Managing IT Equipment When Moving Offices

Planning an office move soon? Don’t leave your technology moving requirements until the last minute.  In fact, the sooner you let your IT staff know about the move, the better.

1. Start Planning ASAP – and don’t forget to notify your IT Professionals! 

The sooner you get started planning, the smoother your transition will be. Let your IT Pros know as soon as possible. They will think of things most people never consider, like:

  • Type and location of cabling
  • How to protect equipment during the move
  • How to setup and protect your new server room (if you have one)
  • Ways to make the transition seamless to your customers
  • Physical and cyber security measures

2. Decide whether to stay open or close your doors during the transition.

A seamless transition is the goal. If you are going to close your office for the move, make sure to notify your customers. Let them know when you’ll be back and how to reach you during the transition.  If you decide to stay open, set up an offsite or remote location in advance. Whichever way you decide to go, planning ahead is going to help the most in the long run!

3. Inventory your current IT equipment.

Now is the time to take a look at every piece of IT equipment that needs to move along with you. All the big devices need to be unplugged and tagged with where they need to go (room number, desk number, room name, etc.) to make for an easier move. The smaller items that can go into bags are pieces like:

  • Cables
  • Power cords
  • Keyboards
  • Surge suppressors
  • Pointing devices
  • Any other odds and ends

Don’t forget to tie up and tag all bags, if it’s not tagged it won’t be moved!

Create an inventory sheet to help you keep track of all your IT equipment.

4. Decide what equipment to discard or donate.

After you’ve inventoried all the equipment, it’s time for some spring cleaning. Anything outdated or not used often, like old fax machines – toss. Slow or outdated computers? Eclipse can help you properly dispose of those electronics! If you are getting rid of computers, make sure to properly erase your hard drive before disposing or donating.

Some IT equipment can be leased and might need to be returned or renewed when moving locations. This is a great time to upgrade your electronics and hardware, so it’s ready when you move into the new office.

Are you still running Windows 7? Time for an upgrade! Several popular Microsoft products are going out-of-support in January 2020.

5. Decide what to upgrade or replace.

Replacing or upgrading your equipment all at once can be hard on cash flow. Create a budget for new hardware purchases, those that you need immediately and those you can plan for over the next three to five years.

Moving is a great time to think about migrating to the Cloud. Not only can you eliminate servers, but there are many other pros:

  • More secure and reliable than on-site servers
  • Virtual environment can get up and running faster
  • Lower total cost- only pay for what you need
  • Accessible for remote work

6. Consider your phone system.

Will you get a new phone number? Put plans in place to minimize call downtime. If you have an on-premise PBX system that you want to keep, plans need to be made to move the hardware. You may also decide that this is a great time to evaluate a cloud phone system, also known as a VOIP phone. The cloud system can easily be set up in both locations, ensuring that the lines are active during the move.

7. Get the new internet set up.

Internet service needs to be set up and working before you move in. Even if you are able to keep the same service provider, your static IP addresses may change. In this case, your firewall will need to be reconfigured at your new location. You also may need to update your DNS records to point to the new public IP address, and/or notify people who connect to your network of this change.

8. Protect your data!

Everything is already backed up, right? You have offsite storage, right? Have you tried restoring your data recently? This is the time to double and triple check the restoration process. Count this under “anything that can go wrong will!” This is the time to call in the IT Pros to ensures you’ve done this correctly. Missing a step (like not having a password) can make your restore process fail.

9. Develop a site plan.

Get in contact with your IT professionals when you begin the office layout process. We can save you major headaches later by advising you of the best ways to setup your new office with:

  • Cabling
  • Server room
    • Security
    • Climate control
    • Amount of space
    • Power supply
  • Camera Security Systems

10. Develop a moving day plan.

On the day of the move, everyone should know their role. If you already have your electronics bagged and tagged, the setup on the other side will be much easier. Walk through the day with your:

  • Movers
    • What goes
    • Where it goes
    • Time of move/how long to move
  • IT Pros
    • When to set up
    • Where to set up
    • What needs to be set up
  • Employees
    • On site vs. off site
    • Phone and email coverage
    • Personal responsibilities

Eclipse Consulting for New Office Setups

We can help you from the planning stages through to providing ongoing IT Support for your new office. Please reach out to our team to find out pricing and availability by calling us at 586.263.1775 or emailing us at info@eclipse-online.com.

 

Business Firewalls: How to Protect Your Computer Network

With all the news about data security breaches and malware attacks, businesses are finally starting to take network security more seriously… as they should!

