8 Ideas for Preparing Your 2016 IT Budget

Taking the time to plan ahead for your 2016 IT budget can be quite useful. Besides helping you manage costs, a budget can highlight areas where you might need to invest more resources. It can also keep you on track in meeting your financial goals.

Here are eight tips that can help you prepare an effective IT budget for 2016:

1. Take the Time to Set Your Goals

2016 IT Budgeting

An IT budget is not something you can throw together in a day. It takes time and thought to create one that will help your company grow. It also requires input from your management team, as your IT systems are likely being used in many different areas of your business.

Further, an IT budget is something the begins with your business goals for the new year.  Are you looking for more revenue growth?  Are you looking to costs?  Are needing to update new laptops or servers?  Keep these priorities in mind before you start.

2. Look to the Present and Past to Predict the Future

A good way to begin your 2016 IT budget is to create a baseline budget that shows your IT expenses and income for the current year. You can then adjust it to account for anticipated changes in 2016. Examining your IT budgets from previous years can give you an idea of how variable revenue and costs have fluctuated from month to month, quarter to quarter, and year to year.  Three to four years can help provide data on capital expenditure cycles.

3. Do Not Try to Budget Down to the Last Cent

IT budgets are designed to only estimate where money will be coming in and going out. They are not accounting ledgers, so you do not need to account for every last cent.

Because you are just estimating your IT expenses and revenue, do not be surprised if your projections are wrong. You can adjust them as needed when you review your budget each month.

4. Align Your IT Budget with Your Company's Strategic Goals

IT systems can help or hinder a company's efforts to meet its strategic goals. For example, meeting the goal of improving customer retention is more easily achievable with a fast, reliable web ordering system than a slow, quirky one. Budgeting IT improvements in areas that support your company's strategic goals will help turn IT into a profit center rather than a cost center.

5. Budget for Hardware and Software Updates and Replacements

Many companies have outdated hardware and software because they do not keep track of when these resources should be updated or replaced. As a result, employees often use them until they fail. These failures can lead to many other problems, including lost productivity, security risks, and even system downtime.

A better approach is to use an asset management system to track when hardware and software need updates or are approaching the end of their life. That way, you can budget for upgrades and replacements. This will help you avoid the additional costs and hassles of dealing with failed hardware and software.

6. Invest in Measures That Will Improve Security

Cybercrime is on the rise, as studies by Symantec and ThreatMetrix show. However, many companies do not adequately invest in IT security.

A Spiceworks study found that 59 percent of IT professionals feel their organizations do not adequately invest in IT security. This is corroborated by the finding that those organizations plan to spend only 9 percent of their software budget, or 6 percent of their total budget, on security measures in 2016. Given the prevalence of cybercrime, spending more on security measures is a wise investment.

7. Do Some Calculations before Treating Cloud Costs as Operational Expenses

A Computer Economics study found that 56 percent of organizations plan to increase spending on cloud applications. In budgets, companies often list cloud costs as operational expenses so that they can increase or decrease them as needed. This gives companies more flexibility to meet financial goals. However, if you plan to use a cloud application for many years, it might be cheaper in the long run to treat the cloud costs as a fixed amortization expense.

Learn about how new innovations with the cloud can reduce capital costs, increase your security and let you work from anywhere here.

8. Get help

There are always new innovative ways to reduce costs and increase productivity with technology.  Seek help from IT experts to uncover ways you can fit these new solutions into your plans.  Contact us today and see how Ease Technologies can share new ways to keep your business more secure, improve your productivity and reduce your IT costs. 

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Making the case for the virtualization

Businesses always look for more efficient ways of doing things, even if these new ways include risks and learning curves. Adopting virtualization is one way companies are evolving to become more efficient, and thus, stay ahead of the competition.

However, as with any new IT initiative, often managers find they need to sell the new technology before their company will even think about adoption. After all, new technologies typically carry expenses, in the form of new hardware and software, and that learning curve mentioned above, which can be expensive, too.

cloud servicesWhen attempting to bring everyone on board with virtualization at your company, you'll need to develop a carefully crafted business case. The following are ideas you can include that will help you sell the benefits of virtualization, while easing concerns about risks and costs. 

In short, virtualization removes the inefficiency of the old "one server, one application" model, in which many business servers are underutilized. With virtualization, one single server can function as multiple virtual machines, with each one having the ability to operate in different environments such as Windows, Linux, or Apache. When companies adopt virtualization, they are able to consolidate multiple servers onto fewer physical devices, helping to reduce space, power, and administrative requirements.

Virtualization offers quite a few other business benefits as well. For example, it helps with business continuity and offers complete data protection so your company is able to achieve continuous application availability and automated disaster recovery across physical sites. Virtualization allows you to simplify backup and recovery of your data and systems and to improve responsiveness through increased efficiency and flexibility. With all of these benefits on your side, your company's IT will help drive innovation.

