Does your small business only use cloud-based software? Does this protect you against cyberattacks? Well, you want to believe that your small business doesn’t need to worry about security. You don’t have any local servers storing sensitive or critical information that’s susceptible to ransomware.
But there continues to be a need for some basic security practices for your local network because your employees remain the biggest weakness to an attack. Cloud-software doesn’t protect you against phishing campaigns to steal credentials, or malware and viruses that can do the same thing. And think of how frequently your employees access public Wifi networks that have almost no security who then connect to your small business’s network.
Even if your small business only uses OneDrive, Office 365, Salesforce, or other cloud-based tools, it doesn’t mean that you can ignore local security. You need to run continuous security training for your employees to help them avoid increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks. You also want to make sure that your small business’s network has some basic antivirus and firewall protection. And it’s a good idea to establish a company-wide security policy, so everyone knows best practices to keep the company’s data secure.
The cloud and SaaS has revolutionized the world for small businesses, but security remains a critical need. You can’t solely rely on your cloud providers for all security…especially since one of the primary attack vectors of cybercriminals is people, including you and your employees. At NextPoint IT, we take security seriously because we know how vulnerable everyone is. Confidence is your biggest weakness, and if you think your 100% protected against cyberattacks, it means you aren’t.
Let us know if you’d like a free consultation on your small business’s security! We’d love to grab coffee with you anywhere around Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield.
It’s a major challenge to run a small business. It requires creative thinking, quick and adaptive ideas, and vision, but every small business must execute on their ideas. Execution requires planning, details, monitoring, verifying follow-through, time, and much more. A lot of small business owners and their employees wear multiple hats which quickly becomes a challenge for everyone to juggle all the business’s projects and tasks.
If you’ve been running your business for a while, you probably know the importance of checklists and possibly read Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto. Checklists for projects and day-to-day business operations are critical for teams to know what needs to be done and when, if it’s been done, who did it, how to do it, etc. But sometimes you don’t know how to track all this information.
At NextPoint IT, our motto is that technology amplifies people (Technology X People = Productivity), which means it’s key to pick the right tools. We’d recommend the following 2 tools to help assist your small business’s teams with their organization:
Let us know if you’re in the Indianapolis, Fishers, Westfield, or Carmel area and would be interested in grabbing coffee to chat about how NextPoint IT can help your small business meet its goals!
At NextPoint IT, we offer 24/7 availability in most of our standard Monthly Computer Support packages. For some of our clients, this is a nice little feature to have, but they don’t really use it. But other clients have found that it’s a HUGE benefit.
Our clients who find 24/7 computer availability to be valuable tend to have two characteristics:
We recently had a client, who provides their own 24/7 customer support, experience a network device failure on a Saturday night. This crippled their business operations, but NextPoint IT was there. We got a quick fix in place to keep them up and running, and our client’s customers never felt any pain from the outage.
What businesses get from 24/7 IT availability is a superior customer experience. They don’t have to explain to their customers why things aren’t working like normal. Things just work, and the customer is none the wiser that something happened behind the scenes.
The play must go on, and the audience doesn’t care what problems the cast and crew are having. They paid to see a play. NextPoint IT’s 24/7 availability makes sure that your audience enjoys your play that businesses often don’t get from other computer support businesses or even IT employees.
If your business is interested in 24/7 availability, let us know. We’d love to help your small business fulfill it’s mission and values especially if your business is in the Fishers, Carmel, Westfield, or Indianapolis, Indiana area.
Credit: Tim Ludden
As a small business owner, you've probably heard a tech guy talk about bits and bytes and thought these are the same thing with different pronunciations…like the whole GIF debate. But these are two different measurements of computer data. Bits are the smallest unit of data while a Byte is a group of 8 bits.
You may be thinking that this isn’t relevant to you, but the confusing part for non-techies is that Internet providers (or ISPs) like Comcast report their speeds in bits. But most people think in terms of Bytes. Flash drives, hard drives, and other storage devices tend to always talk about Megabytes. This means that your Internet speed is slower than you think…primarily due to intentional marketing confusion by Internet providers.
When Comcast says that you’re buying 25 Mbps, they mean 25 Megabits per second. Since there are 8 bits in a Byte, you divide 25 by 8 to know how many Megabytes per second, which is 3.125 MBps.
You may have already noticed that Megabits use a lowercase “b” (Mb) while Megabytes use an uppercase one (MB). So you need to keep a close eye out for this when looking at any sort of data transfer rate. A good way to remember this is that it’s like Tablespoons and teaspoons. Tablespoons are larger than teaspoons and recipes use a capital “T” for them. In the same way, a Byte is bigger than a bit, and it’s represented with a capital “B.”
As a small business owner, the technical details don’t particularly matter to you. But you should remember that when Comcast says you’re buying so many Mbps that you need to divide that number by 8 to know how many Megabytes it is.
As always if your small business any computer support needs, contact NextPoint IT for a free consultation and assessment. We’re able to support any business in the Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield, Indiana region.
Credit: Tim Ludden
At NextPoint IT, we talk a lot here about upgrading your small business’s computers and technology to maintain employee efficiency. Remember…Employees X Technology = Productivity. Technology amplifies your employees’ abilities, and if they’re using outdated and slow computers, you’re going to get a lot less ROI than if you invested in upgrading their computers. You need to be upgrading all computers every 3-5 years.
With that said, here’s a few cheap tricks to improve computer performance without breaking the bank. Because let’s be honest, those business class laptops and desktops can be a hefty investment.
