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!

Ransomware strikes again…

Security 3d words to illustrate information technology concepts and concerns for people working in the i.t. field in maintaining or administrating business networks

With the constant news regarding ransomware, I am  floored by how many companies are not protecting their company through regular security audits and properly managed anti-virus. Here is another example posted by Eweek. So this week alone we have had hackers lock people in their hotel rooms and take control of our Washington’s surveillance camera!

Feel free to contact ICS to schedule a free security audit for your organization. It will help ensure you are following best IT practices and minimize the risk your business takes on a day to day basis. You can contact us here to schedule the assessment.

http://www.eweek.com/security/ransomware-takes-out-70-percent-of-washington-dc-security-cameras.html

If you would like to learn more about ICS’s Managed IT Services you can read about it here or watch our video that provides a simple, straight foward explanation of our services without you having to read anymore of my blabbing 🙂

 

Does Managed IT Support Make Financial Sense for Your Company?

What Exactly is Managed IT Support?

Managed IT Support is the practice of outsourcing your company’s IT support to a third-party company for a flat fee. If you would like a to view a simplified video on what Managed IT is, here is a great little video that explains it very well. Like all outsourcing, there are pros and cons for different companies and scenarios.

During this article, we will provide you tools to determine if Managed IT Support may be a good fit for your organization. You will find a 5-question survey to determine a basic score of how well you fit the Managed IT model. There is also a Return on Investment tool that will let you know if it makes financial sense for you to outsource Managed IT Support, a pros and cons analysis of the service and then some additional tools we have available for your use. Although we would love for you to contact us for Managed IT Support in Houston, Austin or San Antonio, these tools are meant to be unbiased and productive tools to help you make an informed decision.

ICS Managed IT Support Quiz

Does Your Company Fit the Managed IT Model?

As a business owner of a Managed IT company, I will be honest- I wish every company was a good fit for Managed IT Services. In reality, some companies are a great fit and some are not. Since Managed IT services are on a fixed rate, it is important that the fit is good for both the service provider and the customer. Here is a link to our 5-question quiz that will help determine if Managed IT Support is a good fit for your organization.

After you take the quiz, you will receive real time results. We will also follow-up with your percentage score compared to your peers via e-mail.   Contact us here if you would like to review the information directly with someone at ICS.

Does Managed IT Make Financial Sense?

Since this is the title of our blog, it would make sense to cover this topic thoroughly  😀 Managed IT rates vary per company and services that you select. The below table will provide you an example of a 50 computer/5 server company pricing model compared to Managed IT Support. Keep in mind that a large portion of IT customers have on-site IT support and utilize Managed IT to augment those services. The below tools provide you a pretty good representation of possible costs scenarios. If you are looking for a tool you can edit and insert your own numbers, ICS provides these at no charge. Simply contact us if you are interested in them. These proprietary tools are not published for public access.

Customer Environment Qty Managed IT Services Additional IT Staff
Computers + Servers 55 $2,375 per month – $3,375 is a good estimate (depends on services and MIT providers pricing model $6,667 per month ($80K Annual Salary)
Placement Costs assuming 15% placement firm costs $0 $12,000 one-time
Benefits assuming 25% of salary Included $20,000 per year
Total Annual Costs $28,000 to $40,000 $100,000
Total One-Time Costs $0 $12,000

This is a possible savings of $72,000 to $84,000 per year. Now, there are some assumptions we need to consider. Maybe there is project work or setup fees that need to be considered in our analysis. Our full calculator has the ability to adjust and account for these variables. Just a friendly reminder to contact us if you would like a copy! Now, as promised we need to have a realistic view of the pros and cons of Managed IT Support so we will cover that next.

Pros and Cons of Managed IT

As we first stated, Managed IT Support is not for every business. Since we have been doing this for years, we have a pretty good idea of what works and what does not work well when it comes to Managed IT Support. Below you will find our notes and ideas on the advantages and disadvantages. If you feel that our list is incomplete, please post a comment in our blog. We would love to discuss this with you in more detail.

