloud, which is now offered as a product at ICS.


Internet security has been forced into evolution by the dynamic changes affecting our workforce due to the current digital landscape. Gone are the days when your concerns were centralized in one office location. Many businesses now allow their employees to work remotely at least some of the time, and in-office employees often depend on the cloud and use their mobile devices to access company information offsite.

Users no longer need the VPN to work outside of the office, as cloud services are the norm.  So how do you protect your business and your users anywhere they access the internet?

A Complete Solution to Cloud-Based Security

ICS is proud to have added Cisco Umbrella to our product line. It is the industry’s first Secure Internet Gateway in the cloud. The system provides the first line of defense against internet threats. Cisco Umbrella allows business owners to provide a strategy to outsmart malicious cyber-attacks with cloud security that provides the first line of defense against threats. Cisco Umbrella uses the internet’s infrastructure to block malicious destinations before a connection is ever established through a series of phases.

 

  • DNS & IP Layer Enforcement: Umbrella uses DNS to halt threats over all ports and protocols, stopping malware before it reaches your network.
  • Intelligent Proxy: Umbrella routes requests to risky domains for deeper URL and file inspection, effectively protecting without delay or performance impact.
  • Command & Control Callback Blocking: Even if devices become infected in various ways, Umbrella prevents connects to attacker servers, stopping data exfiltration and execution of ransomware encryption.

Spot Attacks Before They Launch

Cisco Umbrella utilizes internet activity to learn how to identify attacker infrastructure staged for current and emergent threats. The system captures and analyzes relationships between malware, domains, IPs and networks across the internet.

 

  • Statistical Models: The system analyzes data to identify patterns, detect abnormalities and create mockups to predict the likelihood that a domain or IP is malicious.
  • Cisco Umbrella Investigate: Enrich your incident response and SIEM data with access to Cisco’s threat intelligence of global DNS requests.
  • Cisco Ecosystem: Umbrella utilized URL and file reputation scores from Cisco Talos and Cisco AMP to block malicious content.

Simple Cloud-Security Solution

Umbrella is a simplistic security system with enterprise-wide deployment in minutes. There is absolutely no hardware to install or software to update. The browser-based interface provides quick setup and ongoing management.

 

  • On-network Devices: You can implement powerful security simply by changing just one setting on your network server, access point or router–protecting all devices.
  • Off-network Laptops: When VPN is off, you can still protect laptops with Umbrella’s roaming client or built-in Cisco AnyConnect integration.

  • Browser-based Interface: You can efficiently create and manage policies, as the Umbrella dashboard provides both central and local administration and reporting.

Packages Tailored to Your Business Needs

This robust system–the first of its kind–has the capacity to protect businesses of all sizes from the devastation that is often brought on by a cyber-attack. Whether you’re a small business owner looking to protect your remote team, or you’re a large corporation with multitudes of devices traveling in and out of the office, Cisco Umbrella has a package suited to fit your unique business needs.

The Cisco Umbrella packages–Professional, Insights and Platform–all include the protection and performance features. As the features begin to get more robust, the packages stagger.

The Professional package is best for the small business owner looking to add security to their cloud-based documentation and/or project management system. This package will protect the business from cloud-based attacks, but it does not include access to some of the more dynamic data subsets.

The Insights package is great for mid-sized companies, and it will include all the features of the Professional package, plus access to insightful data that will help companies keep track of devices on their networks.

The Platform package is the perfect cloud-based security option for advanced security teams looking for all the protection possible, with access to powerful data analysis and information that will rapidly expand security measures, all while protecting the business at an optimal level.

Cisco Umbrella’s Cloud

Cisco Umbrella processes billions of DNS requests from millions of users. The system has data center locations around the world, and they peer with the top internet service providers and content delivery networks to shorten the routes between networks and the company’s data centers, making internet access faster than ever.

Fast Cloud Performance Platform

Performance is a crucial aspect of connecting your business to a cloud security platform, as it would be devastating to have the system break or slow down your connection. Cisco Umbrella utilizes Anycast routing to ensure reliability, so that businesses never face maintenance downtime.

Cloud Protection Made Easy

You can have protection across your network in as little as 30 seconds. You can add a code to your DNS or DHCP servers to protect every device on that network. For laptops connecting off network and utilizing Cisco AnyConnect, users can enable the Umbrella roaming security module for protection, even when the VPN is off.

World’s First Intelligent Proxy

Historically, URL-level web content blocking requires proxying all connections, which can result in negative performance. With Umbrella, safe connections are allowed and malicious requests are blocked at the DNS-layer. Only requests to risky domains, which contain both malicious and legitimate content, are rooted for deeper URL and file inspection. With Umbrella’s intelligent proxy, users don’t experience any slow or broken internet access.

ICS is proud to offer these services to our customer base, and we’re happy to help you and your business get started with Cisco Umbrella.

