Small businesses tend to wrestle with their IT costs more than the big guys out there due to a lack of expertise. This often results in significant monthly or weekly business disruptions where some critical technology isn’t working right: the Internet, email, a computer, a printer, etc.
Have you found yourself in one of those situations? You’re the business owner, and you’re troubleshooting a tech problem when there’s more critical tasks to be completed like invoicing and getting paid. Maybe you ask an employee to solve it who spends a couple hours without any success? And you ask yourself, “Why can’t these things just work?”
You end paying some tech a couple hundred dollars after spending all this time yourself. Sunk costs are sunk, but wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to avoid future sunk costs?
The good news is that NextPoint IT has a solution.
One of the major benefits of outsourcing your small business’s computer support to an MSP like NextPoint IT is that we fix these problems for you quickly and efficiently, but we’re also proactively monitoring your IT for possible future problems.
NextPoint IT has a set of tools that allows us to know when a computer, firewall, modem, or router may need to be replaced before it breaks. We’re able to let you know that Bob’s computer is slow, and he could probably be more productive if you replaced it. We know if a server is on the fritz, and you may want to consider transitioning to a cloud solution. We track your IT and attach understandable numbers to it, so you can make informed IT decisions and purchases.
Our tools let NextPoint IT pinpoint problems and fix them before they impact business operations to maintain business continuity. We work as a strategic partner to advise you on changes to your small business’s IT to avoid interrupting your business operations. NextPoint IT makes sure your small business can focus on getting things done.
All of our monthly computer support plans include proactive monitoring.
If you’d like to learn more about NextPoint IT’s proactive monthly plans and are in the Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield, Indiana area, just comment below or request a free consultation or assessment.
Bob is a small business owner. He doesn’t have a lot of computers or IT equipment in his office, but it’s enough to cause him a minor headache at least once a month. Bob’s employee Tom always seems to have a computer problem and spends half an hour venting to him about it.
Bob also pays his IT guy Joe an hourly rate to come in and fix things when they go wrong. But Bob has noticed that he’s paying Joe more and more every month because the same types of problems keep happening. Bob isn’t an IT or computer expert, and he’s not sure what’s going on.
Sadly, this isn’t an unfamiliar story for many small businesses. There are a lot of IT guys out there, and it’s hard to know who’s reliable. But one thing to consider is whether your IT payment model is right for your small business.
There are two primary IT payment models: the break/fix and MSP model.
What’s break/fix IT?
The break/fix model is what Bob is using. Something goes wrong, and he pays a guy an hourly rate to fix the problem.
The downside to the break/fix model is that it relies on your IT guy to be motivated about looking into deeper root causes with your IT infrastructure. Some IT guys just want to fix the immediate problem and don’t bother digging deeper. If something breaks again, it’ll be on the small business owner’s dime, not theirs.
What’s the MSP model?
The MSP model, in contrast, is when a small business pays an IT company a flat monthly rate for a set of services like firewall, antivirus, break/fix, network maintenance, etc. You can think of it as a retainer.
This model removes the financial risk of IT from the small business and places it on the IT company. If something goes wrong, the IT guys spend time fixing the problem, and it costs them more money, the more time spent fixing the problem. The small business and IT company become true partners in making sure the IT is effectively supporting business operations because both benefit from it.
But what’s the right model for me?
There’s no hard and fast rule here because it’s somewhat dependent on the complexity of your small business’s IT infrastructure and workforce’s technical knowledge. In general, most businesses above 10 employees benefit from the MSP model or if you experience 1-2 IT problems a week. We also recommend checking out our article Top 5 Signs You Need Monthly Computer Support.
If you’d like to learn more about NextPoint IT’s break/fix or MSP offerings and are in the Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield, Indiana area, just comment below or request a free consultation or assessment.
As a small business owner, you constantly make decisions about which paid services are and aren't necessary. And many IT services can be a little opaque in terms of their value. One question NextPoint IT often hears from our small business clients is whether or not they need a firewall.
What exactly is a firewall?
Well, here’s the technical definition:
“A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls all your incoming and outgoing network traffic based on advanced and a defined set of security rules.”
In practical terms, firewalls act as the TSA for your small business’s network…without the long lines. They use tools like metal detectors and cameras to screen and monitor every person (website, email, etc.) who enters to insure they don’t have anything dangerous. They also may have a list of names or pictures of people who are known troublemakers and shouldn’t be allowed inside. And they’ll keep an eye on the facility for any suspicious activity.
