IT Outsourcing…Is It Right For My Business?

There comes a time for most businesses when growth and increasing success includes larger challenges–especially in the realm of IT. When faced with these technological complexities and strategic decisions, business owners have choices. They can develop and manage an internal IT department, or choose professional IT outsourcing services with a company like BCS.

Which is the smartest choice? The answer depends on the size, staff structure and level of technological expertise of each individual company. However, for many the benefits of outsourcing IT management significantly outweigh those of using internal resources.

Seasoned Experience and a Competitive Edge

All businesses have the need for meticulous IT management, but few have the expertise or the time to carry it out themselves. IT, done well, is a full time job, even for a smaller company.

Building an internal IT department from within your existing staff generally will not provide you with the knowledge and experience you need to keep your mind off strategic IT decisions and on your core business.  Also, bringing self-professed IT experts onto your payroll is expensive and still doesn’t guarantee technical mastery (“certification” does not always equal “experience”).

While we can’t speak for other companies, when you choose IT outsourcing with BCS, we give you real solutions and careful attention. We are your fully staffed, highly experienced IT department whether you are right down the road or across the world.

If you have a capable existing in-house IT department, BCS can act as a support team when you need us. We are only a call away. Our IT support and outsourcing services include:

Whether you are looking for a total outsourcing solution or a small-scale enhancement to your IT department, our Managed Services Plan might be just what you are looking for.
Opting for this plan gives your business:
  • Priority Queuing
  • Unlimited Help Desk Support
  • Server Maintenance
  • Network Hardware Maintenance
  • Security Audits and Anti-Virus Updates
  • Backup Monitoring
  • Onsite Labor

When you hire BCS, you can have confidence that your latest IT challenge is nothing we haven’t seen before. Let us be your IT department. Call or contact us for more information and a no obligation estimate.

 

image: freedigitalphotos.net

Today’s the Day to Protect Your Data

Did you know that today, March 31, is World Backup Day? Well, if you didn’t you do now, and it is time to take action! What better day than today to back up or plan to back up your important personal files and business critical data? After you’re done with the egg hunts and chocolate bunnies, consider taking steps to protect your data.

According to Worldbackupday.com:

“More than 60 million computers will fail worldwide in 2013. Only 1 in 4 people back up their information regularly–that’s roughly 45 million times this year where files will be lost forever. Even worse–113 cell phones are lost or stolen every minute in the United States alone. That’s hundreds of photos, conversations, calendars and more, gone in an instant.”

The statistics are staggering. What is even more shocking is how much trust we put into technology to protect vital information in our businesses and in our personal lives, when we all know that that technology sometimes fails. Are you ready to place yourself among the wise and tech-savvy by backing up your data? We sure hope so.

First thing’s first, read our blog post from last month, A Data Backup Strategy is Your Best Defense. It details the options you have for backing up business-critical information as well as the structure of a good security strategy for today’s small business. The best option for most businesses is cloud-based data backup and storage in the VMware virtual environment.

As for personal data, the strategic backup decisions are less complex and overwhelming. Whether on an external hard drive or an online cloud backup service, make and store copies of all important files on all data-heavy devices and websites. These might include:

  • Desktop and laptop computers
  • Smartphones
  • Mp3 players
  • Tablets
  • Social Networks where you store valuable pictures

And remember, one copy is not enough! It is wise to make one or two copies of the initial copy, just to be safe. Store those extra copies somewhere different than your home or office (online or at a friend’s home). Give yourself some peace of mind by making the effort today to start protecting the files and the information that are precious to you.

If you have any questions about business data backup and storage, please don’t hesitate to call or contact BCS Voice and Data Solutions. We are here for you on World Backup Day and every other day of the year!

Mitel 5360 IP Application Phone

Mitel Business Phone Systems: Which One is Right For You?

As a certified Mitel Exclusive Business Partner, BCS Voice and Data Solutions offers Mitel’s wide range of first-class business phone systems. From the basic desktop IP phone for small businesses on a budget to the cutting edge Windows screen-based soft phones for big companies with lots of mobile workers, BCS can provide you with the Mitel phone system that fits your company’s needs, and then some.

Mitel designs and produces four kinds of IP-based business phone systems including 1) Traditional IP Button Phones, 2) IP Application Phones, 3) Industry Specific IP Phones, and 4) Business IP Soft Phones.

Not sure of the right option for you and your business? Read on for a quick overview of the highlights of each system and an example of a business phone system in each category:

Traditional IP Button Phones

For the small to medium sized business that wants an IP-enabled phone with all the telephony features needed to facilitate fast and reliable communication, the traditional IP button phone is a good choice. Priced reasonably, these desktop phones are beautifully designed with ergonomics in mind.

Pictured below, the Mitel 5324 IP phone is a great example of an advanced traditional IP button phone:

Mitel 5324 Traditional IP Button Phone

 IP Application Phones

For the busy medium to large business with many remote workers and a need for fast-paced creative communication, the large touch screen IP application phones are a great fit. Not only do the IP application phones have all of the telephony features of the button phones, they provide instant on-screen access to web applications and development tools.

Mitel’s 5360 IP phone boasts a full color, backlit touch screen and 48 programmable keys.

Mitel 5360 IP Application Phone

Industry Specific IP Phones

Mitel specializes in providing the hospitality and financial industries with IP phones that suit their unique communication needs.

The Mitel 5505 Guest Phone, for use in hotel rooms and similar venues, allows guests to cordlessly communicate with the front desk and beyond without hassle. It has large-dial buttons, a hands-free speaker phone, a built in alarm clock, and many other innovative features. It also greatly reduces costs for both the hotel and its guests. Read more about the benefits of VoIP in the hotel and hospitality industry here.

Business IP Soft Phones

Mitel softphones aren’t physical phones, per se. They are actually web applications that allow mobile workers to access all the features of a top-of-line physical IP phone right from their Windows-enabled PC’s desktop. Softphones provide the ultimate benefit of IP telephony and Unified Communications by offering businesses seamless flexibility.

The Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced Softphone gives remote workers the full functionality of an IP phone as well as secure instant messaging, visual voicemail, and personalized USB configuration.

Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced Softphone

So whether you are in the market for a basic IP telephone system for your small company or remote IP Unified Communications software for your remote team, Mitel and BCS can help you find the perfect VoIP solution. Call or contact BCS today for more information.

BCS puts latest technology on display at ALA retreat

Be sure to visit BCS’s booth at the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) Retreat next weekend, March 8th and 9th.

We will be at the retreat with a cutting edge Mitel VoIP phone system that you can have some fun testing. You will be amazed at the incredible new features Mitel’s line has to offer!  Not only that, but we will be raffling off a 47″ flat panel television to those who take the time to stop by our booth and say hello (so you really shouldn’t miss out).

According to BCS President, John Carey, “BCS is a longtime supporter of the ALA.” We are excited to spend some time getting to know you at the retreat and helping to answer your questions about IT in the legal field. Let’s talk at Kingsmill, March 8th and 9th!

A Data Backup Strategy is Your Best Defense

With the next destructive natural disaster seemingly always around the corner and “big data” getting bigger every day, small companies have to stay on top of protecting their business’ critical information with a solid backup strategy. Part of this task involves regularly, if not constantly, backing up important data.  Businesses that don’t back up their data consistently and reliably put themselves at risk for costly recovery downtime, not to mention the loss of customer trust that comes with any kind of data or security breach.

Some businesses approach the issue like a teenager behind the wheel and feel invincible, but no one is immune to the eventuality of data-loss events. Be prepared. How? If you don’t already have a backup strategy in place, follow these three steps to keep your business-critical information safe, secure, and enduring:

Pinpoint business-critical data

Especially if you are a very small business, it may not be necessary to have 2 or 3 copies of every single file, image, or video you have ever handled.  Larger companies with bulkier databases would do well to use less discretion. It’s all about using your best judgment. A good rule of thumb to use is to ask yourself, “Can I do business without this?” If not, you have your answer.

