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:
Human Resources tends to handle all sorts of employee needs, and that role can quickly become overwhelming. You’ll find your HR frustrated and flustered because they’re spread too thin, and they won’t be able to focus on their actual HR duties. This is especially true with small businesses who only have a single HR person.
In our experience, IT and computer support will often default to an HR problem when a small business doesn’t have an IT person. HR is expected to act as your business’s Help Desk, and you can quickly see why that’s a problem. Human Resource people aren’t trained IT technicians and often lack the skills to quickly and efficiently fix computers. This draws them away from critical HR duties. Plus, most of them don’t enjoy doing computer support, and their morale may be dropping by the day.
If your small business’s HR person is becoming frustrated with a bunch of tech problems, it may be time to consider other solutions. That’s where finding the right IT guy comes into play.
But how do you know what type of IT service you need?
Well, the first step is talking with your HR to figure out how many hours a week they spend fixing computer problems. If it’s less than one hour a week, you probably only need an as-needed IT guy who charges by the hour. But if it’s more than an hour a week, you probably should consider paying for a retainer or monthly computer support plan. Plus, most monthly plans come with security, antivirus, and networking benefits.
In NextPoint IT’s experience, there’s usually two consistent complaints from small business owners about their IT provider: lack of communication and poor customer service.
There’s a lot of computer support companies out there which focus solely on technical expertise to the detriment of their client needs. These IT companies sell their services to small businesses, but they struggle to communicate and collaborate with their clients. They don’t understand that their job is to support the client’s mission with technology.
Computer support providers often forget that 80% of their job is the human element while only 20% is the technical side. Within IT, there’s a common phrase PEBCAK which stands for “Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard.” At NextPoint IT, we’ve banned this phrase. We understand that we’re the computer experts, but the person on the other side of the screen is a person, not a problem. And that individual is a skilled professional.
But how do you know if a SMB IT provider is bad at customer service?
There are two major ways to quickly identify whether a computer support company is going to struggle with communication and customer service:
At NextPoint IT, we strive to avoid both pitfalls. Our quarterly client reviews include simple executive summaries, and we’ll provide details as needed. And we always right-size a small business’s technology. We don’t just sell services to increase our passive revenue…honestly, we don’t think our integrity is worth an extra $1 per user every month.
If you’d like to learn more about NextPoint IT’s offerings and are in the Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, or Westfield, Indiana area, just comment below or request a free consultation or assessment.
Credit: Tim Ludden