Purchase additional RAM
RAM is like your short-term memory, and a hard drive is like your long-term memory. The more RAM you have, the quicker you’ll be able to think, and the more RAM your computer has the faster it runs. Most computers make it easy to add more RAM, and it’s inexpensive at about $30-50. Here’s a quick and easy read if you’re interested in a little deeper understanding of RAM.
Upgrade your hard drive to an SSD
We can’t sing the praises of Solid State Drives (SSD) enough. We’ve seen 3-year old systems given a second life by simply upgrading them from a Hard Drive (HDD) to an SSD. SSDs are way faster than HDDs, and programs that froze every few minutes run without a problem on SSDs. You can get a 250 GB SSD for around $30-70 these days.
Upgrade your system to a Dell Micro desktop
One of the largely unheralded benefits of moving to the cloud is that you don’t need to purchase computers with all the bells and whistles. A lot of the processing that used to be done on your computer is now being done by a server hundreds of miles away in the cloud. Dell recognized this fact and has a whole line of inexpensive Micro Optiplex desktops. These systems focus on providing the necessities to operate cloud-based tools, and they do so at the low price of $300. We don’t recommend using these systems if you’re still running a lot of local software, but they’re great solutions for businesses who mostly rely upon the cloud.
And if you need a partner to assist upgrading your you systems or a quote, NextPoint IT has experience in all these areas. Feel free to reach out to us especially if you’re in the Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield, Indiana area!
Credit: Tim Ludden
At NextPoint IT, we run into a lot of small business owners who want their technology to “just work.” Now we love small business owners, especially being ones ourselves, but it can be complicated to ensure your technology “just works.” And a lot of times, your small business needs to spend some capital to do so.
One of the biggest causes of IT that doesn’t “just work” is outdated equipment like computers, printers, servers, phones, etc.
There are two major causes to this. First, computers and IT equipment wear out over time. They’re like cars where you can do maintenance to keep them at optimal performance, but eventually, the thing is going to breakdown. Second, technology is constantly evolving, and the way things “talked together” 10 years ago can be outdated today. When you try to get a 10-year old printer to talk to a modern computer, there can be a lot of complications.
In general, NextPoint IT recommends upgrading your basic office IT equipment on a 3-year cycle. You can do 5 years…but you’ll see a significant loss in performance of the last 2. And as a result, your small business’s team will be less efficient. (Technology X People = Productivity)
Poor IT Design
The second biggest cause of IT not “just working” is the lack of a strategic IT design and plan. There are a lot of details that go into designing a network for even a one-man shop. There can be cloud and on-prem servers, printers, VoIP phones, copiers, fax machines, kiosks, dashboards, etc., which need to be configured to effectively work together.
A lot of IT guys will just “duct tape” things to get them to work, but when something goes wrong, this solution can cause multiple problems.
What can you do?
One solution is to look for a CIO consultant service like our partner Fourteen Six Street. They work with small businesses to design their IT infrastructure on a budget to ensure it’ll work for the long-haul. And another solution is to make sure your business is budgeting for IT upgrades on a 3-year cycle. If you know you’ll be upgrading equipment at this rate, you can strategically budget for it.
If you have any interest in a CIO service, feel free to reach out to us below. We’d love to introduce you to our partner or work directly with you. We’re based in the Indianapolis, Fishers, and Carmel, Indiana region, but Fourteen Sixteen Street works nationally.
Credit: Tim Ludden
AI and Machine Learning are huge buzzwords right now…but it’s not exactly clear what people mean when they talk about them. At NextPoint IT, we aren’t experts by any means, but we’d like to bring a little more clarity to AI and Machine Learning for small business owners.
What exactly is AI and Machine Learning?
Right now, AI and Machine Learning are primarily algorithms that evolve based on feedback from reviewing large amounts of data. The program then identifies patterns within that data to predict and automate actions. The business goal here is 2-fold. First, large enterprises have vast troves of data that are impossible to analyze efficiently by a group of people. They hope AI will speed up the value of this data. Second, AI acts as a programming shortcut to reduce hours needed to program something. Instead of a team of programmers spending months writing a program for every minor rule, a programmer can write a starting point and input data to automate a lot of the more detailed programming.
What does AI and Machine Learning mean for small businesses?
You're probably thinking about how useful AI would be for your small business. You could use it to automate marketing and sales campaigns, analyze customer data for better strategic decisions, possibly eliminate the need for certain positions like a BA, and more.
But AI and Machine Learning are both in their infant stages of development…think of computers back in the 70s. A lot of small business owners were aware of computers, but they didn't really begin impacting them until the late 80s. Small businesses won’t currently be directly involved with AI outside of out-of-the-box solutions like Facebook or LinkedIN advertising tools. The labor and data costs for most small businesses is too high to utilize AI outside of these turn-key solutions.
NextPoint IT tends to align with Roy Amara’s adage that humans overestimate the impact of technology in the short-term while underestimating the long-term impact. AI and Machine Learning are probably not going to lead to the promised huge leaps in the next 5 years, but we could see some major impacts in the next 10-20.
Small business owners should be careful paying a premium for tools branded as AI. You should ask for evidence of the promises made by any AI tool and ensure the tool aligns with your business’s strategy. Facebook ads use AI, but your business strategy may not see Facebook as a good advertising platform. AI and Machine Learning are more in the “shiny object” phase, and there will probably be a lot of snake oil salesmen who capitalize on these buzzwords.
But don’t be surprised if your small business needs to make some IT upgrades in the next 10 years due to the AI revolution. NextPoint IT recommends small businesses keep an ear out for changes but don't rush out and buy everything AI.
If you’re interested some more in-depth analysis of AI and Machine learning, we’d recommend the following resources: