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Resources: Productivity

Plan Your Technology Refresh

You spend your whole life up to date with every new singer and song. Then, one day, you realize that you don’t recognize anything on the radio, and they don’t make music like they used to. You start to avoid the new stuff only listening to things from your college days.

While in your personal life this attitude might work for you, in the business world, this could be devastating, especially when it comes to your network. We live in an age where virtually all companies utilize technology. If you consistently hold on to older technology, you could find yourself going the way of the dinosaurs.

The March of Progress Waits for No One

There are certain technologies you can use for a decade or more while others become outdated within weeks. Of course, how and when a technology becomes obsolete varies depending on a variety of factors. For the sake of this discussion, we will use two different terms: Functional obsolescence and absolute obsolescence.

Absolute Obsolescence occurs when it’s physically impossible to use the technology. For instance, a computer without a modem or ethernet port would make connecting to the internet impossible. Utilizing a line of business application that runs solely off floppy disks also falls in this category.

Functional Obsolescence is a bit different. This is when something technically works but is not advisable. An example of this would be using Windows 7 after January 20, 2020. Although possible to use, you’re asking for your system to be hacked and files compromised due to security holes. When it comes to software, utilizing older software often limits its functionality. Think of trying to create a .docx file (current MS Word format) while using Word 97 (only capable of .doc). It’s like trying to get blood out of a stone.

Keep yourself informed about end dates. Be proactive with update schedules to make the prospect of upgrading less of a burden. Be aware of when certain parts of software will no longer be supported so that you can plan for a transition. This will make normal operations significantly smoother, as well as make it easier to recover should you ever experience a data loss event.

Perception is Everything

Besides the explicit risks of using obsolete technology, we need to consider perception. Using updated technology displays success and professionalism. Perception is worth its weight in gold when it works in our favor. In certain industries, there is massive competition between individual providers and customers can have very little reason to choose one over another, so this perception is critical.

There’s a reason why companies who invest in new technology often spend good money to advertise it to the public. Unless a potential customer is familiar with the expertise and reputation of your company, they rely on signals like your technology. Using noticeably out of date technology can leave a negative impression and make them think twice before doing business with you.

The Bottom Line

A generation ago, using computers was a luxury. However, that is no longer the case. From web designers to lumberjacks, just about every industry requires technology to some extent. Instead of trying to fight it, proper planning and implementation can make this fact of life work in your favor.

Consider it time to plan a technology refresh. Since everyone is in the same boat, there are plenty of options to accommodate even the most tech-illiterate user. Subscription services have become an immensely popular option for software, making sure that users always have the most current versions. For those that have an idea of how often they need to replace their hardware, Hardware as a Service (HaaS) programs may be your best bet. You pay monthly or yearly for not only maintenance but also for the eventual replacement at a set interval, taking the guesswork out of upgrades.

But when it comes down to it, much like the rest of life and business, balance is key. You shouldn’t make new technology your center of focus, but try not to be stubborn about upgrading, either. Remember, while you may be comfortable rocking out to the oldies, there’s still plenty of value in what’s new and fresh.

To Renew or Not Renew, That Is the Question

You’re prepared, at least mentally, to begin your migration to Windows 10 because you’ve read What Does Windows End of Life Mean to My Business? and Getting Ahead of Windows End of Life. Is your hardware ready, though? How you handle your IT (on your own, as needed support, or with a fully managed agreement) will change how you will have to deal with your transition. The following items should help you decide how to prepare your hardware for the Windows 10 migration.

Do It Yourself

If you own all of your own equipment and deal with IT issues in house, then you will want to get started on migrating your devices now. The good news is that Windows 10 is highly compatible with just about every PC out there. If you run into trouble, it’s likely a vendor incompatibility issue, not Microsoft, itself, so you’ll want to contact them directly. When you have that handled, upgrading from 7 to 10 is as simple as running the ISO file from Microsoft.com, from a USB, or DVD. The bad news is that it will take significant time migrating every PC in your business. You’ll also need to deal with a backlog of Microsoft customer service support if you happen to run into any issues. Remember that almost 70% of the world’s computers are still running Windows 7. It’s almost guaranteed that others will run into issues and need support, as well.

