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Internal IT teams: Expectation vs. Reality

Internal IT teams: Expectation vs. Reality

Growing businesses will at some point consider the possibility of recruiting an internal IT person or team. There are a number of drivers; the growing cost of technology and associated services, the increasing demands of the users, the criticality of the infrastructure and applications and the need for trusted guidance on future technology investments. These drivers are very broad in range and many assume that one person will manage all of them.

This assumption could not be further from reality. When it comes to recruiting an internal IT resource, it’s important to consider the competing expectations from within the business.

The executive will expect:

  • Advice to the board on strategic direction for the IT department
  • Management and support of complex infrastructure and multiple suppliers
  • Accountability for technology performance and security
  • 24/7 support of senior users

The various business departments will expect:

  • Line of business application support and advice
  • Accountability for performance that impacts their department

The users will expect:

  • User assurance – general advice and support for user level issues, password changes etc
  • Management of printers and peripherals
  • Crawling under desks and plugging in cables

The suppliers will expect:

  • A skilled buyer
  • Decision making

The budget for the resource is often based on efficiencies measured against the existing cost of support and/or the anticipated cost for increased service levels. This in turn determines the level at which the business recruits and leads to a dichotomy. A tech only qualified deal with low level problems will not be happy advising the board. Conversely a strategic head will not be happy crawling under desks. The compromise is to pick the middle ground; an IT manager who can manage the technology and keep most people happy, most of the time. Loved for being at the beck and call of the executive 247 but loathed for not producing the strategic IT plan. Ultimately their brief is too wide to perform successfully.

There is good justification for an internal IT resource in medium and larger businesses; when you cross the 50 user mark it can prove very cost effective. However, before you take the plunge you need to consider, in some detail, a plan to get it right and avoid those frustrations.

Things to think about:

  • Set out the expectations of all stakeholders/departments
  • Place them into groups that you feel could be reasonably dealt with by one person’s skill set
  • Budget and recruit accordingly
  • Plan on how you will fill the expectation gaps

There are few things more frustrating than a team member who fails to deliver as expected. You have a great person but they are just not doing what you want them to do. If those expectations are unreasonable then eventually that person will be dismissed for something that was not their fault. Think carefully and test all the assumptions that have taken you to the point of hiring. Then plan to get the right person on the bus and have the right seat available for them.

To discuss this topic in more detail, please get in touch.

How does paying more to an IT outsourcer save you money?

How does paying more to an IT outsourcer save you money?

When businesses first consider outsourcing IT, they are struck by two realisations. First, the cost of a comprehensive support contract is not as much as they had feared. Second, the price is still slightly more than hiring a full-time member of staff.

But as with so many business decisions, price is not the only factor to consider. Far more important are the additional benefits that the investment in outsourced IT will bring. Once these factors are considered, you will discover that paying more to an outsourcer really will save you money

1. Access to a team of experts

Employing a full-time member of staff to assist with IT issues is actually something of a gamble. As well as asking one person to take control of running your IT systems, you also expect them to help define the technology strategy for the whole business.

Spread too thin, your IT engineer will need to cut corners, implementing temporary workarounds that become permanent solutions because they lack the time and resources to develop a “proper” fix. Eventually they become a jack of all trades, managing your systems with a reasonable understanding, but never reaching true “expert” status in anything.

Choosing an outsourcing partner gives you access to a dedicated team of experts, each with their own specialism. These experts will have a much deeper understanding of your systems and how they interact. So you get a complete IT team for slightly more than employing one on-site engineer would cost.

Expertise and experience is also directly related to speed to resolution. With their in-depth knowledge, a team of outsourced experts can solve problems more quickly, reducing costly productivity loss when IT problems are encountered.

2. More informed IT investment

If your IT support demands are particularly heavy, a single member of technical staff will struggle to stay on top of new developments in the industry. They simply do not have enough time to evaluate technologies and how they can be applied to making your own business processes more efficient.

Partnering with an IT outsourcer, your business gains access to their collective knowledge of industry best practice principles and how they can be applied to your own infrastructure. Your partner will be able to guide you through the available options and suggest new technologies that will improve efficiency and reduce costs elsewhere. And because they have a deep understanding of your systems and

business goals, an IT outsourcing partner will only ever specify solutions that are fully compatible with your environment – which means you avoid wasting cash on IT investments that won’t deliver the benefits you need.

