Budget for EOL in 2019

It’s that time of year again.

October is budget season. Advertising, hiring costs and accounting services may be high on your list, but have you factored system updates into your 2019 budget? It may not already be on your radar, but Microsoft Office has announced that Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 End-of-Life will be January 14, 2020.

Did you Know?

System replacement can be a huge expense and undertaking, especially in small to midsize businesses. Such an undertaking, in fact, that it is tempting to ignore the problem altogether. However, that’s not a temptation you want to indulge! When Microsoft deems a product “end-of-life”, they no longer release security patches and updates. That means that every end-of-life operating system you have becomes a security risk. Hackers and malicious software creators know this. If you have regulatory compliance concerns, continuing to operate with these systems beyond their support lifespan will most likely put you out of compliance.

Given the challenges of year end and a new year, Dataworks recommends that all Server 2008 and Windows 7 systems be replaced well before the end of 2019.

Here are 4 Ways to Prepare For Windows 7 and Server 2008 End-of-Life Now

  • Identify what systems need to be upgraded. Older hardware and equipment may be unable to support operating system upgrades, and so we recommend system replacement rather than merely updating the operating system.
  • Develop a timeline and budget for system replacements now. If preparing for Windows 7 and 2008 End-of-Life are not there already, it’s time to get them in your 2019 budget. The sooner you can begin to plan for this transition, the more strategic you can be in budgeting.
  • If any old systems are business-critical and your business must run old systems, work with your IT provider to ensure that appropriate security measures are in place, namely segmentation. However, running outdated software and OS is never recommended.
  • Train employees in the new software. Training should accompany rollouts and your IT provider should offer training with new systems.

Budgets and end-of-year checklists are a headache. Taxes and paperwork aren’t even the tip of the iceberg. As a small to midsize business, you have to think about end-of-year bonuses and commissions, getting employees up to speed about their FSA funds, rounding out 401(k) contributions. The bottom line is, you do not want to be worrying about system replacements on top of year-end tasks. Start now on your system replacement plans.

As you add the final touches to your business’ 2019 budget, make sure to account for the replacement of any end of life systems as well as other technology platforms that need improvement. Consider outsourcing your IT to ensure these upgrades are done correctly and timely.  If you and your business are looking for assistance preparing for Windows 7 and Server 2008 End-of-Life, or improving any of your technology platforms, give us a call.

Make Your Construction Company Mobile – Like This Seattle Company

As the owner of a construction company, you must have your finger on the pulse of your projects. Not having an accurate picture of where you are in a project cycle and how the project is doing can be disastrous. When your projects don’t run smoothly, vendors don’t get paid and will stop working, critical deadlines are not met and sometimes jobsites grind to a halt. Without the visibility offered by mobile and web-based solutions, project managers have to wait for the other shoe to drop.  Costs get out of hand, turnover increases and invoicing is a constant challenge.

Construction companies increase their mobility

For one Eastside civil construction company, public works projects were not being executed as effectively or efficiently as they could be. Their off-site administration limped along with inconsistent connectivity and fragmented communication between project managers, field employees and the head office. As a result, their bottom line took a beating.

This client is not alone. These issues are the same for many construction companies we speak with. Half the company is in the main office and the other half is out on numerous job sites. Everyone needs to access files and share updates. To further complicate matters, time sheets, billing, emails and project documents are all housed on different platforms or accomplished manually. The next thing you know, you have duplicated efforts, miscommunication, and a lack of insight into projects. Management couldn’t make decisions easily, as they lacked real-time data. Employee time sheets weren’t always received on time and project managers wasted valuable billable hours sending and finding project information. The inefficiencies ultimately created increased costs, delayed their ability to bill for projects, caused frustration and left gaps.

As this company increased their project load and the mobility of their staff, their technology lagged. They needed a solution that could keep up with the pace of their business.

Mobile device management boosts construction project management

Using tablets with critical apps allows the company to estimate, design, manage and bill for projects in near real-time, whether they are in the main office or on the job site 45 minutes away.