Mitel Purchases Toshiba Support and Asset Obligations

Mitel Signed Memorandum of Understanding with Toshiba

Mitel VoIP PhonesOn May 11, 2017, Mitel signed a Memorandum of Understanding or MoU with Toshiba. This MoU will have certain assets and Toshiba support obligations transferred to Mitel. If you are an existing Toshiba customer, this is great news for you.

Although the details of the deal was not fully disclosed, according to Mitel’s press release it “ensures product and service continuity for Toshiba customers.”

ICS has been a Toshiba dealer since 1983 and a Mitel dealer since 2009. This puts ICS in a unique position to work with Toshiba customers and makes ICS the perfect partner for seamless transition to a Mitel product line. Whether customers want to go to the cloud or maintain a VoIP server on-site, ICS will help create and deploy the correct solutions for the customer.

Buyback and Total Care Programs

ICS has studying the market over the years and we have seen this in the past with companies like Nortel and we expect to see it again as the players continue to adapt to the market. To assist our customers with this adaptation, ICS has provided two distinct programs to protect our clients.

ICS’s buyback program will pay customers cash to purchase back their Toshiba system and migrate over to the Mitel product line. The total amount of the buyback is sometimes even more than the non-depreciated amount.

ICS also has our Total Care Program which protects customers from future issues similar to the Toshiba incident. For one simple monthly payment, ICS will install, train and service your product for the term of the agreement. If that product ever becomes obsolescent or you outgrow the product line, ICS will replace it with a new product at no penalty to the customer. Furthermore, customers can seamlessly move the system from a Cloud to a Premise based system or even a hybrid between the two.

Toshiba Support

So, whether you are ready to move to a new VoIP or Hosted platform now or in the future, ICS is ready to assist. With our nationwide network of support personnel and Toshiba help desk, ICS can continue to Toshiba support for your systems well into the future while we migrate you to the cloud or a Mitel VoIP solution.

Toshiba Telecommunications Closing Their Doors

Toshiba Will Stop Selling Business Phone Systems May 22nd, 2017

It is unfortunate, but after 43 years, Toshiba will wind down their business phone system division. This is terrible news and will affect a lot of businesses. We have seen similar news with Nortel, Panasonic and even Avaya filed Chapter 11. For more information regarding this closure, please contact ICS (A Toshiba Dealer for 33 years) or continue to read the below article.

What Systems Are Most Affected?

If you have a phone on your desk that looks anything like the below pictures, then you are at the most risk and should contact us to discuss. If you have an older platform, oddly enough, you are at less risk. This is because older systems are on their own network and not part of your IT infrastructure.

Phone Pictures

Toshiba Business Phones Toshiba Business Phones

So What Does This Mean?

News is still trickling in and new announcements will continue over the next few weeks or months. Here is what we know for sure:

  • Toshiba is no longer manufacturing business telephone systems.
  • You can place orders through May 22nd and they will ship it to you if they have it in stock.
  • After May 22nd you can no longer order new systems.
  • It does appear there will be an extended period where you can purchase. licenses beyond May 22nd but we do not have a firm date yet.

Do I Need to Panic and Buy A New System Today?

No, most people do not need to panic, but you do need a PLAN. Over the last decade there has been a huge push to consolidate phone systems to VoIP and to install them on customer’s networks. This means that they now need to have security patches and constant updates to ensure your network continues to function and is secure. Here are some things to think about regarding your current Toshiba.

  • If you have IP phones the system must be on the network. This means firmware updates on the phones and system need to be maintained for security and proper operation.
  • If you use eManager to program the phone system, it will eventually stop working as Windows patches are pushed. Further more, as Microsoft discontinues patches on the operating system it becomes a network security hole.
  • Bought one of the Linux based systems? Well, hackers will start to attempt hacks on these because they know they are not being updated. Eventually, it will become a security vulnerability to you.
  • As software developers update their web browsers, you will eventually lose access to program the system.

What Do I Do Now?

My recommendation is to call ICS at 1-800-9ASKICS or e-mail us at sales@ics-com.net. We will sit down with you and your company and discuss reasonable plans and budgets to transition to another platform and how we can support you in the mean time.

Whether you are in Houston, Austin, San Antonio or anywhere else in the United States, ICS is here to assist.

We will need service stock, so the first customers will receive the best trade-in on their equipment. We look forward to hearing form you soon!

How to Tell if Cloud VoIP is Right for You

Cloud VoIP San AntonioWhat is Cloud VoIP?

Cloud VoIP (also known as a hosted phone system) is when your phone system is located in the “Cloud”. With the cloud, you generally get more features, redundancy and flexibility for a small to medium sized business at a lower cost point than purchasing an on-site system. Here are some of the “table stakes” available in most Cloud VoIP solutions:

  • A private phone number for each phone.