3. Improved IT compliance

As well as helping your business stay on top of new industry developments, an outsourcing partner will also make sure your systems are compliant with relevant legislation – like the Data Protection Act 1998. You can read more about why this is so important in our blog post Outsourcing and compliance – a primer .

Using an outsourcer frees up your team to focus on their core responsibilities, ensuring that resources are directed for maximum productivity and efficiency. You also greatly reduce the risk of experiencing a data breach which can carry fines of up to £500,000 – a massive potential cost saving.

Significant secondary savings

IT outsourcing is not an insurance policy. An insurance policy is only used when something goes wrong, but an IT outsourcing agreement is actually a partnership. Both you and your outsourcer have a vested interest in building and maintaining an IT platform for success. In effect, they become an extension of your own organisation.

The promise of easy access to several IT experts with the insight and experience to build a future-proof IT strategy is more than worth the small additional cost of an outsourcing agreement.

To learn more specifics about the cost savings available through IT outsourcing, please get in touch

Why would you choose a hosted desktop?

Why would you choose a hosted desktop?

As businesses become more comfortable with using Cloud services, the rate of adoption has accelerated. As well as more traditional hosted applications – like Microsoft Office 365 – organisations have the option to outsource even more of their operating environment, including the humble desktop PC.

A hosted desktop session looks and acts just like the PC on your desk. The difference is that the whole system runs in the Cloud – and you connect to a “session” over the internet. You still need a device to connect to your hosted desktop, but you can use any compatible PC, laptop or tablet. You can even use a smartphone in an emergency.

So why would you choose a hosted desktop deployment?

Increased productivity

The key benefit any new technology should give you is a boost in productivity. Hosted desktops help your employees work smarter by ensuring they have the same applications and data available wherever they are in the world.

Consider what happens whenever it snows in the UK. Travel chaos and untreated roads will prevent your employees from making it into the office. But with hosted desktops they can connect to their “work” PC from home and carry on as normal. For every employee able to work in this way, you regain one day of productivity.

Reduced support and administration costs

The fact that their computer “follows” them wherever they go means that everything is exactly where your employees expect to find it. Hosted desktops will finally kill off the dreaded “I’ve lost my desktop icons” support calls that waste time and resources.

Creating hosted desktop sessions for your users is also incredibly easy. You can “clone” sessions, copying all of the applications, permissions and preferences with just a few mouse clicks. Which is much, much faster than installing software directly onto a traditional PC.

There is also the added advantage of outsourced support. When you choose On Line Computing as your hosted desktop provider, we also take responsibility for keeping the underlying infrastructure running. Which is one less administrative task for your team.

Less frequent upgrade cycles

The hosted desktop system runs on Cloud servers, so all of the processing is handled away from your devices. This means that as long as the device is capable of displaying the screen output, it can be used for work. It also means that you can use the newest applications on a PC that could not normally keep up with the specified resource demands, even resource hungry 3D applications.

If your business sticks with its current on-desk PC infrastructure, you will probably need to upgrade regularly. In some cases you may need to upgrade every three years. Hosted desktops can increase the period between upgrades – potentially five years or more. The longer the gap between upgrades, the greater the savings you can realise on your capital IT investment.

Boosted security

Although hosted desktops act like standard PCs, they have the added benefit of being stored in our UK based datacentres, protected by enterprise grade security systems. So the data held in your hosted sessions is extremely secure.

Outsourcing your PC infrastructure also avoids the need to open connections from your company network to the outside world. Although VPN connections have helped businesses to increase their mobility over the years, every external connection also represents a potential data risk. With everything in the Cloud, there’s no need at all to open access to employees working from home.

The OPEX computing future

Switching to hosted desktops allows your business to leverage greater computing power and reduce your IT headaches. Instead of making significant capital investments in IT hardware, you can simply rent the desktop sessions you need for your employees. So you can scale up and down in line with changing demand.

If your organisation is serious about boosting performance and future-proofing your IT, please give us a call and let us show you what hosted desktop technology can do for your business. If you like what you hear, we have demo and Proof-of-Concept options available.

Overcoming the skills shortage with IT outsourcing

Overcoming the skills shortage with IT outsourcing

Businesses already know the value of IT for saving time, automating certain tasks, and for simplifying communications. They are also aware that new technologies present opportunities to magnify these improvements. But there are two major problems.