Choose an external backup system

Once you decide on the most important data, you must then decide on the ideal backup medium. What you choose depends largely on the size of your company and the volume of business-critical data that you handle.  Your options include (but are certainly not limited to) placing multiple copies of your information on CDs, storing them on a basic external hard drive or tape drive, or storing your backups offsite in a virtual environment.

BCS recommends combining onsite backup storage on a hard drive or tape drive with offsite virtual backup, as this will keep your data most secure in the event that a natural disaster destroys onsite copies. We work with the company VMware to provide our clients with dynamic virtualization solutions. Along with virtualization, we offer VMware’s top-of-the-line data protection that enables “fast and efficient backups to disk and, more importantly, fast and reliable recovery.” Technology like this allows a growing company to safely store their data in the cloud without worrying excessively over corruptible hardcopies. (Although it is wise to still keep those on hand.)

Backup regularly

Like we mentioned before, part of a solid backup strategy is consistency. If you only backup once a year, you are doing yourself a big disservice.  Perform a manual backup at least once a month, but if you prefer (and your backup medium can perform the function) it, you can schedule automated backups daily. The second option is the better one because not only does it make routine data backup one less thing to think about, it is also extremely thorough.

When you work with BCS to protect your data offsite, we make sure that nothing you need is ever lost and that it remains easily accessible to you and your team at a moment’s notice.  If you have any questions about your data backup strategy, call or contact BCS Voice and Data Solutions today. We are excited to help.

interactive whiteboards in the classroom

Interactive Whiteboards in the Classroom

interactive whiteboards in the classroom

Imagine that you are a child sitting at your desk in a classroom waiting to start the day…

The teacher walks in, presses a button, and all of a sudden you and your classmates are teleconferencing with another classroom across the world in China for your social studies lesson. When you move on to math, the teacher displays multiplication tables on the same board and you and your classmates go up to the front of the room and take turns dragging and dropping the correct answers. The English lesson is exciting, too, because you get to read a book along with your class on the board, complete with pictures, right from your desk. At the end of the day, your teacher emails an absent classmate an audiovisual recording of everything that happened on the board that day, so even he doesn’t miss out.

Until recently, this kind of scenario seemed positively futuristic. With the incredible technology of interactive whiteboards (IWBs), it looks like the future is here.

For the past 20 years, interactive whiteboards have made their way into classrooms across the globe. In many K-12 schools, the traditional blackboard has been phased out entirely by the IWB because of the latter’s innovative flexibility.

Structurally, your general IWB is a large screen placed at the front of a classroom (or boardroom.) Many have desktop or tablet hubs from which the instructor writes on and navigates across programs and the web for students to see.

The uses and benefits of interactive whiteboards in the classroom are many:

-Presentations

-Ability to record information and lessons for those not in class

-Digital Storytelling -Teaching the fundamentals of Internet navigation in real time

-Demonstrating the correct usage of editing marks on typed text for the whole class to see.

Perhaps the most important contribution of interactive whiteboards to education is how readily they appeal to diverse learning styles in the classroom. For instance, in a classroom with a traditional blackboard, an audio learner is likely to be less intellectually stimulated than a student who is visual or tactile. An interactive whiteboard allows the teacher to integrate sound bytes in the form of music and video clips to instruct the audio learner more effectively and with ease. The interactive whiteboard is especially helpful to tactile learners because it gives them the ability to drag, drop, draw, and erase more clearly and decisively than they might on a blackboard.

We can’t underestimate the value of this technology in the classroom for a generation of students that is readily responsive to the Internet, touch screens, and everything digital. Interactive whiteboards meet children where they are cognitively, and they afford teachers a seemingly endless horizon of creative possibilities.

BCS is a first class proprietor of interactive whiteboards and we can answer any questions you may have about choosing, installing, and using an IWB in your classroom or office. Call us today.

image source: www.edudemic.com

source: http://www.rmtc.fsdb.k12.fl.us

BYOD Policy and Your Wireless Network

We live in an increasingly interconnected world and the line between people’s work lives and their personal lives becomes blurrier every day.  In the workplace, this “Work 3.0” culture translates to the common practice of employees using their personal technology (smartphones, laptops, etc.) to access the corporate wireless network both in the office and out of the office.  It used to be that employees came in at 9 a.m. with their company issued cell phones to sit in their company-issued cubicles and work at their company-issued desktop computers. At five, those employees went home—and more or less left work at the workplace.

 

These days, thanks to the consumerization of technology, corporate employees have no reservations about accessing company information and enterprise via their own smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers from the office, from home, or from the coffee shop down the street. Check out this breakdown of employee behavior on personal devices:

 source

While this culture enhances productivity and the flexibility of employee daily life, it presents a huge security challenge for IT professionals who must attempt to protect company information on a number of vastly different devices on and off of the network. It’s enough to make a CIO want to throw their hands up and ban all personal devices from accessing the server on the wireless network—which is a strategic option. The problem is that too many companies neglect to form any kind of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy at all, thus putting their sensitive data at great risk. Mitigate the risks associated with BYOD and reap the productivity benefits by following these three steps:

 

Define your policy

Weigh the pros and cons of BYOD for your business if you haven’t already. Are the productivity gains and the lower hardware costs worth the headache of Mobile Device Management (MDM) across myriad platforms for your IT department? Your policy is likely to fall in a grey area between total tech license for employees and total barring of non-company owned devices from the wireless network.

 

Promulgate your policy

You can develop the clearest, most reasonable BYOD policy out there, but if your employees are unaware of it, your efforts will be wasted. In our last blog post we talked about the importance of well-structured business-IT alignment, and the need for a top to bottom understanding of BYOD policy is a perfect example of why said alignment matters. When everyone is on the same page, your sensitive data is safer.

 

Enforce your policy

Once your BYOD policy is well known by all involved in the organization, enforcement of it becomes top priority. Of course, most of the continued implementation relies on experts in IT who must ensure that all firewalls and encryption mechanisms are in good working order.

 

How solid is your BYOD policy? Or perhaps it’s better to ask, how safe is your sensitive data on the wireless network? Let BCS provide you with a free IT consultation. We can help you decide the best course of action for a BYOD policy and provide wireless network monitoring solutions for your company. With these services, you can rest assured that no unauthorized device is infringing on your wireless network. Call us today. 757.497.1300.

Business-IT Alignment

How long has it been since your company last assessed the quality of its business-IT alignment? If it has been a while, there is a good chance that your company isn’t operating as efficiently as it could with an IT strategy revised to support current business objectives and fiscal needs.  Especially in an age when business depends so heavily on technology, it is vital that the two elements interact strategically toward one goal.  As we enter 2013, it’s a good time to take account of your business-IT alignment and make changes as necessary. Let’s look at three ways you as a forward-thinking business professional can adjust the business-IT relationship for the better and reap the rewards as the year ensues:

Make your company’s customer the focal point of IT

Like a company’s product or service offering, marketing and advertising, and fiscal planning, IT strategy should be tailored to the company’s ultimate client-base. Often internal IT departments begin to view the company as their customer, when in order to operate effectively, all departments including IT should focus on serving the needs of the customer.  How you make this happen depends on your type industry.  If you sell to people, you can simply ask them how your technology can serve them better.  B2B operations are a little more complex, but by considering the nature of the businesses to which you sell, you should be able to make small changes to your IT strategy that will enhance customer experience.

Come together frequently to assess business-IT alignment

While this seems like a function of common sense, the daily grind can put up a wall of non-communication between a business’ leaders and its IT department that neither party intended to be there. In order to avoid this issue, companies should hold regular meetings in which business and IT goals are coordinated, service problems/failures are accounted for and evaluated, and, in general, everybody makes sure they are on the same page.

Outsource discriminately

If your IT operations are handled offsite, make sure that you work with a service provider that considers and understands not only your company’s technology needs, but also its overall goals, mission, and client base. Just as you would an internal IT department, stay accountable to your service provider and demand the same in return.