With their new mobility tools, projects sites became an extension of the office. Executives could communicate effectively with site managers and in return, got real-time information that provided an accurate picture of job progress and milestones. Their project execution sped up and daily issues decreased. Project information was accessible from anywhere, employees could update time sheets from mobile devices, and project managers could accomplish everything as if they were at the corporate office.

Dataworks also worked with the company to develop acceptable use policies on company devices, restricting the use of personal apps, keeping track of devices and instructing staff on how to protect the devices from theft. Since construction sites are notorious for being hard on their devices (an employee leaving an iPad on the hood of a truck and driving off is not a far-fetched story) Dataworks outfitted the devices with sturdy protective cases as well.

We’ve worked with several clients in the trades and we understand the business. Dataworks has the expertise to develop a complete mobile management strategy that addresses your unique challenges, needs and goals. Your company is already mobile and there are a lot of risks and inefficiencies inherent in your mobility. The best strategy includes the technology needed to be more efficient and reduce costs, as well as the procedures that control how employees handle devices and data.

Is your company already mobile? Make it work better for you with our help. Contact us online or call us at (425) 687-6185.

Every Effective Mobile Strategy Includes 6 Key Things

Employees using mobile devices at work is the new workplace reality, no matter what industry you’re in. This dependency on mobile devices means your company will experience the unique challenges and opportunities that “going mobile” brings. In the construction industry, you are already managing multiple job sites, remote employees and an ever-increasing amount of data. Adding mobile devices to the mix requires a new strategy to bring it all together, allowing you to seamlessly grow.

Whether your company’s data is on employee mobile devices already, or your company is moving in that direction, employees need quick access to emails, documents and applications.

If done right, going mobile lets you communicate with all your job sites, increase productivity and keep company information from getting into the hands of malicious hackers or after an employee separates from the company. If Mobile Data Management (MDM) isn’t on your radar, it should be. MDM is a major component in today’s tech-driven business ecosystem. It includes inventory control of devices, greater access to data on-the-go and better communication out in the field.

Employee turnover is often high in the construction industries. Not only that, but theft is a common occurrence on job sites. Job trailers and vehicles get broken into and devices left unattended walk off.

If you have mobile devices in use, it’s important to build a stronger mobile strategy to manage multiple job sites, communicate in the field and increase security.

Consider These 6 Key Things to Include in Your Mobile Management Strategy

1. Maintain control of company data. Company data on mobile devices (both personal and office issued) such as tablets, laptops and smart phones needs to be protected. You can control data on employee devices by limiting and increasing access options, and you can remotely wipe specific data in the event of device theft or employee turnover. This creates stronger barriers to malicious access.

2. Have consistent security measures in-office and on job sites. Your company should have the same security measures and requirements whether an employee is in the office or at different job sites. Password and device use policies are critical.

3. Keep track of devices with remote location tracking capabilities. Theft and employees leaving the company will have less impact if you can remotely track down equipment and immediately wipe data from phones, tablets and laptops when it walks away.

4. Communicate seamlessly with the field. Mobile can be a great tool to enhance communication across multiple job sites. Project managers and superintendents can use email communications with the main office, access documents and track project details without stepping foot into a trailer or having to spend twice the amount of time keying information into a computer at the end of the day.

5. Increase productivity even when you aren’t there to supervise. Your mobile devices should be setup to not include non-work-related apps on company phones and offer easier access to company emails, apps and data. Employees can track their hours, communicate faster and get more work done faster with critical data at their fingertips. Work gets done more efficiently with access to Office 365, email and business applications like time tracking and project management apps on their devices.

6. Protect the outside too. While mobile device management often focuses on the management of what’s on the device and how the device is used, it’s important to get a durable, sturdy protective case that can take as much of a beating as your crew is likely to dish out.

Mobile management can give your company the flexibility of employee mobility while keeping key company data secure. As your company grows, so does your need for mobility. You increase the number of remote offices and job sites, you have more employees working in the field and you have a lot more devices to keep track of and protect.

Whether you are aware of it or not, mobile device management is already an important part of your business – impacting your bottom line from the field with mobile devices becoming the standard in communication and data access points. Relying on mobile devices can feel like a challenge or they can be used to a company’s advantage with the right strategy. Make them your advantage.

