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July 24, 2015

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How Remote Monitoring and Management Keeps your Network Healthy

One of biggest reasons why organizations turn to managed service providers (MSPs) to help manage the company network is that MSPs have sophisticated technology that in-house IT teams don’t have, as well as the expertise to use them. Remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools are a prime example.


RMM is an IT solution that gathers information from client workstations and servers about applications and hardware, and then generates reports about that activity. All RMM tools are managed through a single interface. An MSP uses RMM to proactively monitor and maintain the health of an organization’s systems and network, including desktop and mobile devices, and address most issues before the end-user even knows they exist. RMM tools are capable of uncovering subtle problems that can result in dire consequences to IT systems if these problems aren’t resolved right away.


Using agent tools, an MSP can take remote control of various network systems, devices and applications so problems can be fixed quickly to maintain optimal productivity. This can be done when the user is offline without the MSP signing into the device. Issues are detected by RMM tools, which report these issues to the MSP and enable technicians to correct these issues remotely. Customized thresholds based on business requirements are created for events that will automatically trigger email or text alerts to the MSP and the customer’s designated contact.


RMM also makes it possible for the MSP to automate scheduled maintenance tasks and take care of proactive maintenance such as operating system and security software updates, patch management, hard disk defragment, and router configurations. Detailed performance reports can be customized and used to evaluate current network health, ensure security and regulatory compliance, and identify long-term trends. In other words, RMM shows you how your systems are working and helps you determine the best way to keep them working smoothly in the future.


RMM solutions are now commonly integrated with professional services automation (PSA) tools to further increase automation, service quality, support and efficiency. As a result, issues are addressed more quickly and with greater accuracy and consistency, which means more peace of mind for you and minimal disruption to business operations.


Could an in-house IT technician do all this manually? Perhaps, if the environment is relatively small. But poring over system log files all day probably isn’t the best use of the technician’s time and won’t provide the rapid, proactive response that helps minimize downtime.


If you’re evaluating MSPs, ask if they use an RMM platform. Find out if their platform supports multiple operating systems so all user devices can be monitored. Does their RMM platform offer the flexibility to use certain tools and functionality and add others if necessary? Find out about its monitoring capabilities, the level of automation, and how much reporting they provide. An MSP should be able to provide you with reports that show what work has been done behind the scenes.


At ICG, our core offering is our managed IT services. Let us show you how we use RMM to keep your network and devices healthy so you can achieve your business goals.

July 16, 2015

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Ignore Disaster Planning at Your Own Peril

Hurricane season has been quiet so far. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from recent history, it’s that it only takes one major storm to turn thousands of small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) upside down. Unfortunately, most SMBs won’t realize just how unprepared they are until that devastating storm takes down their network and brings business operations to a standstill.


A new survey from Office Depot found that 27 percent of SMBs closed their doors within the past year because of weather-related issues. Despite that fact, only about two-thirds of small business owners believe a disaster plan is necessary, and just 57 percent believe they’re prepared for a natural disaster. Respondents believe Internet and phone service would be most vulnerable during a natural disaster, and lost customer data would have the greatest impact on their company.


Although most people associate network downtime with storms, floods and fires, natural disasters are only responsible for a small percentage of outages. For example, a security breach is much more likely to take down your network, whether it’s caused by a careless employee, outdated security tools or sophisticated cybercriminals. A relatively minor car accident near your facility could cause a power outage that takes days to fix.


Organizations of all sizes, including SMBs, must have a strategy in place for restoring access to mission-critical data and applications with little or no disruption to business operations, regardless of the cause of disaster. Every minute of downtime will cost your company in terms of dollars and reputation.


The good news for SMBs is that new technology is bringing enterprise-grade disaster recovery capabilities to smaller organizations. Cloud-based backup, storage and disaster recovery services eliminate the need to purchase and maintain equipment onsite and manage a remote backup site. The emergence of mobile enables employees to remotely access data, applications and business systems in the cloud from virtually any Internet-connected device. With the cloud, you pay only for those resources and services you use.


Other disaster recovery options for SMBs include server virtualization, which makes it possible to create a remote copy of an entire data center to ensure fast recovery times. Many organizations are turning over disaster recovery responsibilities to an outside managed services provider. This enables an SMB to leverage the provider’s world-class expertise and technology and spend less time on day-to-day disaster recovery tasks.


SMBs should focus on backup and security to ensure the effectiveness of their disaster recovery strategy. The data on a server, computer or mobile device is typically much more valuable and important than the technology itself, so you need to make sure that data is protected and regularly backed up.


Are you completing backups? Are they working? How frequently are you backing up your data, applications and business systems? How will you access them when the network goes down? Is your security software up to date? Is the network being monitored to detect potential threats? What preventive measures are being taken to minimize the impact of a disaster? When was the last time you tested your disaster recovery plan?