Firewalls are an investment to significantly reduce the risk of anything malicious being done to your small business’s network. Although, no security solution is 100% risk-free.
Does my small business need a firewall?
If you handle any sensitive employee, customer, or client data, you should get a firewall to be safe. Even if this data is stored in the cloud, there are ways hackers can access your network to obtain it, and firewalls significantly mitigate that risk. You also should think about one if you have more than 10 employees at your office. The more people you have using a network, you exponentially increase the odds that one of them unintentionally lets something bad inside.
For a longer dive into why hackers would see value in coming after your small business in Indianapolis, Indiana, you should read a previous post about small business cybersecurity.
What solutions are out there?
There are a lot of types of firewalls and firewall solutions at varying price points. Some are easier to learn than others but cost more. And some have good technical support while others will have you on the phone for hours on end.
What we recommend would be partnering with an expert IT company like NextPoint IT to manage your small business’s firewall. This frees up your time from doing research about firewalls and managing them, and it frees up your headspace. We’ve all heard the maxim, “Work on your business, not in it.” And this is a good area where paying an expert will save you a lot of resources you can direct towards working on your business.
If you’d like to learn more about NextPoint IT’s firewall services and are in the Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield, Indiana area, just comment below or request a free consultation or assessment.
Let me tell you a story…
Meet Sasha. Sasha is a superstar employee at her small business. Sasha is the go-to resource for all those things everyone avoids. Instead of shying away from problems, Sasha tackles and wrangles them like she’s a cowboy on the prairie. Sasha could probably be a director or executive one day.
But Sasha is also the go-to resource for all the computer needs at her small business. Is your computer not turning on? Ask Sasha. Do you need something installed? Ask Sasha. Is your email not working? Ask Sasha. Do you have a virus? Ask Sasha. Ask Sasha. Ask Sasha.
When you add it all up over a week or two, Sasha probably spends close to a full days work doing IT tasks at her small business. The owner of Sasha’s small business is paying 1/5 of her salary for her to do this. But not only that…the owner is hampering Sasha’s growth and development. Sasha is sick and tired of dealing with all this computer nonsense. Sasha feels stuck.
Let me tell you another version of this story…
Meet Sasha. Sasha is a superstar employee at her small business. But the owner of her business pays NextPoint IT to handle all their IT and computer stuff. Because Sasha is freed up to focus on what matters. She’s been promoted twice, and Sasha is being developed and challenged and is happy.
What’s the moral of the story?
As a small business owner, do you have a Sasha? Maybe you are Sasha? Maybe your employees ask you to fix their computer problems, and you’re spending hours every week on IT nonsense?
There is a definite tangible value to paying a company like NextPoint IT to maintain business continuity. As computer experts, we get things up and running quickly and efficiently and proactively monitor your IT to avoid disruptions in business services.
Someone does the computer stuff at your small business. If it’s not an IT company, then it’s either yourself or one of your employees. If it’s your employees, you’re already paying for IT work…you just don’t readily see it. And if it’s yourself, the time you’re spending fixing computers could be spent on more critical business operations. Think of the opportunity cost here.
But one of the unseen, intangible values of paying an IT provider is that it allows your Sashas to grow and develop. Your Sashas will be able to get experience doing higher level tasks and their skills will grow. In the long run, your Sashas will be like the second version of the story instead of stuck in the first one.
If you're a small business owner in Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, or Westfield and have a Sasha, we'd love to provide a free consultation and assessment. Just comment below with your biggest computer pain point, and a member of our sales team will contact you!
Credit: Tim Ludden
Last week Apple held their annual WWDC. This is a conference for software developers and engineers to get hands-on experience and exposure to new software tools from Apple. NextPoint IT always gets excited about this conference because we get to geek out. Importantly for business owners, it gives some insight into what’s coming down the pipeline from Apple.
The most important WWDC announcement for small businesses was that iPad’s would have their own OS, cleverly named the iPad OS. This move signaled Apple’s intent to improve the iPad as a mobile workstation. iPad OS will release this Fall and includes a wide variety of upgrades for business productivity and administration such as:
What should small business owners make of this?
Well, if you already have a large employee group using iPads, you should plan to hold off on updating to iPad OS until it’s been out in the wild for a few weeks. It’s never a good idea to immediately jump into an OS upgrade, and you want other businesses and users to take the first plunge to eliminate the early bugs and frustrations. And it would be a good idea to discuss these upcoming changes with your employees who use iPads and discuss how these changes could help improve their workflows. Communication is always critical even with mundane technology upgrades.