Downtime and data loss can have a devastating impact on a business. Small businesses are not immune from criminals with malicious intent. In fact, 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses because they know they’re more likely to be unprotected.

Protect Your Computer Network

Small business data security is becoming increasingly important. We’ve already covered the importance of tested backup and recovery procedures, two-factor authentication and good password protocols, so let’s turn our attention to business firewalls.

Business firewalls are a critical component of network security, but they don’t seem to be well understood. We get lots of questions from clients, like:

  • What is a firewall? How do they work?
  • Do we need one? Do we already have one?
  • Is firewall software, hardware or both?
  • What’s the best business firewall for our company size or industry?

The basics: What is a computer firewall?

A firewall is a filter between your internal computer / network and the Internet. A firewall stops unauthorized access by closely monitoring network traffic. Security rules define the activities and sources that are allowed and blocked.

A firewall can be hardware, software or both.

Business Firewalls vs. Personal Computer Firewalls

Windows 10 comes with an excellent built-in firewall. Microsoft system administrators can create group policies to manage individual computer firewall settings. However, when a business has an internal computer network and servers, they’ll also need a business firewall.

We’ve worked with various vendors, but when it’s up to us, we recommend WatchGuard Firewalls for a few reasons:

  1. WatchGuard is well-known, reliable and reasonably priced.
  2. Security rules and settings are all kept in one place.
  3. Their solutions scale to meet client needs and budgets
  4. Our team has expertise with WatchGuard solutions.

Firewall security rules

Your business users need to communicate easily and safely with the outside world. Firewalls can manage inbound traffic or outbound traffic, or both. We believe it is best practice to keep all security rules all in one place when possible.

Inbound firewall rules protect your business from external cyber security threats. It scans network traffic to protect against:

  • Malware (viruses, phishing, ransomware)
  • Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that attempt to overwhelm system resources
  • Disallowed connections

Security rules can be set to allow or block specific ports, services and IP addresses. Some companies geo-fence their network, disallowing all traffic from countries like Russia and China.

Outbound firewall rules are less common, but can be used to:

  • Lock down sensitive data
  • Protect from malicious activity by internal users
  • Bar employees from visiting inappropriate sites while at work

Certain applications like Microsoft Active Directory have their own version of filtering that can be used for specialized functions like content filtering of email.

NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with firewall security rules, this is NOT an area to become a do-it-yourself IT professional. Firewalls are not plug-and-play devices, and improper setup can either thwart employee productivity or worse, create leave the cybersecurity door wide open, while giving users a false sense of security.

Firewalls and Anti-Virus Software

Having a firewall in place does not remove the need for anti-virus software. Anti-virus software adds another level of protection, monitoring individual files. Think of the firewall as the walls of your office building, and anti-virus software as security guards roaming through the building.

Firewalls and VPN Access

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs are primarily used to allow remote employees and contractors to securely access the internal computer network. They can also be used to protect your privacy online.  The VPN acts like a tunnel that encrypts communications as they’re sent back and forth. Learn more about how to setup a small business VPN.

Firewalls and Cybersecurity

Business firewalls are part of an overall cybersecurity plan. We put together a self-assessment that will enable you to see areas of risk. If you are looking for new IT Services Provider, please reach out for a free IT consultation.

 

business technology quiz

IOT for Small Business: 5 Ideas to Get Started

The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the way we interact with the world. Simply put, IoT means internet-connected devices. The device gathers information and relays it elsewhere, often sending alerts to your phone or computer.

IOT DevicePopular consumer IoT devices include:

  • Alexa as a digital assistant
  • Nest for home temperature control
  • Ring doorbells with cameras and recording

These convenient devices are becoming widely accepted.

How can small businesses capitalize on the IoT trend?

1. Incorporate IoT devices into your products.

Today, you see IoT devices EVERYWHERE. IoT technology has been built into water bottles, running shoes, baby monitors, dryers, refrigerators, cars – sending alerts to your phone to keep you hydrated, moving and replenished. How could you innovate your products to add convenience for your customers?

2. Use IoT to monitor equipment.

Motorized equipment shows signs of trouble before it breaks down. Heat. Pressure. Volume. Speed. Usage. By attaching IoT devices to this machinery, you can be alerted of impending problems and dispatch a technician before you have downtime.

