The new year is coming upon us quickly, and as you are looking at your 2023 budget have you pondered ways to increase employee productivity and secure your business assets? Technology is consistently evolving and with that are pros and cons you have to remain knowledgeable of.

We interviewed IT Experts Anthony (Tony) Evans, President of Evans Consulting Services, and Scott Reitman, Director of Operations, to get a look ahead to the new year.

Tony has more than 38 years of experience working with teams and customers focusing on IT. He works to develop customer and vendor relationships while providing leadership and oversight. He is a member of the MSP Alliance, BOMA Detroit, and a board member of Connect 313.

Scott has more than nine years of experience managing teams to support customers’ Managed IT services, including network management, planning and deploying IT systems and processes, and administration of users, devices, and licenses. He is a certified GSuite, M365, Azure Administrator, and certified product expert for Sangoma PBXact and Switchvox. Mr. Reitman is a certified Recording Technician/Engineer from The Recording Workshop in Chillicothe, OH.

 We asked Tony and Scott…For 2023, what areas should small and medium size businesses focus on when planning their budgets for IT?

They drilled into the following:

1. Cybersecurity and Network Monitoring

2. Backups and Disaster Plans

3. Employee Cybersecurity Training

4. Equipment Refresh Programs

5. VoIP Phone Systems

6. Microsoft Team Rooms (MTR)

7. Security Cameras, Access Controls, and Building Automation Systems

Let’s break down why these 7 services are important and how they aid your business.

1. Cybersecurity and Network Monitoring

It has been reported that the quantity of cyberattacks has significantly risen in recent years. Previously, large companies such as GM, Johnson Controls, and others were targeted due to the fact that they could pay large sums of cash and suffer significant damage to their business. Now, smaller organizations are just as susceptible as ever.

“The quantity of hackers has increased, and they have diversified their targets. Small and medium-sized firms may be just as vulnerable as larger enterprises if they don’t follow proper security measures,” says Tony.

We recommend an assessment to identify issues and implement solutions as the best way to get your organization moving on protecting itself. There are many standards and methods for identifying and addressing vulnerabilities. A trusted IT advisor can help identify the best path forward for your business.

2. Backups and Disaster Plans

“It’s vital to have data backup and emergency preparation plans in place for your technical environment. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone,” says Tony.

When a physical or logical disaster strikes, a Disaster Recovery Plan outlines what steps should be taken. In the event of a physical or logical disaster, the steps taken to restore data, establish an alternative work environment, communicate effectively with employees about what to do and where, and establish how normal business will be resumed are outlined. Backups and Disaster Recovery Plans allow you to move forward with business regardless of outside circumstances.

“The same thing applies if it’s not just a physical problem but a security breach or litigation,” said Scott. “There’s a growing number of ransomware and other threats for small and medium-sized businesses. A security breach or lawsuit might be devastating. Backups should be tested and plans in place to support the business in case of unprecedented events and many organizations lack in this area. It’s critical to maintain backups for on-premise technology and cloud infrastructure. This decreases the chance of losing your valuable data.”

The first step is to back up your data as soon as possible if this isn’t in place already. This can be accomplished by using an external hard drive or an SSD for example. Next, work with a professionally managed IT services provider to find a suitable backup and restore system for your business. A last but high priority is to establish a Disaster Recovery Plan with your IT department or provider. This plan should address as many issues as possible so that the business can continue operating after a disaster.

3. Employee Cybersecurity Training 

An organization’s employees are one of the biggest vulnerabilities to its security. “When users click on a malicious email or file, they may inadvertently authorize malicious activity on their device, which subsequently could result in network intrusion,” says Tony. “This is one of the leading causes of computer and network compromises.”

Scott added, “The biggest point of failure in security infrastructure is the end user. Despite having the most advanced security infrastructure, businesses will still have security flaws if their users are improperly trained in basic security.”

 It’s crucial to continuously train staff and periodically test them to see whether the training is effective. There are several tools that provide testing and awareness education. We recommend KnowBe4 as one of the most well-known solution providers. As a KnowBe4 partner, ECS is your single-source for all the training, setup, administration, and report analysis for training your staff. 