 

  • Mobile phone integration where your private number rings your desk phone and mobile phone simultaneously.

 

  • Desktop collaboration software for chat, presence, desktop share and video conferencing with people inside and outside the office.

 

  • One phone system for multiple sites.

 

  • Phones work from anywhere there is an internet connection.

 

  • Soft phones so your laptop or mobile phone can make calls over the Wi-Fi or office network.

 

  • Monthly fee includes dial tone, phone system, support and all other phone costs.

When is Cloud VoIP a Bad Idea?

So, good marketing makes new products seem like the “must have” product that fits every company and every budget. Cloud VoIP, just like many other products, is not right for everyone.

Remember, the phone system server for Cloud VoIP is running in the cloud. Your phones have to connect to this server from your office. Depending on how the phones make this connection can help determine if it is a good idea for your company or not.

Cloud VoIP Over Open Internet

Connecting to the cloud over the open Internet is the most common method of Cloud VoIP for small companies. It is a very compelling sales pitch and is hard to say no to. It provides a high feature set for a seemingly low cost.

The problem with going over the open Internet is the quality of the Internet you are using. We service VoIP customers in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. In these three different cities, there is a vast difference between Internet quality of different providers. Depending on what Internet provider you choose, it could have a drastic difference in the quality of your phone calls.

Think of it this way- if you buy a sports car and take that sports car out on a road with a lot of pot holes, you are not going to have a good experience. The ride will be rough and you will not receive the “performance” you expected out of the sports car. It is the same with your Cloud VoIP solution. If you Internet is a road with pot holes, you are not going to enjoy the product.

But My Data Runs Fine!

Yes, your data may run perfectly fine and you may still have issues with your voice quality. Why? Well, this answer can vary and can be quite complex. In its simplest form, the Internet was designed for data. With data, if you lose some of the data or if some of it gets there before the rest of it, no problem. The Internet will just resubmit the data or wait for the rest. Have you ever loaded a web page to see a picture take a little while to load? Basically, the text got there before the graphic. No big deal, you just wait for it to show up on your screen, right?

Now, consider a conversation in the same scenario. The end of your sentence gets there before the beginning of the sentence. Maybe some of the conversation got dropped? You can just sit there and wait for the rest of the sentence. You also would not understand what they said if you hear the end of the sentence before the beginning. What is this, Pig Latin?

Does that Mean Cloud VoIP Over the Open Internet is a Bad Idea?

As with most of my blogs, NO, this is not what I am saying. It is just a good idea to have an understanding of the technology before you spend money and time implementing it.

Over time, Internet has improved substantially. In many environments, Cloud VoIP is a wonderful solution for our clients. Over the years, to ensure our customers have a better experience with hosted VoIP, we help our customers with the following:

  • We utilize a hosted VoIP testing software. This software simulates calls between their facility to our Cloud. We then have a report that shows the quality they would expect with our solution. These tests are no charge to our clients. If you would like to schedule one, just reach out to us here. You may want to check back with our blog later this week too. We will be releasing a blog that explains exactly what is included in our Cloud VoIP Assessment.

 

  • If a customer is not satisfied with their cloud solution, for no additional charge from ICS, we will put a server on their site or allow the customer to install a private circuit to our Cloud.

 

What Else Can I do to Ensure a Good Cloud VoIP Experience?

Private Connections

Another alternative is to deliver a private connection from your office to the Cloud provider. In most cases, this only makes financial sense for larger organizations.

In addition, it is always  recommended to avoid asynchronous Internet providers and providers that utilize a “shared” Internet service.

Make sure you know how you will receive support and if the company can help resolve network issues. Many times, if the provider only does cloud VoIP, they will not be much help if you have network problems. Go back to the car analogy- if you take the car back to the dealership and complain, are they going to fix the road? VoIP providers that also have full service Managed IT services are more capable of resolving your problems from A to Z.

Avoid Asynchronous Internet

Asynchronous providers would be DSL or ADSL services from AT&T or similar company. These providers have faster downloads than upload speeds. Since voice needs quality going BOTH directions, this is generally not a good idea. An exception to this may be a single user at their home.

Avoid Shared Internet

Shared Internet is your cable provider coax Internet. Sure, they advertise 50 Up and 50 Down speeds, but it is shared with everyone in your area. If Internet usages is high, it will lower your voice quality. These types of service also generally have service level agreements tailored more for a home environment than a business.

Conclusion

All of the above items will help you make a better decision for your Cloud VoIP Solution. If you need help in Houston, Austin or San Antonio, please contact us. A professional Technology Consultant will come to site and guide you through the process from beginning to end.

Since ICS is a full-service cabling, VoIP and Managed IT provider, we can assist you to ensure your data network is ready for your VoIP experience. Since we also provide on-site business telephone systems, we can also let you know if Cloud VoIP is just not the right solution for your company.