BCS Voice and Data Solutions works closely with its clients to provide tailored outsourcing solutions that will drive your business forward. Call us today.

Source: SearchCIO

Work 3.0

A report recently published by Mitel Solutions asserts that, “We are on the tipping point of a workplace revolution that will signal a model for a dynamic, adaptive and smarter business that is focused around the human cloud workforce.”

Flexibility. Virtualization. Bring Your Own Device. These are all things that characterize a new era of business technology that Mitel and the tech-world call “Work 3.0.” It has the potential to provide businesses with more skilled talent, happier employees, and in turn, huge gains in productivity.

But what is this transition to Work 3.0 all about, and what does it mean for small business?

While it’s no secret that business technology and culture has become increasingly reliant on virtual communication thanks to rapid technological innovation, many companies who felt the sting of the recent recession found the cost-saving merit of making a complete switch to virtual voice and data technology through use of cloud computing and unified communications (UC).

With UC, companies can provide their employees the ability to work from anywhere, be it their home office, the coffee shop down the street, or on a plane.

Working remotely is admittedly not a new concept, but UC’s emphasis on mobile capability transcends anything we’ve seen prior. It allows workers to make their job a seamless part of their “on-the-go” lifestyle. Imagine doing your entire job from a smartphone. Unified communications technology makes this possible.

It also makes expansive physical office spaces a little less relevant. In fact, there are quite a few companies who have harnessed the power of UC and gotten rid of their offices altogether in favor of virtual communication between employees.

Since these voice and data innovations have made collaboration and communication as easy as a click of a mouse, companies have access to a larger talent pool that isn’t constrained by location or ability to commute. This means that businesses can hire people on other coasts and in other countries who are truly best-suited for open positions, with a lot less overhead.

The essence of Work 3.0 is facilitating a work environment that interacts seamlessly with the lives of employees. They choose (in part, at least) when they want to work, where they want to work, and how they want to work. It used to be that one’s office was the only place to find the technology needed to get work done. Now, with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, advanced laptops and cloud computing, people are just as capable of getting work done at home as they are at the office, if not more so. For a growing number of companies, small and large alike, the days of the 9 to 5 workday are coming to an end.

Your business can harness the power of Work 3.0 without getting rid of your office space or regular business hours. As a Mitel partner, BCS Voice and Data Solutions leads the way for advanced voice and data technology in Hampton Roads. Among other things, we provide desktop and mobile integrated phone systems, wireless networking solutions, and high level teleconferencing equipment that can help your company stay on the cutting edge of innovative communication and increase overall productivity and ROI. Call us at 757-497-3100. We can help.

Source: Mitel 3.0 Whitepaper

VoIP Helps Hotels Provide Better Customer Service for Guests

Due to the popularity of mobile phones, many hotel managers may be concerned over the plummeting hotel telephone service revenue.

The best way to compensate for this loss in revenue is to take advantage of Voice-Over-IP Telephony (VoIP). It puts phones on the bottom line, and offers guests a lower cost than they can get from their own mobile phone operator.

As technology has developed, charging for long distance calls has become an old business model and the prices are now considered excessive. VoIP allows hotels to provide guests with a phone service for free. It provides better customer service and happier guests at a very low cost for the hotels.

One hotel chain has taken it a few steps further. Hotel 1000 in Seattle used a unified communication system and a series of VoIP applications to create a superior hotel experience.

The converged network provides a single infrastructure for data, voice, video and security communication. Among the unique applications is a video valet system, an automated system that gathers room ambience preferences and sets them prior to the guests entering their rooms, and a hotel entry application that sends video of a visitor to the hotel guest’s phone.

Anything IP-addressable can be put on the system–from security cameras to intelligent thermostats and minibar applications to phone management systems.

As an integral part of any business infrastructure, IP telephone systems can maximize the flexibility and functionality of your business communications. If you’re interested in learning more about what VoIP can do for your business, give BCS Voice & Data a call today at 757-497-3100.

Source: eweek.com