Dataworks offers affordable mobility solutions that won’t disrupt your company. Contact us online or call (425) 687-6185.

Successful Woman-Owned Dataworks Consulting Celebrates 16 Years

Dataworks consulting owner and CEO, Caroline Smith

Caroline Smith leads Seattle-based Information Technology company across gender barriers

Newcastle, WA, February 2018 — a woman-owned leading provider of technology services and support throughout the Puget Sound region, is celebrating 16 years strong. Founded in 2002, the company employs a diverse team of professionals with nearly 150 years of combined industry experience and operates with a clear mission: to empower small businesses through leveraging technology.

“Our continued success is a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our
diversified staff, which sometimes proved difficult in a male-dominated industry,” said visionary Caroline Smith, Founder and CEO. “Women in IT were not always accepted, but now being woman-owned is a major advantage. Our points of contact at client sites are two-thirds women, and they feel more comfortable talking to us and connecting with us, as opposed to even a male-led shop.”

Over the last 16 years, Dataworks has grown into a full service and comprehensive managed service provider, using a holistic approach to technology support. With
specialists covering every aspect of technology, from network design to Cloud services, each member of the team brings their own extensive and unique industry experience.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what Dataworks has achieved over these years,” continued Smith, “and I look forward to what the next 15 years brings.”



3 Hidden Costs IT Managed Services Providers Uncover

Female business owner is surprised to see the costs that having Managed IT services have saved her

As a business owner, you know recurring IT issues affect your bottom line. You may also know the benefits of switching to a managed IT services provider but are hesitant because of the cost and the lack of room for it in your budget.

Maybe you worry that time spent switching providers won’t be worth the investment. Or perhaps you already have an “IT guy” who you call when something goes wrong, and beyond that you don’t give it much thought.

While operational efficiency and increased security are always priorities, return on investment (ROI) now ranks as a top concern for small businesses. Even the latest trend analysis shows that organizations proactively seek higher ROI from managed services than what they can achieve with “do-it-yourself” IT.

Here are 3 reasons IT Managed Services Providers can eliminate hidden costs:

One IT expert can’t be good at everything – a team can

With technology evolving daily, you can’t count on one person for all your IT needs. Freeing up internal staff time to devote to higher value projects increases overall productivity and ultimately leads to a higher ROI. A full-service partner like Dataworks gives you access to a deep pool of experts well versed in the latest technology. Whether you need an expert who knows Microsoft or can get you into the cloud or who can explain the latest solutions that are benefiting your industry, it’s virtually impossible to hire someone who is adept in all the areas of expertise you need. Something will be left behind, and your business will pay for that absence.

Downtime increases employee frustration – IT managed services providers reduce downtime

Old equipment and recurring issues can take a toll on employees. You’re doing a major disservice to your staff when you fail to empower them with the tools they need to be successful. Why not spend those dollars on proactive solutions that eliminate ambiguity and provide a clear path forward? With a solution like OneCare from Dataworks, IT costs are more predictable, and our priority planning helps you budget for things like faster internet, extra monitors, automation and training that will maximize efficiency during the workday. Not having this level of planning is a hefty opportunity cost.

You could be teetering on the brink of disaster – and not know. How much will that cost?

Managed IT services is like health insurance for your business. Initially, you may have a hard time swallowing a new cost you can’t immediately realize. One surprise trip to the emergency room, though, leaves you singing a different tune. Opting for a break/fix solution because it’s cheaper on paper is like opting out of health insurance. One data breach, server fail or major virus could leave you with a bill that far surpasses your yearly tech budget. Your IT systems and data are vital assets, and you need to invest in their care or you will be facing bigger bills down the road.

It’s hard to quantify the total cost of lost time, slowed productivity and employee frustration. However, the cumulative effect adds up in the long run. Updating your technology and eliminating recurring IT issues is just the change you may need.

Who doesn’t want more return on investment for their IT budget? Contact Dataworks Consulting  at (425) 687-6185 to see how we can get you there.