And if your business doesn’t currently use iPads, you may want to consider the iPad as your next mobile workstation when your current laptops need upgraded. iPads are increasingly becoming an excellent mobile workstation solution compared to the traditional laptop. NextPoint IT personally uses them, and we have plenty of techie friends who almost fully rely on their iPad as their workstation. Apple is also far more security and privacy conscious as a company than Microsoft and Google or the numerous laptop manufacturers out there. Plus, you always know you’re getting a high-quality product with minimal frustrations with Apple, even if you pay a small premium for that quality.
Click here for a full rundown of the new features in iPad OS. And let us know what you think about the iPad OS for business usage in the comments below!
At NextPoint IT, we like to think of business operations as a bike with 3 huge gears working together to push you forward: people, processes, and technology. (This is similar to Paul Romer’s classic article on endogenous growth where he believes people, ideas, and things drive the economy, not land, labor, and capital.) Each of these 3 gears has cogs and other, smaller gears, and if one of these is off, it can create a strain within the entire system.
Robert Mager and Peter Pipe’s book Analyzing Performance Problems focuses on the people gear in your business. People are always the most complex gear for any organization as a single person is an intricate web of other complex systems from the biological, the social, the neurological, the spiritual, and more. How do you hire the right people? How do you develop them? When do you know when they’re not the right fit? How do you identify their skills, abilities, and values? How do you set them up for success? How does their work interact with their personal life and vice versa?
Mager and Pipe’s book focuses on the development side of people, and every small business owner should read it to better understand how to analyze people problems in their business. Small business owners and executives quickly assume the root-cause of any performance problem is due to lack of training. A performance failure occurs, and they’ll put the employee through training. But when the training “fails” to fix the problem, they’ll fire the employee, and they’ll never identify the deeper systematic issues.
This knee jerk reaction to the most expensive part of your business stops you from identifying some of the deeper, true root-causes. Mager and Pipe lay out a quick and easy flow chart to help you analyze performance problems in your business, and this chart will quickly become one of the most valuable tools you can use to better understand people. If you take anything away from this post, this flow chart should be it.
Mager and Pipe will help you ask deeper systematic questions about your small business. Have you created processes that punish good performance? Do these processes reward bad habits and shortcuts? Do your people have the appropriate technology and tools to do their jobs? See how the technology and process gears can impact your people gear and while you’re fiddling with your people, the true problem may be with other gears.
We won’t cover all the details. But we can’t recommend this book enough for any small business owner out there trying to figure out how to improve employee performance. It’s a quick and easy read, only 160 pages. You’ll find yourself dusting this book off the shelf anytime you begin wondering why your employees aren’t doing what you want, or raging about it.
Credit: Tim Ludden
Welcome back to our monthly series Tech Talk where we explore the origin of tech words!
"There's a bug in the system," is a phrase you've probably heard a lot when speaking with IT. It acts as a frustrating catch-all tere. Sometimes it means, "I don't know what's causing the issue, but I need something to blame to get you off my back." And other times, it means that there is a known flaw in the software causing the problem. You never know when to trust this word.
There's a fun story about where the term “computer bug” came from. One day Grace Hopper, a famous computer scientist, was trying to figure out why her computer wasn’t working. Yes, even famous computer scientists get computer problems. She finally identified the problem…an actual moth had gotten inside her computer. She then literally “debugged” her computer and taped the moth inside a logbook for posterity. While this event did occur, it’s not the origin of the word bug. (Grace Hopper also didn’t find the moth. She just enjoyed telling the story.)
We know that Thomas Edison used the term “bug” in the late 1800s to describe flaws in his inventions. In the 1900s, “bug” was widely used in engineering fields from mechanical, electrical, and computer to describe human made design flaws with unknown origins. Linguists aren’t clear on exactly why “bug” came to be used to describe flaws in engineering, but there is a suspicion that it came from terms like bugbear or bugaboo. A bugbear or bugaboo were small little monsters like a goblin or gremlin who would cause mischief and havoc. Basically, these smart engineers refused to admit they made a mistake and faulted mythical creatures for the problem.
So even 200 years ago, people blamed some unknown imaginary third party for a problem like today’s IT professionals often do. But at NextPoint IT, we strive to only use the term "bug" to mean an actual known issue with software or hardware. Otherwise, people start to distrust us if we use “bugs” as an excuse for not knowing the answer. We'll own situations where we don't know, but we'll also promise to figure it out. Honest communication is the keystone at NextPoint IT.
Credit: Tim Ludden