Cloud VoIP San Antonio   Cloud VoIP Houston   Cloud VoIP Austin

The Difference Between Data Backups and Disaster Recovery with Managed IT San Antonio

 

Data BManaged IT San Antonio Serviceackups vs. Other Options with Managed IT San Antonio Support

 

 

What Exactly is Covered in Data Backups?

Data backups is a broad term and can be interpreted in several different ways. If you are speaking with a business owner, the generally consider data backups in a very broad term. If IT has told them they have their data backed up, then they feel it is safe.

In general, IT professionals consider data backups different from disaster recovery, disaster avoidance or business continuity. Below is our Managed IT San Antonio service would define each different application.

Data Backups

Our Managed IT San Antonio Service defines data backup as the backup of individual files. When we say files, we are identifying Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other flat file formats. These files may be backed up on-site, in the cloud or both. Generally, these files are “Versioned” which allows you to access a file an hour old, day old, week old, quarter old, etc…

Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery for our Managed IT San Antonio Support program would be the plan to restore servers, operating systems, applications AND the backup files to normal operation. For example, a flood destroys the building and servers. What is the plan and time frame to return to normal operation?

Disaster Avoidance and Business Continuity

We consider these words to be synonyms. Because many companies find it too costly to be without their IT infrastructure, there has to be a design to avoid outages. For the purpose of this article, we will use Disaster Avoidance from this point forward. Since Disaster Avoidance has many different levels, we will break this definition down to further details. Keep in mind that some customers combine many of the below options for a more robust Disaster Avoidance solution.

Redundant Co-Lo or Facility

The current trend for IT is to centralize servers and resources for economy of scale and simplified maintenance. Since Disaster Avoidance is avoiding a complete outage, having all of your network gear in a single location is counter intuitive to this goal.

This is most important to companies that have geographically dispersed locations. Think of a restaurant chain. If they have locations all over the U.S. but all of their credit card and Point of Sale hardware is at corporate, if corporate fails, all locations lose the ability to process a transaction. Yikes!

So, many locations like the above scenario have all of their data in two locations. The primary facility will then copy or duplicate all of their data to a backup or secondary location. Sometimes this location is another one of their facilities or to another Cloud or Co-Lo location.

Generally, the above replication allows all users to automatically connect to the backup location in case the primary fails. This setup is extremely expensive and complex and difficult to maintain for most companies.

Outsource to the Cloud

Since the above solution is so expensive, it created a whole new industry! One of the compelling things about the Cloud is that it typically has inherent Disaster Avoidance built into the service. These companies use economies of scale to create multi-site facilities with just about all of the Disaster Avoidance money can buy. This is especially appealing to smaller companies that would like the Disaster Avoidance functionality but do not have the budget to build it themselves.

Unfortunately, as Amazon recently demonstrated here, even these large Cloud providers can have multi-hour outages.

Disaster Avoidance Devices

Since even the cloud can go down, how can we possibly build something to eliminate these outages. Especially in budget that a Small to Medium sized business can afford?

There are self-contained Disaster Avoidance boxes that can provide inexpensive Disaster Avoidance for on-site and cloud solutions. These devices replicate your data, Operating System and applications to their device. They then replicate the data from this device to THEIR cloud.

The best way to determine how much you need to spend on outages is to determine how much each outage costs you. This calculator from Datto is a very easy to use tool that helps with this math.

If you would like pricing on a device that can assist with Disaster Avoidance, whether you equipment is on premise or in the cloud, contact ICS today for a free consultation.

ICS also provides FREE Security IT Assessments for our clients. We can help consult on all of your IT needs. See our blog here for sample reports and details of what is provided in the assessment.

Even Cloud Providers Needs Disaster Planning- Ask Amazon

 

Even Cloud Providers have Major Outages

Managed IT HoustonJust to make sure you are aware, even cloud providers have outages. On February 28th, 2017, Amazon Web Services had an outage that lasted about four hours. You can read more about this outage here.

This just goes to prove that nothing is guaranteed not to fail. Amazon Web Services (AWC) is one of the top cloud providers in the nation and has some of the most robust redundancy and disaster planning available. Regardless, when AWC has an issue, all customers will feel the pain.

So, Should You Not Go to the Cloud?

This is absolutely NOT what we are saying. You do, however, need to be aware that outages still occur. Most people do not realize that there are ways to create disaster planning and backups to the cloud so you can continue to operate during an outage. Many of the people that do realize this, are not aware of the latest updates to technology that have made pricing much more reasonable.

So, depending on how valuable it is for you to always be up and operational (one of the reasons people move to the cloud), you may want to investigate your disaster routing plan for your cloud services.

So How Would It Work?