3. Collect data.

Devices can collect lots of information! Now that cloud-based data storage is so inexpensive, you can pull this data into a business analytics tool like Power BI and look for patterns and emerging trends that can give you actionable insight, such as:

  • What components are most likely to break down
  • What inventory you need to have on hand
  • What’s causing project delays

4. Increase productivity.

Use IoT virtual assistants to reduce your administrative burden and free up staff for more important work. You can use virtual assistants to:

  • Schedule meetings
  • Replenish inventory
  • Find information

5. Cut costs.

Lower the office temperature when no one is working. Shut off machines not being used in production. Maintain equipment at the right intervals (based on actual usage) to extend equipment life. Your business can leverage IoT devices in much the same way consumers do – but you receive a much greater benefit!

Consider IoT Security

The blessing and the curse of IoT devices are their connectivity to the Internet.

Without proper security measures in place, individuals can take advantage of weak security settings to gain entry into your network or to gather sensitive information.

When incorporating IoT into your small business, hire a professional IT data security team to ensure you understand your vulnerabilities and take precautions.

Getting Started with IoT

If you’re interested in using IoT devices in your small business (or you’ve already started!), contact us. We can:

Book an Explore the Possibilities call today!

Request a Tech Check

 

Time to buy your first server?

buy your first small business server

Congratulations! Your business has grown and you’re starting to think about building out your IT environment to handle more employees, contractors and data.

When you only have a handful of employees, it’s easy enough to share folders and files on a few PCs. But as your business grows, file permissions, speed and reliability become more important. That’s usually the time where business owners start to consider buying a server.

Is it time to buy your first server?

Here are a few questions we ask our clients:

  1. Do you have 5 or more employees?
  2. Do you have central files, databases and software you want to share access to?
  3. Do you want to create an IT infrastructure that can grow and scale with your business?
  4. Are you concerned about data processing speed and network availability?
  5. Are you looking for better backup and recovery processes?
  6. Are you concerned about client confidentiality and sensitive data access?
  7. Do you have compliance / governance needs?

The more these answers are YES, the more benefit you’ll get from buying a server.

What are the benefits of buying a server?

Servers are built to be faster and more reliable than PCs. They can help you enforce IT policies to implement:

  • Better data security
  • Consistent backups
  • Company-wide patches and upgrades
  • Corporate-level access permissions

What should you consider?

  1. Price. We don’t know many companies with an unlimited budget. On-premise servers start at about $2000 and can go up significantly from there, depending on its configuration. We recommend you buy a server that will meet your needs for the next 3-5 years, without overspending on features you don’t really need.
  2. Features. Before you buy your first server, you’ll want to have some idea about how much memory and hard drive space you’ll need. You’ll also want to make sure you have an operating system that’s compatible with the software programs you intend to use. While we can’t make blanket recommendations in an article, we can recommend you request a Server Assessment.
  3. On premise vs. cloud. Cloud computing is a trend that’s not going to slow down anytime soon. Rather than having a server on-site in your office, many businesses are opting for servers hosted on Azure or Amazon. These servers work similarly to a physical on-premise server, but you rent the server instead of owning it, and the cloud hosting provider will guarantee the up-time of the environment.
  4. Plans for upkeep. Just like your computers, your server will need to be regularly updated, monitored and maintained. Even if you choose to go with a virtual server, you’re responsible for maintaining everything within the server walls – the software, databases, etc. Most companies choose to outsource this work to technology consulting companies (like ourselves) rather than hiring IT staff.
  5. Warranty / Service Level Agreement – If you buy an on-premise server, we recommend you get the 3-year extended warranty in case anything goes wrong. All cloud hosting providers will provide some sort of uptime guarantee. Ensure you understand what is covered under that service level agreement.

 Want help buying your first server?

Our staff of IT professionals are happy to help. A server evaluation usually takes about an hour of billable time, which (of course) varies bases on the complexity of your business. That’s not much – especially when you consider that there’s NO obligation to buy the server from us or to use our services.

We continually hear from companies how either they wish they would have asked us first because they “got sold” way more technology than they needed, or they bought a server that didn’t meet their needs at all and then couldn’t return it.

We prefer happy customer stories when the customer is delighted they called us, and how we saved them time, money and endless headaches down the road.

Request a Technology Check Detroit Michigan

Common Mistakes When Buying Computers

5 Mistakes buying computers

Today, it’s easy enough to go pick up a computer from Best Buy, Costco, Amazon or other tech retailer. The question is whether you get the RIGHT computer for your business. There’s a reason these places are considered CONSUMER electronic stores – not BUSINESS electronic stories.

Read more