Why Business Continuity is a Necessary Component for Modern Businesses

At its core, business continuity is a simple concept with a single mission of enabling businesses to continually deliver their services in the event of a disaster. In a traditional on-premise environment, all of your data – including backups – is stored locally. While this is satisfactory to a certain extent, it leaves far too much to chance.

What happens if one of your servers fails, taking your data with it? What happens if your office burns down, destroying all of your on-site hard disk drives at the same time? The answer is simple: you’re out of luck.

Reasons like these are why business continuity isn’t just important for the modern day business – it’s practically become mandatory, regardless of the industry that you happen to be talking about.

The Benefits of Business Continuity: The New Normal

Business continuity isn’t just effective in terms of protecting your business – it’s redundant, it’s powerful and it is fast becoming the new normal. You no longer have to worry about factors like hardware failure, device theft, user error and more – all things that historically would have harmed your disaster recovery efforts in the past.

Your data isn’t even stored on-site at all – it’s available to any device on the planet with an active Internet connection and can quickly be restored to a new system at a moment’s notice. This generates the type of peace-of-mind you just can’t put a price on.

Business Continuity is Like a Time Machine

Another one of the reasons why business continuity is so viable is because it essentially allows you to go back in time, hitting the great cosmic reset button in the event of a disaster. If you ever need to restore a previous version of your workspace or virtual environment, you can do so in an instant.

This is amazingly valuable because it means that if anything goes wrong – you won’t have lost much in the way of progress if you’ve actually lost anything at all. Even if you suffer a total catastrophe and have to re-open your business in a new location, it’s fast and efficient to pick right back up where you left off.

You’re Not Going to Find Anything Better

Finally, the most important reason why virtualizing your workspace through the cloud is necessary for your business is because there simply is no other option that allows you to do what it can do – period, end of story. There is no other way to protect your business that is as powerful, effective and as comprehensive as business continuity, delivered through the cloud.

You can research all the on-premise solutions that you want – while they’ll have their advantages, they won’t be the complete package like business continuity is. On-premise solutions like that simply do not exist and because everything is moving in the direction of the cloud to begin with, they won’t.

Key Takeaways:

  • Business continuity isn’t just necessary for your business – it’s powerful, redundant, and is quickly becoming the new normal.
  • There is no on-premise solution that you can invest in, regardless of how much money you’re willing to spend, that can provide your business that the resiliency that business continuity does. End of story.

Business Continuity Plan Services

The Importance of Business Continuity for Small Businesses

The importance of business continuity for small businesses is something that cannot be overstated. Many people incorrectly assume that just because they have a disaster recovery plan in place, business continuity will essentially take care of itself. This is incorrect. Though these two concepts are admittedly similar, they are very different in intent and execution and should be treated as such for a number of important reasons.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan?

At its core, a business continuity plan is one that allows an organization to continue to operate in the event of a serious incident or disaster. Where a disaster recovery plan helps them rebuild after that disaster has taken place, continuity allows them to maintain operations – even in the event of the unexpected.

Why Business Continuity Matters

To understand precisely why business continuity is so important for small businesses, think for a moment about how large organizations operate. When a large business has a fault, a failure or some other type of critical issue, more often than not it usually only affects a small subset of their environment. They have a lot of redundant systems in place that may seem unnecessary on a day-to-day basis, but when disaster does strike it’s very much welcome.

Small businesses, on the other hand, are a completely different story. When a small business has a failure, it affects the entire business – usually halting production and productivity. A disaster recovery plan can help that small business get back up and running again, but without a solid business continuity plan they’ll have no way to truly pick up right where they left off as if nothing had happened in the first place. At best, it will take a long time to get back to that point during a situation where time is of the essence.

Business Continuity for Small Businesses in Action

It is critical that small businesses have a process in place that allows them to maintain operations, even in the face of adversity. If a business has one server on premise and that server goes down, they’re essentially out of business. At that point, whether the damage is permanent or temporary doesn’t matter – they’re losing money as the seconds tick by.

To continue with that example, a solid continuity solution would be to have one server in the cloud, where it can’t go down. Even if your on-site server suffers a failure, the cloud solution lets you pick right back up where you left off while your disaster recovery plan helps you pick up the pieces elsewhere.