First, new technologies tend to be quite expensive. Buying servers built around the newest processors are exponentially more costly than units that are a generation behind for instance. But where the systems deliver significant improvements, your CFO may authorise the purchase.

The second challenge is actually harder to address. Your IT team needs to upgrade their skills if they are to properly manage and maintain new applications or systems – which means a lag between deployment and full operational efficiency as they are trained.

Unfortunately, choosing to use cutting edge new technologies, means that there is a very limited pool of candidates from whom your company can recruit.

A skills shortage can derail your growth plans

Knowing that their skills are rare, these IT professionals can demand a premium salary. This further increases the baseline cost of your upgrade programme – potentially to the point where your CFO changes their mind, and the project is cancelled. According to the UK Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs in the tech sector have been forced to increase wages by 18.8% between 2016 and 2016 to attract talent – and those industries outside IT may have to pay even more to lure quality candidates.

For smaller companies, the combination of costs and scarcity rules them out of the running, leaving their larger, richer competitors to take advantage. Eventually the imbalance becomes too great, so that SMEs cannot compete meaningfully at all. Your growth could be severely limited too.

Outsourcing to the rescue

Once outsourcing provisions are set up correctly, there’s a good chance that your business doesn’t actually need a dedicated specialist for each new technology. There will be regular maintenance and tweaks required – but what will a dedicated technical employee do for the rest of the week?

In most cases outsourcing provides the balance you need. By partnering with an IT outsourcer, your business can tap into their pool of experts, from initial deployment, through to end user support and system maintenance. This team of specialists will apply their skills to your IT upgrade projects.

Using a third party allows you to avoid the costs associated with hiring a new member of staff; National Insurance contributions, recruitment agency fees, training, remuneration package and benefits. And the expense of under-utilised capacity also becomes the problem of the outsourcer.

You get to use fully-supported cutting edge technologies to drive your business forward, but without the usual staffing headaches that accompany these projects.

Taking outsourcing to the next level

Another way to combat the skills gap is to completely outsource your IT infrastructure. Instead of purchasing new systems and software for use in your office, you could choose a hosted equivalent running in the Cloud.

In this scenario, you get access to systems that are upgraded as new versions are released, ensuring you are always at the cutting edge. More compelling still is the realisation that upgrades are included as part of your subscription license – as is the team of experts required to keep the system running.

Under the Cloud computing model, your company never has to deal with the costs associated with running enterprise grade infrastructure – hardware purchases, software licensing, or the technical staff to keep the lights on. Best of all, your business will never be held back by a skills shortage again.

To learn more about outsourcing, Cloud IT and how they can be applied to your business goals, please get in touch

How to lock down data security outside the network perimeter

How to lock down data security outside the network perimeter

Flexible working arrangements mean that your workforce is becoming increasingly mobile. Previously your IT team needed only deal with data access requests from the field sales team, but the number of remote workers is growing.

Freelancers, homeworkers and “I just need access to my files so I can do some work in the evening”-types all require access to key data and applications. And that’s before you start looking at Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives that see your IT team supporting employees’ personal devices.

Every single network attached device represents a very real security risk – particularly as employees carry more corporate data stored on each. Which means that criminals have a multitude of potential attack points.

So how do you overcome these challenges without breaking your budget?

Reduce the amount of data being transported

Data stored on mobile devices is extremely vulnerable to loss or theft. A mislaid smartphone could, in the right hands, completely compromise your company’s intellectual property. So you need to take steps that limit the amount of data being held on these remote devices.

Cloud file storage

Office 365 gives remote workers access to key productivity tools – but it also comes with dedicated Cloud storage to hold your files. Because the data is held in the Cloud, the loss or theft of a device means that the data is not lost.

Office 365 has the added benefit of using Microsoft’s data centres, which means that your files are protected by enterprise-grade security provisions. Even more helpfully, Microsoft are fully responsible for maintaining security – so you get all the benefits, with none of the overheads.

You will find that moving core business applications into the Microsoft Azure Cloud delivers similar advantages, your data is secured off site, and is accessible anywhere at any time. And because you have outsourced the underlying infrastructure, the costs of managing and maintaining hardware falls to the service provider too.

Location of data is an important consideration as well.  Just because data is in the cloud, doesn’t mean you don’t, or shouldn’t, care about where its is.  Microsoft recently announced the opening of their first UK data centres meaning businesses can be more comfortable knowing exactly where their data is stored.