Let's break down in detail the reasons that consolidating operations onto fewer servers can help your company. This consolidation allows you to:

  • Dramatically lower hardware costs and the associated cooling and space costs
  • Improve productivity across your organization and free up valuable IT time by simplifying your IT infrastructure, leaving more time to focus on strategic initiatives
  • Reduce costly downtime and streamline business contingency planning so you know your data is secure in the event of a natural disaster or other unforeseen event
  • Now, let's examine the ways your business can use virtualization to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.
One of the best benefits of virtualization is lower server infrastructure costs. Consolidating excess server and desktop hardware increases utilization rates, and reduced hardware means lower energy bills, too. You'll save floor space, as well, because virtualization eliminates server sprawl by allowing you to run multiple applications on a single server. Your company could even reduce hardware and maintenance costs by as much as half.

Virtualization makes your company more efficient because it improves staff productivity, allowing your IT team to focus on more strategic projects that can help speed time to market for new products or services you are developing. Since IT employees won't have to order and set up a new server for every new application, you can get applications up and running smoother and more efficiently. And, with fewer technical issues to manage, your IT team can focus on improving customer service or developing new projects. Virtualization can be combined with cloud services to move your servers to a hosted environment adds even more benefits that could include extensive backups, improved failover and greater security.

Finally, backup and recovery get a huge boost from virtualization because your company is protected from downtime and disaster. Business continuity solutions can be expensive and complex, but even the smallest organizations can achieve a solid continuity plan with virtualization.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to consider adopting virtualization for business. Now, it is your turn to sell these points to your team so you can begin reaping the benefits of virtualization.

One of the best ways to virtualize your office is with cloud services.  To find out if your business is a good candidate for the cloud take this independent test from Clarity Channel Advisors.
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6 IT Policies to Help Protect Your Company

Many companies rely on IT to help run their businesses. For this reason, they often depend on a set of IT policies to ensure the productive, appropriate, and legal use of IT resources. IT policies establish expectations and regulations for behavior related to company computers and networks.

In addition, IT policies detail consequences for employees or customers in the event of a policy violation. The proper enforcement of IT policies may also provide a basis for defense in the event of a lawsuit.

Here are six common IT policies to help protect your company:

1. Acceptable Use Policy

An acceptable use policy, or AUP, restricts use of a company's network or services. AUPs prevent illegal activity, ensure security, and safeguard the reputation of the company.

AUPs also outline the consequences of breaking the rules. A common penalty is restricted or permanent loss of access to the associated network or service.

2. Privacy Policy

Privacy policies protect the personal information collected from a company's customers and employees. Personal information includes anything that can be used to identify an individual. Names, social security numbers, credit card numbers, email addresses, and even photos of individuals are considered personal information.

Privacy policies typically document how personal information is collected, stored, used, and disposed of. Privacy policies may also disclose when personal information is shared or sold to third parties.

3. Data Governance Policy

Data governance policies describe how data is managed as it passes through company systems. Specifically, these policies document how a company makes sure that data is accessible and secure, as well as accurately collected and properly maintained.

Data governance policies also identify the people responsible for the quality and security of company data. They might also mention any third parties that play a role in the company's data management plans.

4. Disaster Recovery Policy

A disaster recovery policy outlines the broad requirements of a company's disaster recovery plan. These policies identify critical data and responsible departments or staff. They also specify allowable downtime, as well as how to ensure business continuity in the event of downtime.

Disaster recovery plans are usually created by senior IT staff. However, the specifics of data recovery plans are normally left to those designing and executing the plan.

5. BYOD Policy

A BYOD policy, or Bring Your Own Device policy, is an IT policy that governs the use of personal mobile devices in the workplace. BYOD policies are becoming increasingly important, with study after study showing the dramatic shift of personal mobile devices into the workplace.

Specifically, BYOD policies state the degree to which personal mobile devices are allowed within the workplace, what can be done with these devices, and how the company will support them.

6. Social Media Policy

Social media policies govern employee use of social media both in and out of the workplace. These policies define how a company will manage and monitor the online behavior of it's employees. They also set forth any company expectations regarding the nature and tone of information being posted.

As a result, social media policies are sometimes perceived as repressive. However, they can actually empower employees by letting them know what can and cannot be posted. Striking a balance between the needs of the company and employees is the key to a successful social media policy.

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5 Things to Consider When Planning Your Data Backup Process

Your organization's value depends on its data. A catastrophic loss of data will cripple your company, often beyond the point of recovery. For this reason, data backup plans are essential, even for startups. Save time and money by doing it right from the start instead of waiting until after the disaster. Every company needs to have their own plan that considers not only speed of recovery, but redundancy for business continuity. Many backup plans include local recovery and remote offsite options. 