Can Technology Increase Productivity?

man showing how technology can hurt productivity or technology can help productivity

Technology is now one of the key drivers – or detriments – of productivity. The reason is simple. Productivity is time. Time is money. Employees goofing off on Facebook, playing online poker or watching Netflix are wasting valuable company dollars.

But that’s far from being the most common scenario where technology is causing a loss of productivity.

Think about this: technology is needed for most jobs. Recurring issues with technology hurt productivity and profits on an incremental basis. Manufacturers can’t run their floor because a computer is down. Medical offices can’t schedule patients for appointments or run an ultrasound machine. Retailers can’t check inventory or process payments. Over and over again, this causes large-scale pains businesses often don’t recognize.

These scenarios might sound all-too-familiar but consider the cumulative impact they have on your employees.

It frustrates them. It drives away top talent. It leaves them doing things that are outside the scope of their expertise. Consider the bookkeeper who must troubleshoot the office printer all the time, or the office admin who has a computer lock up every time he tries to book appointments.

When technology is throwing a wrench in your daily operations, it’s negatively impacting your company culture as much as your bottom line.  You are communicating to your staff that you are not invested in them being successful. Or, that you simply don’t care. It adds stress and frustration to their day unnecessarily and that slows them down and burns out their sense of motivation and desire to do well.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have technology that can increase productivity for your staff, such as:

There are several ways technology could help you instead of hurting you. The first and most important step is to stop ignoring your technology until it breaks down.

What we recommend to increase productivity

1. Stabilize your network. Get a managed IT services company to come and fix obvious issues so your employees can do their jobs.

2. Have a third-party ground-up assessment. This needs to be conducted by someone other than your current IT person, so you can spot all the issues they aren’t addressing across your network. Often little tweaks like adding more RAM or re-configuring your server can make a world of difference in the performance of your systems.

3. Take better care of your IT. A fixed-fee managed IT service like our OneCare offers the ultimate in affordable peak performance for your network. With OneCare, we do everything from optimizing your network and maintaining your systems to working with your vendors and you to spot opportunities to maximize your efficiency. From running diagnostic tools to managing your service contracts, we manage your IT services, so your employees have the tools they need to work at their peak performance.

Technology should help your productivity, not slow your workers down. Get your employees working at peak efficiency by tuning up your network and using a service that keeps it working at optimal efficiency around the clock.

Contact Dataworks Consulting for a comprehensive network assessment and see exactly where your technology is hurting productivity.

Inside Intel Meltdown/Specter

Meltdown sign showing the dangers of Intel Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities for businesses

Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of processors, has discovered a vulnerability in their processor design that could affect devices manufactured back as far as 20 years, according to GeekWire Magazine.

The Problem

Simply put, the processor of your computer is the brainpower that drives everything that happens in your computer.  Inside processors there is small, protected space called “kernel memory” which is dedicated to the most essential core components of your operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.) and its interactions with the hardware.  It is intended to be off-limits to other software.  However, the design flaw has made it so that other software, including malicious software such as viruses and spyware, can actually access the kernel memory.

The fix

Due to the nature of the vulnerability, the fix will come from your devices’ operating system manufacturer in the form of security patches.  However, security patches that mitigate the risk of the Intel Meltdown flaw may conflict with your antivirus program.  This means that you will first need to ensure that antivirus definitions are up to date.  From there, you can move forward with security patches for operating systems as well as firmware updates from your computer’s manufacturer. Currently, there is no other option for mitigating the vulnerability.

Intel has noted that there may be a performance impact for computers that came with the first release of Windows 10, along with Windows 8 and Windows 7 systems.  The extent of the impact is not yet known and could vary dramatically from system to system. Newer Windows 10 systems should not experience any reduction in performance.

 

Concerned about how your systems and devices could be impacted? Contact Dataworks Consulting for guidance.

New Year, Same IT Problems? Time to Fix That

Fixing recurring IT issues in your business makes a great resolution this year.

Happy New Year! Are 2017’s IT issues still plaguing you? You know, your network still runs ridiculously slow. The printer keeps dropping off the network. Servers keep going down without rhyme or reason, and you keep having to call on your IT person to come and fix them.

