Whether buying a new server, new cloud storage, a new computer, or a new software program, you’ll want to think carefully about what information will move over to the new system.

The default is to just “keep everything,” but that’s usually a mistake. Just like when you move to a new office or house, moving systems creates a natural opportunity to purge items that are no longer useful to your business. To avoid cluttering up a new system with outdated information, we help clients develop a data migration strategy.

What is Data Migration?

Data migration is the process of moving data from one system to another. That could mean a data storage location, a database or an application. You will undergo a data migration anytime you:

  • Replace an existing application
  • Buy new computer hardware
  • Move to the cloud
  • Bring data into a new database or data warehouse
  • Build a new business process

The ETL Process

Data migration is a one-time process that moves data from one system to another. It doesn’t matter where the data is housed – on premises or in the cloud. The transfer of data can be as simple as export-import – or significantly more complex. If the records in system A and system B have different fields or a different schema, the data must be manipulated before it can be brought into the new system.

ETL stands for extracting, transforming and loading. In the ETL process, the data is first extracted from the old system, then it is transformed (either manually or with a software program) so that it fits the format of the new application or database. Then the final step is to load it into the new system.

data migration for small business

 

 

Types of Data Migrations and Their Challenges

Data migration processes happen on three levels – storage, database and application.

Storage migration

When you do a technology refresh, this is the time to identify obsolete data to reduce storage space and make it easier to quickly find what you’re looking for. We use a variety of storage migration tools to make this process fast and simple. However, what we can’t do is tell you what’s important to keep and what can be discarded. You have to decide that. We’ll ask you questions like:   

  • How many documents do you have with names like brochure-final4.docx? Do you need to keep the prior versions for any reason?  
  • Why you have the same content in more than one location? Is it for cloud backup? Or are you working around security settings in your systems to make the content available to different audiences?   
  • What is this obsolete content costing you? For example, video files take up a significant amount of space. While storage is relatively cheap, employee time is not. When you add up time spent dealing with system performance issues, organizing clutter, and looking for the right content, the overhead costs can become significant.  

Database migration

A database migration occurs whenever you change database vendors, upgrade the database software, or move a database to the cloud. In a database migration, IT professionals look for compatibility issues. Is there enough storage? Will performance be impacted? How do we protect records that require privacy or security? Are there integration points that can fail? Often, a database migration or upgrade is done in a testing environment before being moved to production.  

Application migration

An application migration is the most complex type of migration. The challenge is that each application has its own data model, so the data may have to be significantly manipulated before being brought into the new application.  

You want to think about the ramifications of keeping – or discarding – old records and historical data. For example, in an accounting system, you can start with an account opening balance or you can import every transaction. In a CRM system, you may want to purge anyone you haven’t talked to in a year. We help clients figure out the best application migration strategy for their situation.  

  • Will you have to keep the old system running in parallel – just in case? Could you transfer the data to a spreadsheet instead? Do you have compliance requirements you must adhere to? 
  • What is the value of that data? A company that sells SAT preparation tests to high schoolers has a finite time period to sell their solution. There’s no point in keeping a record of who was in high school 5 years ago. But a repair company may have a 5-10 year lifecycle between visits, and want to keep those records.  
  • How much does it cost to keep this data? Some applications, like email marketing software, charge by the record. Crossing from 4999 contacts to 5000 may cause the price to spike. If 2000 of those people haven’t opened your emails in 3 years, you’re better off deleting them in the move to a new application. 
  • Will system speed be impacted? How many users need to access that historical data or that legacy software feature? Can the old solution be retired? 

Data Migration Tools

The advantage of using IT professionals for your data migration is that we have access to a variety of tools to make the process faster and easier. If we can’t find a tool out of the box, we can sometimes build a script to make the ETL work easier. It depends on the scope and scale of the migration project, but in all cases, we look for ways to simplify and automate the process wherever possible.  

In many cases, the software vendor has tools we can leverage. Here’s one example of what Microsoft makes available for clients wanting to transfer hosting to the Azure platform: https://datamigration.microsoft.com/ 

Our Approach to the Migration Process

With the implementation of any new software, or development of any new database or application, we’ll discuss how to manage your legacy data and find an approach that best fits your business. In our planning, we’ll work with you to determine whether the data migration is a one-time data transfer process or requires ongoing data integration and management.  