The most common solution that we are aware of through our Houston Managed IT Services is a product called Datto. Datto can deliver a device that you can store on site or in a CoLo. This device replicates your data from the cloud and makes it readily available for you to operate off of this device or from their cloud. For more details on this device, a quick video and some diagrams, just visit here.

Does Everyone Need to Do This?

No, just like all business decisions, you have to investigate the cost vs. reward for your business. One tool to help you analyze this is your cost per hour of not having your data accessible. A helpful tool we use all the time is located here. For pricing on such devices, you can search the web or contact our Houston Managed IT Services department. A consultant can help with pricing, design and business cases. If nothing else, you will at least understand if that 4 hours of downtime was truly costly or just a nuisance.

By contacting ICS’s Houston Managed IT Services for a proposal, you will also receive our FREE IT Security Assessment. To understand the value of this assessment, please read our blog explaining what is included with examples of the reports. As always, we are here to help. We would love to work with you on all of your Houston Managed IT Support needs!

What is Included in My Free IT Security Assessment?

Why Do We Supply FREE IT Security Assessments?

Managed IT Support HoustonSome people may wonder what their obligation is when they receive their Free IT Security Assessment. Do they have to go through high pressure sales meetings? Are there any hidden costs?

First of all, you will not have to worry about any of the above with the ICS Free IT Security Assessment. ICS believes the best way to earn someone’s trust is to demonstrate our expertise and provide a sample of what we can do for their business. The free sample we provide includes the expertise of our engineers along with the tools we have available to perform the job at an exceptional level. After all, what use is a carpenter without a hammer? To take that analogy a little further, what good does it do to have a hammer and not know what to do with it? To earn the trust and business of our desired consumers, ICS knows we must demonstrate both of these capabilities to their satisfaction.

What to Expect During Your Assessment?

 The software requires administrative rights so that we can execute it and perform our discovery. Additionally, we also need a list of all used Public Static IP addresses so we can scan for external threats.

First of all, ICS realizes that administration rights are a sensitive issue and should not be handed out blindly. ICS will request that you setup an Administrative account just for this purpose and disable it when we are done. Furthermore, many customers would like to meet ICS before they allow such a scan. ICS has IT Support in Houston, Austin and San Antonio and we are readily available for on-site visits and introductions before a scan is executed or we receive Administration credentials.

The scan only takes about 15 to 30 minutes. From there, ICS will review the results and prepare your reports. ICS will require an in person meeting to review the results. From there, you have the following options:

  • Take the reports and do nothing further

 

  • Utilize the reports and work with existing IT support to rectify issues.

 

  • Hire ICS to hep rectify any issues and continue with your current IT support team.

 

  • Hire ICS on a monthly basis to augment your current IT support to whatever extent is required.

 

  • If you do not have appropriate support, you may utilize ICS for our full Managed IT Support.

What is included in my FREE IT Security Assessment?

So, in your standard report you will receive the summary of issues with your network. Furthermore, you will actually receive two reports. The first report will be your Security Assessment summary. The second report is your Network Assessment summary. Both of these summaries are included below for your review. You will also find two links under “Example Reports” that are example assessments of both free reports.

After our assessment review, if you prefer to receive our FULL IT Security and Network reports, ICS will discuss applicable charges for that report. These reports go into the granularity of which specific device is causing the problem, network diagrams, etc… A typical full report is 250 to 550 pages.

In addition, customers that sign up for our Managed IT Support in Houston, Austin or San Antonio will receive these reports free of charge and on a semi-annual basis.   

What is included in Network Assessment?

Managed IT Support Houston Managed IT Support HoustonWhat is Included in IT Security Assessment?

 

Are There Any Hidden Fees?

Absolutely not! You will receive the below sample reports at absolutely no charge. If you sign up for ICS’s Managed IT Support in San Antonio, Austin or Houston then the charges for the full report are waived. Again, these assessments are to earn you trust and your business, not to trick someone into a fee.

Below are a few links you can click on to see sample reports of the free IT Security and Network Assessment reports.

Example Reports

Sample Report of Free Security Assessment

Sample Report of Free Network Assessment

Contact Us today to schedule your assessment!

 

 

One Question Every IT Manager Should Ask Leadership Regarding IT Support

An IT Manager Should Always Know This…

IT Manager IT Budget

To properly support an IT network, every IT Manager or IT Support company should know the budget they have to maintain the network. Most small to medium size businesses have no idea how to create an IT Budget. As an IT Manager, one simple question will begin this process. “What does leadership value as the per hour and per week cost of an IT outage?”

How Does This Help?

From this simple question an IT Manager can now backward engineer and justify appropriate spend. If the spend is becoming higher than the cost of the outage, then the spend and risk are not in alignment with leadership.

It is extremely important to document these numbers and ensure they are published to leadership in each proposal and outage. This should be done for the following reasons.

  • These numbers are hard to calculate and are sometimes provided on a “feeling” by leadership.