New Year’s Resolution: fix your recurring IT issues for good

When issues like these keep happening and keep getting “fixed,” nothing is actually improving and it’s costing you a lot more than that bottle of aspirin in your desk drawer.

When your IT people only come around to fix things, it means you pay extra for after-hours support, have lapses in employee productivity and lose money every time. Every time something goes wrong, you have to shell out money to fix it as soon as possible. This, instead of using your IT dollars to improve your technology and add more efficiency for your business.

Recurring IT issues also create a company culture where employees are always upset because their computers are slow or it takes too long to do simple tasks. These process and workflow issues cause morale problems in the company. Work is frustrating enough – you don’t need to add to the frustration (especially if you want to keep good people at your company).

There’s a better way.

Your New Year’s resolution: fix recurring IT issues.  Have a managed IT services provider like Dataworks Consulting conduct an assessment of your technology infrastructure and pinpoint what’s causing your IT problems to keep happening. When we conduct these assessments, we look for things like bottlenecks and specific underlying root issues, and then present solutions to address the root causes.

5 recurring IT issues we solved through an assessment in 2017:

1. Reduced cost of telecommunications and increased bandwidth speed, getting the client more network speed for less money

2. Enhanced read/write speeds on data storage drives, getting the client’s staff access to information faster.

3. Improved firewall to work more effectively with the client’s internet connection speed and more efficiently manage the stream of information coming to the network.

4. Upgraded aging network switches, dramatically speeding up the internal network.

5. Replaced consumer-class wireless access points with wireless mesh networks, improving client’s security, network speed and connection continuity.

The second part of fixing recurring issues is to move to a Managed Services Provider model. You pay a small amount per user per month to have an IT company prevent these issues from taking you down, resolving recurring problems once and for all – and having the added relief of knowing there is 24/7/365 monitoring to prevent recurring issues from ever dragging you down again.

Change can be scary – and bringing in a new IT provider when you’re having issues can seem like adding more fuel to the fire. In reality, it should be what ends the chaos. Some IT providers just dive in and start making changes – not us.

We believe your IT partnership should be a two-way street. If you’re having recurring IT issues that’s a sign you’re on a one-way, dead-end road. It’s time to travel on a better road.

Switching IT providers can be painful, but we’re here to help you through it. There’s a way out – all you have to do is contact us.

How Much Should You Spend on IT?

Businessperson calculating what they should spend on their comapany's IT

“How much should I be spending on my company’s IT?” This question comes to us all the time from people we talk to. They want to know if they’re spending too much or too little. Are they wasting their dollars? Well, the right amount to spend varies depending on your revenue and size.

A recent report by Gartner has companies spending about 2.3% of their revenue on IT but doesn’t differentiate based on company size. Another report by ROI consultancy firm Ailnean Inc. compared publicly traded companies on success measures and the amount they spend on their IT. While they found small businesses spending a bigger percentage of their revenue on IT than large corporations (6.9%, compared to 3.2%), they also discovered that the most successful small businesses were a little more conservative in their IT spend.

How much to spend on your IT

Even if you’re a small business, spending under 5% of your revenue on IT expenses is perfectly adequate. At a minimum, you should be spending at least Gartner’s recommended amount of 2.3%, perhaps a couple of percentage points more, depending on what you want to achieve over the coming years.

So, what does that look like compared to your last year’s budget? It’s possible you’re skimping on something that could come back to haunt you.

Regardless of whether you’re too high or too low in the amount of revenue you’re spending on IT, you need to make sure you’re spending your IT budget on the right things. Some investments are a waste of money and aren’t what your business needs to be focused on.

What kind of IT spending works best for your company?

You need to know what makes sense for a fixed, monthly operating expense and what makes sense for capital expenses. It’s helpful to forecast the capital expenses so you can plan for them. A managed IT services provider should be a partner in figuring that out.