MSP

If you are with a managed service provider, you should be just fine. In fact, you likely already have a plan in place from your most recent business review. Over the course of the next few months, your IT company will ensure software compatibility with all of your line of business applications and contact any necessary vendors and schedule a time with you to come out and run the update once their sure everything will go smoothly. Now, would also be a good time to consider any hardware upgrades that you’ve been needing. All new PCs will automatically come with Windows 10, alleviating any upgrade issues now or in the next three years or so. The best part of it, you have to do nothing. No downtime for your business, no extra IT work for you, and no worries.

If you’re on a full managed services agreement, the upgrade is more than likely covered and any hardware needs will be handled on a new monthly payment plan (HaaS agreement). If you’re on a partial agreement or break/fix model, you’ll likely be billed for the time required to complete the upgrade. Either way, your IT company will have you completely in hand. Just remember that your service provider will soon be booked solid assisting other clients with this transition. It’s important to schedule now so you’re not left waiting.

Time to Get a Contract?

If you’re reading this blog as someone that had planned to do this upgrade on your own but have now decided that you don’t have the time or desire to do so? It’s time to contact us. We’ll make sure that you’re taken care of through Windows 7 end of life and well beyond.

Getting Ahead of Windows End of Life

With Windows 7 end of life quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about what needs to be done to prepare. Technically, regular Windows 7 support has been dead since 2015, however, the extended support period is over January 2020, which means no more updates or security patches. What should you be aware of for EOL? Get ready, you may have some work to do.

Many are concerned that their PCs will stop working. That is not the case. Your Windows software will work, but its security will depreciate rather quickly, which could put your PC in danger of cyber-attacks and viruses. Back in 2014, Microsoft ended support for Windows XP. It affected 40% of computers worldwide. Now, years later, it is estimated that about 7% of computers are still using Windows XP. These computers are the ones hackers like to target because of the security holes caused by lack of regular patching.

Currently, about 70% of businesses worldwide use Windows 7, so it’s highly likely that you need to take action before Windows 7 retires. The more systems you have on Windows 7, the sooner you need to prepare. Here‘s a quick action plan:

  • Determine how many systems need an upgrade. Simply take a count of all the systems running Windows 7 or, if you still have some, Windows XP. If systems are on Windows 7, and the hardware is up to par, you likely will be able to do a simple license upgrade.
  • Assess your hardware. Windows 10 will not work on all hardware systems. You may need an upgrade. Contact your IT provider to help you determine if your hardware has the right specs. Easiest way to tell? If your hardware came out in the last three years or so, you’re probably in the clear. We recommend upgrading your hardware about every three to four years to avoid any compatibility issues.
  • Create a timeline and budget. You don’t have to make all these changes all at once. You could plan them out up to and including January 2020, but we recommend getting started sooner rather than later. Again, your IT provider will be able to help determine your best path forward.
  • Create contingency plans. Unfortunately, not all line of business applications will immediately jump to operation on Windows 10, particularly if you’re utilizing an older version of the software, or if your software provider has gone out of business or moved to their own end of life cycle. Sometimes this is inevitable, but you need to be able to quarantine these vulnerable systems from the rest of your network as much as possible or take the time to plan your upgrade now. A quality IT company will be able to help you make the decision, as well as set up a test environment so that you know your contingency plans are working long before you need them.
  • Training Your Staff. While the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is not the monumental shift past software updates have been, the new system does take a bit of getting used to. Plan time to work with your staff one-on-one or in a group so that you don’t end up with them wasting time tinkering or trying to figure out why their favorite button isn’t where it used to be. Your IT provider should be able to provide this user-based training for Windows 10, as well as the majority of software you utilize on a daily basis.

Keep in mind that Windows 10 end of life takes place in January of 2025; so, while planning, ensure your devices can make the switch again in a few years, or that you’re budgeting for another upgrade. Also, document your processes during the shift. This could make life so much easier down the road. Most of all though, act. You don’t want to be stuck without security patches or an up-to-date operating system. It’s like hackers can smell your outdated system and will gladly break-in. Protect yourself and your business and begin planning sooner than later.

What Does Windows End of Life Mean to my Business?

You’ve all heard the panic. Windows is cutting off support for its widely popular version 7 software. January 14, 2020 will officially mark Windows 7 End of Life. Many companies have used Windows 7 since it launched in 2009 and are still actively using it today. So, what’s the big deal? Can you just stick with Windows 7 or will your computer self-destruct?