 

  • Since downtime can affect these feelings, having the numbers well know and published will help everyone understand why a decision was made.

 

  • Since feelings change and understands where the budget comes from, it may be appropriately adjusted when necessary.

How to Help with the Calculation

Every company needs technology, but it is utilized differently by each company. For instance, you may be a company that performs large transactions and only one to two transactions are closed each month. This means your company deals with fewer transactions and possible clients. In this scenario, it may be easy for you to:

  • Reach out to each potential client to provide alternate forms of communications
  • Close out a project manually or delay invoicing for that project

If this company does not have a lot of small transactions happening at the same time, then manually tracking each one is not that hard. In this instance, the company will probably not spend too much on up-time but may spend a lot of money on backups of historical data.

One of our favorite tools for cost of downtime is from Datto. You can use this tool to help leadership understand their overall costs in an outage.

Regardless, as an IT Manager you can assist with budgets. The general rule is to break these budgets into three different broad buckets.

Up-Time

This is the amount of time your network should be up and running based on the design you have implemented, age of equipment and disaster planning. If you do not have the tools to provide the percentages, then do a “least”, “good” and “great” budget. The great budget meaning the most up-time possible. Basically, you want to provide design costs for each of these three buckets.

Restore Time

This would be the amount of time it would take to restore the network based on different scenarios. You may have numerous scenarios you have to price for based on failure points of network design. Again, if needed, you can do the least, good and great budget it needed.

Disaster Recovery Time

This is the amount of time it would take to have your system operational if the primary network was completely destroyed. Think of a hurricane destroying a building. This is different than restore time because you are not back to 100% operational. This is how you will operate UNTIL your restore time is complete.

So, once you have your budget numbers and used a calculator to calculate outage costs, you can now help guide management towards the correct decision.

How to Present to Management

We recommend the basics here. You should use Visio, PowerPoint and Excel for your presentation. There are also tools that you can use to receive audits on existing equipment including age, RAM, storage and inventory. Below is what you would present with each tool.

Visio

 Visio is a simple and powerful tool you can use to create a visual aid for your audience. Remember, most of the time you are the most technical person in the room and pictures WILL help drive the point home. We recommend a network picture of how things work today and how they will work under the new design. Try not to put too much clutter like IP addresses, etc. in the diagram. It will be meant for a presentation, not for network documentation. In many cases your vendor helping with design can supply the Visio’s for you. Get their permission to use this in your presentation.

Excel

If you do not have another tool, Excel is the best tool for creating a Return on Investment or ROI for the customer. Below is snippet of a spreadsheet I have used to help guide people through this process.

In this spreadsheet, you insert the cost of the outage, estimated yearly hours of unplanned outages and your cost of each recommendation. From there, the Excel spreadsheet calculates if any of the recommendations make financial sense. A negative number in the Total Cost of Investment row is a “YES” and a positive number is a “NO”.

If you still need assistance calculating estimated outages or with creating an ROI tool, you can contact us here for consultation.

Houston Managed IT Support

PowerPoint

From here you should create a PowerPoint that highlights the options. It should include what objectives you are trying to fix, copy of your diagrams from Visio and a link to your Excel ROI tool. The Excel ROI tools should be a link and a working document. It is ideal if leadership is providing feedback and having you update the ROI tool. This way you know that both parties are engaged and on the same page.

Other Tools

I am a big fan of auditing tools. There are tools you can use to automatically scan your network, show age of equipment and help with any glaring issues that you may need to address when doing a budget. Again, your IT vendor should have these tools and be able to assist. If you need a free assessment, you can always request one here.

In Summary

In summary, utilizing the above tools you should be able to help leadership create an IT budget, design the proper IT solution for that budget and keep everyone on the same page. By properly documenting this process you are assisting the non-technical part of your management team understand the costs, processes and options available to create the best IT design for their business environment.

As always, you can contact ICS for free consultations and FREE IT Assessments to help with your IT needs.

 

Why Is Managed IT Support Better Than Time and Material

What Makes Managed IT A Superior Business Model?IT Services Houston

It perplexes me when a potential client is complaining about IT Support, has used 3 different IT companies, pays time and material for services and still does not want to consider Managed IT Support for their company.

The reason why so many companies are using Managed IT support is due to its various benefits over a Time and Material model. Now, just like with any other industry, you can find a poor Managed IT Services company and still have a bad experience. The difference lies in the coherent differences between the two. The natural structure of Managed IT provides more proactive service, better documentation and stability for you network.

How Does It Provide More Proactive Service?

Managed IT Service is based on the principal of a flat monthly fee for unlimited IT support. A good Managed IT company is focused on proactive services they can provide that increases the stability of your network. This, inherently, makes them more money. This is why so many of them include services like Anti-virus and Patch Management. IT experts know that Patch Management and Anti-Virus help to minimize risks and reduce the number of viruses and security threats in a company. It is much cheaper to prevent these then it is to recover from them.