  Managed IT Support On-Site IT
Accessibility Real Time help desks are generally more readily available for work that can be performed remotely (which is more common in IT). If you need the person in your office every day, you really need on-site IT. Some companies have both because they need the person on-site but then outsource other things instead of hiring additional staff.
Knowledge Set You receive a team of professionals with varied experience. This is helpful if you have varied equipment and applications. It depends on how large the IT department is. If it is a one-man department, you are limited to that person’s knowledge.
Vacation Coverage With a solid Managed IT company, you will have people who can backup other people during vacations, turnover and illnesses. Again, this depends on the size of your IT department. If you have 2 people, any time there is an issue you are missing 50% of your staff. If you only have one person…
Turnover Expense This is covered with Managed IT. If you have a bad Managed IT company, they may have high turnover. If so, look at a more stable provider. What is the cost to your company for lack of IT coverage during turnover? How long does it take to fill a position?
Proactive Monitoring This should come with your Managed IT Services and is a service that supports a lot of clients so it is monitored and generally more reliable. This is an additional expense that may or may not be handled through existing IT. There are free tools that get you 80% of the way there or maybe your company pays for it. Either way, it comes into your ROI calculations.
Anti-Virus A mass scaled and monitoring anti-virus platform for all customers that is monitored and updated regularly. This is another place you may receive a return on investment. If you are paying for anti-virus it is included in Managed IT. On the other side, maybe you need a specific product because it works best with your software programs and exceptions.
Windows Patch Management This is something included with Managed IT. It is monitored and you receive reports much like anti-virus. Now you can see how you are doing and what your Patch score is. Generally, you have to purchase a tool to do this effectively. You can leave it up to each user but that leaves you very vulnerable for security threats. If you have purchased something, this is another place for an ROI.
Ticketing System A ticketing system is included for you to measure tickets, trending on tickets, health of network and tracking of SLA’s. Once again, you may have invested in something like this. There are always annual fees so it is another ROI opportunity. Unless you are a large company, generally you do not have this luxury.
Documentation A good Managed IT company always documents. Good documentation increases productivity and profitability of the company. This depends on the individual and what software you have provided them for proper documentation.
Status Quo If you are not happy with a Managed IT company, it is pretty easy to switch at the end of the contract term. You can also hire an IT person while you have Managed IT, train them and then terminate the company if you prefer to move that direction. Letting go of people can always be problematic. Many times, owners deal with sub-par IT because they do not know how to hire, train or do not want to deal with the turnover. Basically, they feel it is more painful to deal with turnover because they do not have a readily available option.

Other IT Tools and Resources

ICS has other resources and tools to help you make an informed decision on whether Managed IT is a good fit for your organization. One of our most popular tools is our free IT Assessment tools that will run a security audit on your network and provide an industry standard practices that may need to be implemented on your network. We do not charge for your first site assessment so schedule yours as soon as possible. Thank you for taking the time to read our blog! If you have any comments or recommendations, please feel free to contribute in the below comment box.

Why Move from Avaya to Mitel VoIP with ICS?

Avaya Files Chapter 11- What Now?

If you have an Avaya VoIP phone system, you are probably already aware of the recent news. After years of financial woes and restructuring, Avaya has filed Chapter 11. So, you may be asking, “What are my realistic options?”

Option 1- Risk It with Avaya

If you just purchased your VoIP system, phones are not that important to your business or you have a small deployment that does not take much planning to replace, you may elect to stay with your Avaya phones. If you choose this path, it is still advised to come up with a business plan. There is no guarantee that they will be able to successfully restructure. Even if they do successfully restructure, the service and product innovation will suffer for years to come. Feel free to Contact ICS for budgetary numbers on Mitel VoIP. This is a free service that will allow you to know the options and features available today so that you can plan for tomorrow!

Option 2- Upgrade to a New VoIP Solution

Perhaps you have an old phone system that needs an upgrade anyway? Maybe phones are critical to your organization? Perhaps your company is so large that replacement will take a substantial amount of time? At this point, it would make sense to utilize Mitel’s “Avaya to Mitel” upgrade path to get a new business phone system. Smart and strong manufacturer’s generally have aggressive pricing to increase market share during times like these.

If you are considering the cloud, ICS has a Mitel built cloud solution for your organization. By contacting an ICS account representative, you can receive a free VoIP Assessment that provides you statistics on how well a cloud VoIP system will perform for your organization. Below is an example of the summary report you would receive from this test. ICS can then examine the full report to see what issues you may need to fix BEFORE you implement your new VoIP business system in Houston, Austin or San Antonio.

VoIP Assessment

 

So Why Mitel VoIP and ICS?

In the fast-changing world of VoIP business systems, it is important to choose reliable, stable providers that can serve you for years to come (Avaya users can attest to this).

ICS and Mitel are both financially stable organizations. Mitel is known for its innovation and growth. ICS is known for its outstanding levels of service and high quality engineers. Whether your company is considering having a VoIP phone system installed in your office or in the cloud, ICS can design the appropriate Mitel solution for your business.

Mitel’s Innovation

Did you know Mitel is the only VoIP telephone system provider that is in all 5 of Gartner’s Magic Quadrants? Below is a chart showing Mitel vs. other VoIP providers. If you are not familiar with Gartner’s research, visit them here.

Avaya and Mitel VoIP Gartner Quadrant

 

Through Mitel’s innovation and growth, they are leading the industry with over 60 million endpoints deployed!

About ICS

ICS has continued to grow in the VoIP segment. For over 35 years, ICS has provided high quality technologies to businesses. By focusing on solutions that improve organizations, ICS is able to deploy solutions that drive your business’s bottom line. ICS has a strong focus on customer service, training and high-quality engineers so you know that you will receive the customer service you are looking for.

Below is an example of one of our business tracking mechanisms for customer service. This particular method tracks customer service satisfaction with every e-mail that goes through our office. Reach out to an ICS Representative today to engage with a friendly, professional and thorough technology company to handle your needs.

Managed IT Service Levels

Perhaps you need more than a phone system? No problem. ICS is also a provider of Managed IT Support, Data and Voice Cabling, Video Conferencing and Video Surveillance solutions.

Below is a simple white board video explaining our Managed IT services, VoIP business solutions and other services. We would love to hear from you to discuss what we can do for your business. Contact Us today!