ICG can help you answer these and other questions to ensure that your disaster recovery strategy works. Let’s sit down and go over your company’s business requirements, backup processes and security infrastructure so we can help you develop a plan that minimizes the downtime, cost and impact of a disaster.

July 9, 2015

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Research: Outsourcing of Mobile App Development Is on the Rise

In a perfect world, organizations would be able manage the development of mobile applications in-house. However, very few organizations have the in-house expertise, technology, budget and workflow maturity to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for mobile apps. Because mobile app development is a relatively new competency, the skills gap is widening. Talented developers with mobile skills are in high demand and, as a result, tend to command high salaries.


According to two separate studies, the lack of in-house resources and available talent is causing more organizations to outsource mobile app development. A recent survey by 451 Research and Kony Inc. found that 42 percent of mobile app development is being outsourced. That number is expected to jump to 65 percent in just two years. The types of mobile software that are in high demand are customer relationship management apps, customer engagement apps, and employee productivity apps.


A new Gartner study found that 55 percent of organizations are using both internal and external resources for mobile app development, while only 26 percent handle all development in-house. In fact, Gartner expects demand for enterprise mobile apps to grow five times faster than an organization’s ability to develop them in-house by the end of 2017.


In addition to limited in-house resources, unrefined processes, and the scarcity and high cost of talented mobile developers, there are a number of reasons to outsource mobile app development. The work doesn’t end when mobile apps are released. Apps require ongoing maintenance, bug fixes, and tweaks to functionality and design to ensure that they deliver the best possible user experience and meet business goals. This requires significant time and resources. If your developer leaves after the app is deployed and there’s nobody on your team to pick up the ball, you could be in trouble.


Even if you have a talented developer on staff, an outside development firm is likely to have multiple people with those skills and a higher level of expertise. As a result, the outside firm is more likely to be able to predict and proactively address potential problems. Also, there’s a good chance that an outside developer has already developed a similar solution that meets your business requirements. Both of these factors lead to faster deployments and less risk. Successful mobile app development requires an experienced team, not an individual.


Of course, outsourcing mobile app development doesn’t absolve your organization of all responsibilities in the development process. You need to clearly communicate your business processes and requirements to the developer. Increased complexity translates to increased costs, so start with your most pressing needs and add features from there. Monitor the progress of your mobile app’s development to ensure contractual terms and timelines are met and the app meets your requirements. A well-designed, perfectly functioning mobile app is useless if it doesn’t do what you need it to do.


If demand for mobile apps in your organization is outpacing your ability to develop them, it’s time to consider outsourcing. Let ICG show you how our proven mobile app development processes can help you improve employee productivity and deliver value to your customers.


July 6, 2015

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Improving Business Continuity with Unified Communications

Many organizations take their on-premises phone system for granted, not realizing how vulnerable it is when a hurricane, flood, fire or some other disaster strikes. However, it doesn’t take a major disaster to shut down a building. A simple water leak or electrical issue could easily render a workplace unusable.


Regardless of the severity of the event that causes the outage, essential communications and business tools are lost, and you may have no choice but to wait until power is restored and the building becomes accessible before you can use your on-premises system. Setting up a redundant phone system at another location is one solution to this problem, but it can be very expensive and complex to deploy and maintain a separate system.


Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) provides reliable business continuity by moving communications and collaboration tools to the cloud. Employees can access the organization’s UC system from any device with an Internet connection. Disaster recovery and business continuity are the responsibility of the service provider, who houses equipment in an enterprise-class data center and has failover capabilities to prevent downtime.


Most organizations adopt UCaaS for reasons other than business continuity. Like most cloud services, UCaaS eliminates the expense of purchasing, deploying and maintaining an on-premises system. UCaaS can also be quickly deployed and centrally managed through an online interface.


Although disaster recovery is rarely a primary driver of UCaaS adoption, the disaster-related benefits should not be underestimated. Organizations concerned about cost should consider the capital and operational expenses of building and maintaining a redundant UC infrastructure to be used only in an emergency.


Of course, the cost of downtime could be far more significant in terms of lost revenue, lost customers and a damaged reputation. Effective communication can mean the difference between weathering a disaster and closing your doors. UCaaS makes that possible.


With UCaaS, employees continue to use the same communications applications and services during a disaster that they use every day, without compromising performance, reliability or availability. Employees can remotely access UC tools from home, a satellite office or a temporary office on any Internet-connected desktop or mobile device. It may take some time for the physical structure to recover from a disaster, but the ability to communicate and conduct business is never lost.


ICG can help you take advantage of a turnkey UCaaS solution that combines enterprise-class voice communications with carrier-grade reliability, security and interoperability. Our scalable, pay-as-you-grow system makes it easy to measure ROI while reducing the trial-and-error and high costs that typically come with UC deployment. Each user will have a single phone number to allow for instant collaboration, and our system can be integrated with users’ mobile devices.


Let us help you develop a strategic plan for migrating from legacy communications systems to our UCaaS solution to ensure seamless business continuity.