Additionally, monitoring tools help Managed IT companies see issues before they arise. This allows them to better plan to prevent problems. Almost all problems have minor alarms that are sent before major alarms. If you have software analyzing this, then it prevents the catastrophe from ever happening.

Why Can’t My Time and Material Company Do This?

Sure, they can do the above also. The difference is, most Time and Material companies lack the financial incentive to do so. Why would they spend more to prevent a problem when they can spend less and make more when the problem occurs? There are always exceptional companies, but the financial incentive to be proactive is not there.

Why Does Managed IT Provide Better Documentation?

Again, it comes down to financial incentive. Sure, anyone can document. For Time and Material companies, the documentation takes longer and it is not something the customer generally wants to pay for. For Managed IT, the more they document the more long-term profit the company makes. Since they are flat fee, if they properly document the company reduces time to resolution. They can also allow lower personnel costs. With proper documentation, you can get problems resolved with various skill sets.  If it takes Time and Material 30% longer to do a task due to lack of documentation, who benefited from this?

How Does Managed IT Service Provide More Network Stability?

If you have a company who is constantly monitoring your network and makes more money the more stable your network becomes, the more likely you are to have a stable network. If the only way someone makes money is if something breaks or if you make a change, then the incentive to make the network as stable as possible is greatly reduced.

Other Benefits of Managed IT Support in Houston, Austin and San Antonio

Managed IT Services has numerous other benefits too. Since Managed IT companies have fixed monthly income, they can better predict their work force. This allows for a well-staffed department with higher end resources.

If a company is operating a Time and Material model and service tickets slow down, they have to release work force. Since it takes 3 – 4 months to find and hire quality IT, when things pick up again service will suffer.

Managed IT companies can budget the IT needs of their customers with the revenue coming in. Sure, they may release talent if they lose a large client but in most cases the good ones just focus on back filling that revenue as quickly as possible.

Managed IT companies generally have better tools to monitor, fix and stress test your network. These tools help to create a stable environment and therefore increase their profitability. When a time and material company buys a tool, they have to hope they can sell the service vs. it becoming a value add.

If you would like to speak with an ICS Account Executive about how we can improve your IT Services, please contact us here.

Sample Monthly Report

Your report could be one page or 100 pages, it just depends on what you want to see. Here is a quick summary page you could receive as a screen shot of your network health.

Managed IT Support Houston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managed IT Support Houston

Managed IT Services Houston

IT Support Austin

IT Support San Antonio

When Should I Install CAT 5e vs CAT 6 for my Data Cabling?

Data Cabling Houston CAT 6First, What is The Difference?

Before you can make an informed decision on CAT 3, CAT 5e, CAT 6, CAT 6a and CAT 7, you must first understand the difference between them. This white paper is meant to be more for the laymen and business owner who would like to make an informed decision on cabling projects. Therefore, I am removing as much technical jargon as possible.

Generally speaking, CAT 3 is for older digital or analog signals only. Basically, this means if you have computers or VoIP, you will not want to use CAT 3. CAT 3 will only transmit data at a maximum speed of 10 Base-T. These are speeds that have been considered obsolete for over 10 years.

CAT 5e allows up to 1000 Base-T speeds. This speed is also known as “Gigabit”. This speed matches the current standard shipment for the speed of your NIC (network interface card) in your computer and the  speeds of most commonly shipped data switches. CAT 5e can certify for 1GB for 100 meters (330 feet for us Americans).

CAT 6 allows data to transmit at 10G Base-T or 10 Gigabit. This is 10 x’ the speed of CAT 5e. For standard CAT 6 this speed is good for 55 Meters (about 180 feet) and 100 meters for CAT 6a. Below is table to help with the differences.

CAT 5e CAT 6 CAT 6a
Speed 1 Gig 10 Gig 10 Gig
Distance 100 meters 55 meters 100 meters
Cost $ $$ $$$

What is the most common installation?

For this article, I am dismissing CAT 3 (too old) and CAT 7 (too new and expensive) in my recommendations. The shipment of both of these is also extremely low. Currently, it is almost a 50/50 split on CAT 5e and CAT 6 cabling installations in our Houston, Austin and San Antonio markets. CAT 6a would rank third in shipments and installs.

Great- So When Do I use What?

There are many variables that go into whether you want to use CAT 5e or CAT 6 cabling. You will want to consider how long you will be in the building, where your data is located, how much data you transfer and how much you rely on wireless vs. wired transmissions. Finally, we will want to cover what network equipment you use, age of that equipment and cost considerations.

How long will you be at this location?