Hosted desktops

Hosted desktops are a great way to standardise your operating environment. Whether connecting from the office, at home, or using a mobile device on the road, a consistent computing experience does wonders for productivity – everything is right where your users expect it.

And because all the data accessed via hosted desktop is stored in that session, none of it is downloaded to the user’s device. If they lose their tablet, or a burglar steals their home PC, corporate data remains safely stored in the Cloud, away from prying eyes.

And just like Office 365, all of the hosted desktop data is stored in an enterprise-class Cloud data centre located in the UK, protected by industry standard security provisions. By outsourcing management of your PC environment to On Line Computing, resources are freed up for maintaining other key aspects of your IT infrastructure.

Enforce the rules

You can also restrict what happens on mobile devices using Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools. By enrolling smartphones in the platform, you can apply security settings, such as enforcing password controls to unlock the device, or remotely wiping devices that are lost or stolen. You can even limit the apps being installed on a device to prevent information being leaked.

On Line Computing’s MDM solution operates entirely in the Cloud, so there’s no need for additional investment in hardware or software. And like all the other Cloud solutions discussed here, the responsibility for managing the back-end of the system lies with our team of expert engineers. And we’re always on hand to provide help and guidance on using the system too.

To learn more about how to secure your data in the age of the mobile workforce, please give us a call

Compliance implications of Outsourcing your IT

Compliance implications of Outsourcing your IT

Outsourcing your IT – The Compliance Primer

One of the biggest complaints many SME owners have about “doing business” is the amount of red tape they are bound by. Tax law, employment law, and industry regulations all add to the administrative burden – and running costs.

But every British business is also expected to uphold the Data Protection Act 1998. This key piece of legislation demands that every organisation protect any personal data they hold, whether it belongs to clients or employees. According to Principle 7 of the Act

Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.

This is good news for anyone with personal data stored in your systems – but it also adds to the overheads of maintaining your IT systems.

As you would expect, there are some very good reasons for maintaining compliance. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has the power to levy fines of up to £500,000 for every security breach that results in personal data being exposed for instance.

They also have the option to “name and shame” organisations for failing to protect their customers, which could prove extremely costly for your business. 58% of consumers will avoid a provider that has recently experienced a data or security breach

Do you understand “appropriate”?

The issue of data security becomes even more confusing when you try to decide what “appropriate” actually means. Because the Data Protection Act doesn’t actually specify what the Information Commissioner’s Office would deem acceptable.

This apparent vagueness is intended to cope with changes in technology that will allow new, more effective safeguards to be in place. The security systems available when the act was passed in 1998 could not possible cope with modern cyberattacks for instance. Instead SMEs are expected to use their best judgement, performing an assessment of the security measures required on a case-by-case basis.

All of which makes managing compliance even more complicated.

Outsource IT management, obtain compliance assistance

The rate of technology development means that trying to stay informed is almost a full-time job. And knowing how those technologies are applied to making your operations more efficient and compliant is an expert job.

For smaller businesses it generally isn’t practical to employ a full-time IT engineer however. Although your IT issues are genuine and pressing, there probably aren’t enough to keep someone occupied all day every day. But there probably is too much for one person to solve problems and define security strategy.

Outsourcing IT can help to solve both of these problems in one. As well as having resources at your disposal to assist with resolving technical problems, you also gain access to a dedicated team of industry professionals. These experts are able to apply their knowledge and experience to ensuring your IT security provisions provide maximum compliance.

An ongoing service

Preparing your network for maximum data security compliance is not a one-off job, just as the Data Protection Act suggests. With an ongoing outsourcing agreement, your IT support partner can conduct regular reviews into your data protection provisions, and suggest improvements. They can also identify new technologies that they are aware of that will help to further improve the security of your network.

This approach is in line with the guidance supplied by the ICO regarding Principle 7 compliance;

The Act does not require you to have state-of-the-art security technology to protect the personal data you hold, but you should regularly review your security arrangements as technology advances. As we have said, there is no “one size fits all” solution to information security, and the level of security you choose should depend on the risks to your organisation.”

If you lack the skills and resources to carry out these reviews in-house, you will need a trusted third party to assist. Because failing to conduct regular reviews is not an option.

To discover if outsourcing your IT is right for you and your business, have a read of our Comprehensive Guide to Outsourced IT and read all about the pros and cons.