The good news is that your computers will work just fine after the End of Life date. However, just because your computer will function doesn’t mean it’s wise to hold onto outdated software. The largest concern for Windows 7 users is security. Since updates and support will no longer be available, your device will be extremely vulnerable to cyber threats. In fact, this is a bit of a hacker’s dream. They are standing by, knowing people will neglect to update their operating system.

Windows 7 is actually already in its ‘extended support’ phase and has been since 2015! Microsoft ended mainstream support including new features and warranty claims. Yet, throughout this time, Windows has kept virus patches and security bug fixes up to date. With End of Life, that will go away. IT and security experts alike strongly suggest migrating your operating system to something current before the Windows EOL date. Theoretically, you could pay for Windows 7 extended support on each individual device, but the costs will build up faster than simply migrating. Not only that, but specific security and bug fixes will also be more expensive and charged on an individual basis.

Currently, there are a few options to choose from when it comes to Windows 7 EOL. Don’t be cheap and go to Windows 8. Though it is a newer version, it’ll only be a matter of time before you need to migrate all over again. You could transition to Windows 10 (recommended). If you are worried about cost efficiency, you could try a free operating system like Linux. It will take some research to find the specific Linux platform that’s best for you, but it may be worth it if you’re someone who likes to tinker. Then, of course, you could swap to a Mac altogether. Just keep in mind that Apple’s products are pretty expensive and you may need to re-purchase certain business applications.

It’s important to begin working with your IT Company on this migration as soon as possible. They’ll take a look at the devices you are using, determine how many are utilizing Windows 7, and ensure your hardware isn’t out of date. Not all computers will be able to handle a new operating system, which could make a migration take much longer, more difficult, and costlier as you upgrade hardware. Your IT company will provide a recommended path for an upgrade with a clear budget and timeline for completion.

Overall, take some time to plan your transition. Talk to us if you need additional help or options. Most of all though, get moving now. EOL will be here in no time.

Business Evolution

Figuring out how to effectively utilize social media within your business can be a tricky task. On the one hand, it’s critical for marketing. On the other, it can be a major time suck. You’ll have to walk a fine line of utilizing the main players like Facebook and Instagram, alongside other lesser-known social-related platforms to evolve your business and increase communication and productivity amongst employees and clients. We’re not going to spend time in this blog giving you a large how-to of using each of these platforms, but we will get you started down the right path with the correct technology.

Customer Service

While nothing can replace a human voice, sometimes, utilizing social technology can massively improve your customer service. Start with simple tools like the Facebook Messenger autoresponder. Whenever someone messages you on Facebook, they immediately receive a response acknowledging their message in addition to expectations for further interaction. This allows you to be continually responsive without constantly sitting on Facebook.

If you’re ready to take it a step further, consider specific customer service profiles on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll need to be able to clearly track customers’ complaints and rants, but quickly showing up in response on these social profiles will make a big difference. Check out how these companies do Twitter support very well.

Finally, consider a chat mechanism on your website. A whole generation of customers is rising that much prefers chatting online to getting on the phone. You don’t have to constantly manage this service. You can either set office hours or outsource to a third party to start and triage conversations.

Utilizing these techniques, your office manager and customer service team can get off the phone and answer questions through a social platform while they are working on other items creating greater efficiency.

Communication

Communication between employees can also be enhanced with social platforms. For example, Microsoft Office 365 offers Teams, a software for messaging, video conferencing, calls, and screen sharing. Instead of walking all the way to someone’s office or trying to multitask while waiting for answers, you can type in a name and send a message to anyone in the company. It cuts time in half; you get quick on the spot response or support. When employees are working remotely, they can still communicate effectively with anyone in the office utilizing a screen share and video to make their message clear. Something like this will also allow you to eliminate other video conferencing software for a more complete, all-in-one solution saving time, training, and money. Your IT company can point you in the right direction when it comes to implementing a software like this.

Morale

Finally, social media, social tools, and social platforms are all shown to increase morale within a business. They are allowing employees to streamline their jobs without the stress and hassle of attempting to collaborate with different people via email or an office visit. It also shows them that you trust them to use these things on work time and not abuse the privilege. Taking a small break to check Facebook or network with a client makes a surprising difference in the workplace. Do some research and find out what would work best for your business.