Technology is always changing. Cabling is infrastructure and with data you can only move as fast as your slowest link. If you sign 5 year leases and move every 5 years, then you can take a higher risk and perhaps install CAT 5e. It would be highly unlikely that technology speeds would surpass you so much in the next fire years that it would harm your business with this decision. If your company is planning on staying at your current facility for 10 years or more, we need to consider future proofing your environment with a CAT 6 or 6a deployment. With the above being said, we still have several other factors to consider.

Where is your data located?

Remember my above comment about moving as fast as your slowest link? Well, if your data is in the cloud and you have a 100 Mb Internet pipe, then ALL users are bottle necked to that 100 Mb Internet pipe. The Internet has become your slowest link. So, if you install 5e at 1000 Mb per second, it is 10 times faster than your slowest link. Furthermore, your slowest link is shared between all of your users. This means each users is probably operating at 10 Mb or so. In this scenarios, I would be more than comfortable recommending CAT 5e. Now, please keep in mind that I am saying if ALL of your data is in the cloud. If you only have e-mail in the cloud and a other applications in your office, then this recommendation may change.

How much data do you transfer?

I know, this is the one everyone has a problem answering. Data usage is something most people are not measuring. Sometimes we just have to go with our “feel” on how slow things are moving. If you want a more thorough analysis, you could always ask your IT department or outsourced IT company for their considerations. ICS has our own Managed IT department that can assist you with this analysis if needed. Just contact us here and we would be more than happy to assist.

How much do you rely on wired transmission?

As wireless becomes more and more common, some companies do not realize how many people are bypassing their wired connection. Many smaller companies are almost all wireless. If you feel your company may fit into this environment, ICS also carries a full line of Aruba and Adtran Bluesocket wireless solutions. From developing wireless coverage maps, to security and installation, ICS can assist you with your new wireless solution if you need the assistance.

Will my data equipment handle CAT 6 or CAT 6a?

If you just purchased new data switches, find out the equipment specifications.  New switches generally stay in production from 3 to 5 years. If you just bought gigabit POE switches, then you cannot transmit data faster than 1 gigabit. It goes back to only being able to move as fast as the slowest link. Since your switches are restricted to 1 gigabit, then it does not matter if you install CAT 6 or CAT 6a. You will never transmit data over 1 gig. If you are renting and plan on moving after 5 years, then CAT 6 definitely does not make sense. You will probably upgrade your data switches during the move and can upgrade the cabling at the the same time.

If you are someone who keeps your data switches until they die and do not perform replacements on a regular schedule, then CAT 6 may not be appropriate for you either.

Does CAT 5e or CAT 6 cost more?

Since CAT 6 has higher speeds, it does cost more. Basically, the higher the number after the word CAT, the higher the price of the project. Typically  there is a 10% to 20% difference between CAT 5e, CAT 6, CAT 6a and CAT 7. You are reading that correctly, currently CAT 7 can be a 40% to 60% premium over a CAT 5e installation. That premium accounts for cabling, labor and increased equipment costs that operate with the CAT 7 cabling.

So it sounds like you think everyone should use CAT 5e?

Absolutely not! As I have reviewed this blog, I realize I have dismissed CAT 6 in most cases. I am actually a big fan of CAT 6 and prefer future proofing a company. Having to cable a facility that is occupied is disruptive and expensive. If you meet the following criteria, I definitely recommend CAT 6. If you would like for ICS to look at your specific scenario for CAT 6 or CAT 5e data cabling installation in Houston, Austin or San Antonio, please contact us.

  1. You will be in your office for over 5 years.
  2. You upgrade your IT technology on a regular schedule.
  3. Most of your data resides in your office on servers.
  4. Most power users are on wired connections.

Other considerations for your cabling project

In the end, you can make a great decision on whether to use CAT 5e or CAT 6, but if you do not use a reputable company it will not matter much. Some people over simply cabling and therefore go with the cheapest solution. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Cabling for CAT 5e and CAT 6 is regulated. There are manufactures that advertise CAT 5e or CAT 6 but do not meet the regulatory requirements of the cabling. This is called counterfeit cabling. It is important that you avoid and understand what this means. Here is a simple write-up explaining counterfeit cabling and its consequences.
  2. There are people that will string a cable from point A to point B at a very low cost. They typically do not understand EMI (electrical magnetic interference) and other specifications that can effect the performance of the cabling. They generally use the equipment listed in item 1 also. Use a professional cable company that can test and certify your installation. The last thing you want is that very expensive IT person troubleshooting a cable problem on moving day!
  3. Proper labeling is on the most important parts of a cabling job. Once furniture is installed, there is nothing more frustrating than troubleshooting a cable behind a 300 lb desk. Proper labeled cabling keeps your IT staff focused on keeping the network operating, not on chasing a cable.

If you need us, we would love to help. Just reach out to us at www.ics-com.net and keep in mind that we also do VoIP, Managed IT Services, Access Control and Surveillance cameras!