Here are four things we look at to make sure our clients are spending their IT budget wisely:

1. Planning for software and equipment life cycles. Just because a computer is running doesn’t mean it’s good to go. Right now, computers running Windows 7 are going to need Windows 10 by January 2020 – that’s a little more than 2 years to upgrade desktop systems in your company, or they’ll be at risk for security vulnerabilities and breakdowns that cost you time, money and frustrations. Knowing things like that well ahead of time and planning for it allows you to allocate your budget more effectively.

2. Implement solutions to handle your future growth. You may not even have growth in the number of employees, but the technology demands on your company will continue to evolve. An increased demand on internet bandwidth happens to everyone as part of the digital age we live in. Trust us, nothing is worse than capitalizing a project and having to completely redo it 2 years later. Everything is in a state of exponential growth. You need a forward-thinking IT partner to avoid the bottleneck that can create.

3. Making technology work better. It might be that you need a new firewall to better prioritize VOIP traffic over internet traffic or you might need to upgrade your internet connection to better support your cloud solutions. Demands on your system are only growing, even if the user experience feels more simplified.

4. Make technology scalable. Doing so allows room for growth at predictable costs. This is especially true if you want to leverage cloud computing for your business. For instance, our EmailAssurance is the same product whether you have 5 or 500 mailboxes, and you pay for only the mailboxes you are using.

The bottom line is, if you’re not budgeting at least 2.3%, you’re not spending enough on your IT. To make the most of that budget, you must spend it wisely, and that requires the expertise of a managed IT provider to make sure you don’t waste your hard-earned revenue on tech junk you don’t need.

Spend your IT budget money wisely. We can help.

3 Things to Consider Before Going to the Cloud

Hand touching the cloud wondering if cloud services will work for their business

A look at all of the 2018 tech trends says that every business needs to be using cloud services. With the promise of lower price points, operating expenses instead of capital spend, and features that a small business might not be able to afford otherwise, it sounds like the perfect solution.

Whether or not the cloud is right for your business depends on a number of factors. Cloud services are great for many businesses. But, you need to get your ducks in a row before you jump in.

Here are 3 things that you should consider before going to the cloud:

1. Will it make financial sense for your business?

Your homework starts with a cost analysis. Will the total cost of ownership make sense for you as an operating expense or a capital expense? Do you have everything you need to make the cloud work? If not, what will you need? Make sure that’s included in your cost projections.

2. Do you have what you need to run your company on the cloud?

Fiber internet should be your primary connection. Your upload speed is as important as your download speed. A lot of internet providers accelerate download speed and have a slow upload rate. With 30 people trying to upload documents, that will be a frustrating bottleneck. If you rely on your applications an data, you’ll also need multiple internet connections incase one gets severed.

When you’re in the cloud, security is essential to keeping your business operational.  Moving to the cloud requires you to use a multilayer approach to security that includes with firewalls, antivirus and antimalware, and best practices use of username and passwords.

3. What cloud solutions will give you the biggest bang for your buck?

If you’re going to go into the cloud, do it wisely. Start with some of the solutions that are going to give you a bigger ROI or help you reduce expenses in the long run. These are a few of our favorites for small and mid-sized companies:

Single-use server. It’s not cost effective to keep a single-use server on site anymore. You can just skip the extra server by running more of your line-of-business applications in the cloud, or spin up the single-user server to the cloud.

Comprehensive and affordable email security. An email security package like EmailAssurance gives you an entire suite of email security products that were not even available to SMBs just a few years ago. As a packaged cloud product, the cost is per mailbox, per month, making it affordable for anyone.

Offsite backup to the cloud. Here’s a true story. A client of ours had a business suite neighbor burn some microwave popcorn and set off the sprinkler system for the entire floor. It destroyed everyone’s servers and documents. If our client was using failover to the cloud and cloud backup, the data on the servers would have been safe.

The cloud is as unique as the businesses it serves and can offer a lot of benefits. Rather than jumping in head first because the cloud is the tech trend du jour, make sure you have what you need to move forward smartly. Otherwise, it can cost you a lot of money to stay up and running.

Talk to an IT expert to make sure that you don’t go into the cloud blindly. We’ll help you figure out what makes the most sense for your business.