We’ll look for ways to simplify your IT environment, seeing if we can consolidate databases, and make sure employees can access your systems from any device, especially when they’re not working on premises. In today’s environment, mobility and remote access is a requirement for any new system. That’s why many companies are moving to the cloud. 

Let us help you determine your application requirements and build streamlined business processes, so you have a solution that works for you now – and in the future.  Book a free exploratory session today!  

Why is data migration important?

Data migration is necessary when upgrading or consolidating your hardware storage or server. Data migration ensures that you don’t lose your data during the transition.

How long does data migration take?

Down time during data migration depends on the amount of data that is being transferred. Some migrations can take hours. Your IT professional can provide an estimate based on the scope of the project.

What is the ETL process?

ETL stands for Extract, Transform and Load. ETL plays a key role in the data migration process. It allows you to gather data from multiple sources and consolidate it into one location.

Is it hard to migrate data?

Data migration can use up a lot of labor if you don’t know what you’re doing. Hiring a professional will ensure a smooth migration.

According to Warranty Week, extended warranties are a $40 billion business. Manufacturers make lucrative margins on warranties, because they know that most people will never take them up on the offer. For personal electronics, extended warranties aren’t usually worth the money because the chances of needing a repair are low; the cost of repairs or even replacement isn’t significant; and you can usually live without the item for a while.

However, when you’re considering computer warranties for your business, you have completely different factors to consider. For that reason, we almost always recommend getting the extended warranty.

For workstations we recommend three year warranties, and on servers we recommend five. Most computer manufacturers will allow you to renew the initial warranty twice. After five years, most equipment is beyond its serviceable life and should be considered for replacement.

Why extended warranties on business computers are different

We think of warranties as the cost of doing business. Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without car insurance, buying computer equipment without a warranty is risky. For many reasons.

1.     Computer equipment is vital to business operations

If your server goes down and employees can’t work, you’re losing far more money than you would have paid for the warranty.

Without access to the same-day service warranty offered by the manufacturers, you may be waiting days or weeks for repair. If the server requires replacement, it will probably take two to three weeks for it to be delivered and configured.

In another scenario, we have a client that travels regularly for business (at least they did before the pandemic). Their risk of damage or loss is significantly higher than the average laptop user and the client didn’t want to risk losing a high-value client by not having a laptop. Getting the manufacturer’s extended warranty meant getting same day service or replacement, wherever they are in the world.

2.     Parts aren’t always available

Manufacturers typically keep an inventory of components exclusively available to their warranty customers. For older equipment, you may not even be able to buy the part on the open market. Equipment over five years old is usually no longer supported.

3.     The cost of replacement is high

A manufacturer’s original warranty is typically three years, but business computers are usually replaced every five years. For that reason, businesses are usually allowed to renew their hardware warranty to cover all five years. Investing in a server is a capital expense you can build into your business budget. When a server has to be replaced mid-way through its expected life, it means another large cash outlay. Plus, the costs can compound substantially because you also reconfigure other network components.

4.     Service costs

The manufacturer warranty includes professional services. A manufacturer rep will repair the equipment and bring it up to date with the latest software and security patches.

What happens if you never need the extended warranty?

Count yourself lucky! Just like you don’t want to get in a car crash to get value from your car insurance, the extended warranty provides peace of mind and protection for your business.

Businesses should continually be evaluating how to lower their risk. Buying extended warranties for computer equipment is one way. Doing regular business backups is another. And having an IT Partner you can rely on is the third.

If you’re looking for better IT service or support, please give us a try. Our small team is right-sized for growing businesses. We’re based just outside of Detroit Michigan, but ready to service companies anywhere in the USA.

 

IT quiz

Is it worth getting a warranty on a laptop?

For a personal laptop, it most likely isn’t worth it. However, you should invest in a warranty on a business computer.

Should I buy an extended warranty?

Most times on personal computers you won’t need to use your extended warranty. However, business computers should get the extended warranty, and sometimes can get extra time added to it for free.

What is a warranty on a computer?

A warranty for your computer is like insurance for your car. If something goes wrong, the manufacturer will repair or replace the pieces to keep your computer in top shape.

Do computers come with a warranty?

When you buy a brand new computer, it should come with a manufacturer warranty. Most times, this doesn’t last very long and to be safe you should purchase the extended warranty.

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.

 

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 and how to allow secure remote access for employees.

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

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

 

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

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