Here are five things to consider when planning your data backup process.

1. Choose the Right Medium

You can store data almost anywhere, especially when you don't have much to back up. However, the storage medium you choose determines how quickly you can go from a server crash, and lost data, to being productive again. The best storage medium allows you to store large amounts of data, but also makes recovery quick.

For instance, DVDs may be convenient and inexpensive, but they'll prove to be rather difficult to manage once you have terabytes of storage to maintain. Hard drives might make sense in such a situation, especially if you are looking for redundancy in your backup solution.  Cloud backup offers an offsite option and is important part of the planning. 

What is best really comes down to your own specific needs.

2. Test Your Backups

How do you know your backups aren't corrupted? One common unforeseen failure in data backup plans is corrupted files, found only once a catastrophic failure has occurred. You simply don't know the integrity of your backups unless you test them.

The frequency of when you test your backups ultimately depends on the value of your specific data. It is recommended that you periodically check to make sure that your backups work as expected and restore properly. This process will not only ensure the integrity of your backups, but also provides a regular check that the backups are occurring at the specified interval.

3. Schedule Your Backups During Off-Peak Hours

Scheduling large amounts of data transfers across your network can create all kinds of problems. First, moving terabytes of data can take hours and it will eat up your bandwidth. Backups performed during the day will affect users' productivity. They can even create issues with dropped virtual meetings, phone calls (VoIP) or data transfers. Instead of interrupting users, schedule your backups at night.

To perform scheduled backups, you'll need good software. The software must be able to identify when resources weren't properly backed up and alert you to any issues. It also must be reliable enough to back up your data regularly without interruptions.

4. Audit Your Data

Backups are easy when you have one server. But, what happens when your company expands and you have several servers and workstations to maintain? You can easily forget to include important data in your backup process. The only way to ensure that you back up all your important data is to perform an audit.

Your audit should include all the servers within your network. First, you must know where users back up data. These file servers hold important user documents. Second, you always need to back up database servers. These servers contain critical company data. Finally, any application servers must have backups. Application servers can usually have more infrequent backups since they do not change often.

5. Prioritize Security

The last thing to consider is security, but it's probably one of the most important. You can't back up all your data and leave it in a random location. Poorly secured backups leave not only a few documents open to hackers, but tons of data. Backups are frequently forgotten when securing your network, but you should have high standards for their security.

Don't skimp on your company's most prized possession. Data is your company's most critical asset. Contact us for a quick check-up on your existing data backup process to make sure you've taken everything into account.  Every company has different needs, contact us and learn how Ease Technologies can help your business with important data backup planning and implementation.  Call us today at (301) 854-0010.

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Steps before upgrading your device to iOS 8

Apple has just release the latest operating system (OS) upgrade for iPhones and iPads.  Like all software updates, iOS 8 offers many new compelling features and improved security for your mobile devices.  I encourage taking a little time before rushing into a new major operating system update.  Often there are a few incompatibles and technical issues that are only uncovered after the final release to the public.  When it is time to upgrade your iOS device, there are a few steps to take before you get started.

cloud servicesCan you upgrade your device?
Apple has identified the following devices as upgradable to iOS 8:
• iPhones 4s, 5 and 5s
• iPad 2, 3, 4, Air, Mini 
• iPod 5 Gen

Do you have enough room?
It is a good time to look over your device to see if you have enough space and clean up some space.
Check under Settings>General>Usage to uncover how much storage space is being used up.  Anything less than about 1 GB it is time to remove some older items.  A full list of apps and storage demands by those apps are listed as well.  If you are no longer playing Candy Crush you can delete it here.

Clean up media
You may be low or storage space or just in need to clear out some old photos and videos. After a year of birthday parties and vacations there will be plenty of videos and photos that you no longer may need.  Save the good ones, but no need to keep everything.  You can use Dropbox as a way to regularly store those photos and then permanently delete that media off your iPhone.

Update Your Apps
I always update my current applications before upgrading the OS. Most all App developers update their applications with a major OS update and you will likely need that update in combination with the OS upgrade.  It can take some time to update 15-30 or more apps on your device.  Get it done ahead of time.

Backup everything in iTunes
A nonnegotiable is backing up your device before you start the upgrade to iOS 8.  Any number of things can go wrong and having a fall back option is critical. I like to do the backup in iTunes with the Encrypted iPhone backup option.  That way all the passwords I have installed on that device are backed up in the process.  This is also the process I would take before transferring my iPhone 5 to a new iPhone 6 for example, too.

Finally, make sure your device is fully charged and you can start your upgrade. 

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 and learn how Managed IT Services can help secure your business and reduce your IT costs in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
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