4. Equipment Refresh Program

Business owners frequently have difficulties with equipment obsolescence, which is a productivity and security issue. “They think that an old machine that still works can still provide value. Old machines that have not been properly maintained are time bombs ready to explode. They create potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited,” suggested Tony. In addition, as applications consume more resources, old computers run more slowly, resulting in reduced staff productivity.

Small and medium size businesses also need to account for supply chain delays. “We are seeing a lot of lengthy delays in networking equipment and server equipment. Whereas end-user laptops and desktops have gotten much better in availability, we’ve seen that slowdowns and delays can still happen,” says Scott.

What does ECS recommend? Maintaining a healthy Refresh Program is beneficial to business owners. It is important to keep in mind that the device’s lifespan coincides with the manufacturer’s warranty period. Small and medium size businesses can consider acquiring devices on lease rather than purchasing to help maintain their healthy refresh program. Leasing allows the expenses to be spread over the life of the device thus reducing the financial risk. A replacement machine may be leased on a dollar buyout basis, keeping a consistent financial risk throughout each budget period. Creating a plan now aids in managing your IT inventory to avoid work loss.

5. VoIP Phone Systems

Over the past few months, ECS has been working with our customers to upgrade their phone systems. “If you are still using plain old telephone lines (POTs Lines), you should decide on a strategy to eliminate those lines. POTs lines are legacy technology that carriers are moving away from. Costs for these lines are increasing to incentivize users to move away from them and adopt SIP lines that communicate over the internet. These SIP lines use the latest communication protocol called voice over IP or VoIP,” says Tony.

 Scott added, In recent years, VoIP systems have improved their technology. Cloud systems that offer near-perfect SLAs and enable setting up satellite offices in a matter of minutes are especially valuable to businesses with a remote heavy workforce or moving in that direction.” Increases in remote and hybrid working arrangements continue to dominate the global workforce. Small and medium sized businesses can continue to compete for high quality labor through technology improvements, like VoIP systems. 

There are numerous VoIP solutions based on the size and communication requirements of your business. On-premises or cloud-based solutions are available to satisfy any requirement. If your IT department or service provider wants assistance selecting the right solution for your company, contact ECS for an assessment.

6. Microsoft Team Rooms (MTR)

Communication continues to evolve in this post-pandemic labor market. “The pandemic has potentially changed the way we do business forever. Inter-organizational communication is done through video streaming applications such as Teams and Zoom. However, we know that communication is still more effective when the sender and receiver can take in all the various forms of communication, both verbal and non-verbal. Having a hybrid environment where remote workers and office workers can interact as one team is important,” says Tony.

One way to provide this type of communication is with a Microsoft Teams Room, a room where devices such as cameras, microphones, and speakers work together. The room is invited to meetings versus individual participants, and outside participants join as usual. This is a small investment to increase the availability of features to staff, improve efficiencies, and reduce overall costs.

Your IT provider may offer a range of MTR configurations, depending on the size and purpose of the room. Microsoft Team’s infrastructure works with device manufacturers to provide certified solutions. By turning conference rooms, huddle areas, and other conference or meeting spaces into MTR-capable areas, productivity and value will increase.

7. Security Cameras, Access Controls, and Building Automation Systems

“With the convergence of cameras on data networks, video surveillance has grown exponentially. In fact, building access solutions and sensor-based building automation systems have been revolutionized by technology,” says Tony.

Data from building controls can now be collected, analyzed, and the actionable issue can be addressed by deploying these systems. From new construction to property management, these data points generate better insights and greater security, with the goal of decreased expenses.

Work with your IT service provider to identify current solutions that will improve the building’s operability while also increasing building security. Start by assessing your current building systems for obsolescence.

The IT landscape is changing very fast. How quickly you are able to keep up will determine how prepared your business is for the future. The best way to do this is by simply making an investment in the right technology solutions. By hiring Evans Consulting Services to manage your business’ systems and automate your operations, you can save money, effectively manage your business assets, and increase productivity while staying on top of the latest technology trends.

Reach out to build your IT Budget for 2023 with Evans Consulting Services today.