None of this is to say that a business continuity plan will make a small business impenetrable to adversity – that’s why it’s important to also have a disaster recovery plan. But a solid business continuity plan will go a long way towards helping make sure that almost nothing can “sink the ship” in terms of productivity, revenue and more.

Key Takeaways:

  • It is critical for small businesses to understand that business continuity and disaster recovery are not the same thing.
  • Having a continuity solution in place helps small businesses avoid the types of long, unpredictable disruptions that could cost them huge amounts of money or force them out of business.

Business Continuity Plan Services

Cloud Backup vs Cloud Storage: What’s the Difference?

Though the cloud is becoming a more important part of our lives on a daily basis, there are still some who have yet to truly uncover the possibilities that are just on the horizon.

Case in point: one of the most common questions that tech-savvy business leaders find themselves asking is “cloud backup vs cloud storage – which one do I really need?” To answer this question, you need to understand a little bit more about what each one does and the situations that they were designed for.

Cloud Backup vs Cloud Storage – What Are the Differences?

To boil things down to their bare essentials, a cloud backup is a situation where you’re taking a copy of your locally stored data and are sending it to the cloud for safekeeping. You now have a 1:1 copy of the files and other important documents that were stored on local hard drives that is easily retrievable in the event that something should happen to that local storage device.

Cloud storage, on the other hand, removes the “local” storage from the equation entirely. Data is not stored locally at all, it’s in the cloud. The added benefit of this is that it is accessible from literally any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection, ushering in a whole new era of productivity for your business alone.

Cloud Storage: Breaking it Down

One of the major benefits of cloud storage solutions in particular is that you can easily replicate data to an alternate location. Even if something happens to your primary cloud storage server, you have a secondary option ready to go in case you need it.

The only negative is that to use this information locally, it needs to be pulled down from the cloud to your local machine – you need to “download” your own data back to your devices, so to speak. However, when you consider the productivity benefits with the fact that you can rest easy knowing that all of your important data is taken care of, this is more than worth it.

But What About Infrastructure?

When you work to embrace an entirely cloud-based solution like cloud storage, your infrastructure essentially exists in the cloud along with everything else. At that point, there is nothing on premise that truly matters – other than your employees, of course.

If something were to happen to your business like a fire or flood, it wouldn’t affect anything in terms of your ability to get your job done. You can work from anywhere – the functionality is the same wherever you go, with certain rare exceptions.

In the end, it’s important to understand that the situation of “cloud backup vs cloud storage” is not a one-or-the-other choice your business has to make. Both offer slightly different advantages to small businesses in particular and using both on a regular basis will usher in a variety of benefits in terms of protection against disasters, productivity, mobility and more.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cloud backup allows you to store a copy of your local data in the cloud as an off premise redundancy.
  • Cloud storage means that data is not being stored locally in the first place – instead, it’s on a cloud-based server that is accessible from anywhere.

Cloud Backup

The 411 on Unified Messaging

There are many ways people communicate, both within a business and to customers and other contacts. Between emails, phone calls, instant messaging, and other forms of communication, there can be a lot to keep track of every day.

Unified messaging takes all of those communication methods and brings them together in a way that is efficient, manageable, and easy to access. If you find yourself juggling everything from emails to video calls, it may be time to simplify.

How Does Unified Messaging Work?

With unified messaging, all of your business communications are integrated. Emails, text messages, faxes, voicemails, and more are accessed from a single interface. Whether you are sharing data or recording a voice message, the user experience will look and feel the same across all media types.

Unified messaging also gives users choices about how they wish to access information. For instance, if you get a voicemail, you can opt to have it sent as a data file to your email inbox. This means that on those occasions when you aren’t near your work phone, you can still listen to messages and take action. When you want to respond, you can do so via email, phone, instant message, or a video call, choosing whatever format works best for the situation at hand.

Unified Messaging: Making Communication Efficient

Unified messaging makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with colleagues and customers. With so many options for how to connect, you’ll be able to send messages and share information no matter where you are or what you are doing. There is no longer a need to wait until you are physically sitting at your desk, actively checking email, or in reach of your business phone. Instead, you can remain in contact while you’re traveling, temporarily out of the office, or working outside of business hours.

Unified messaging allows companies to make decisions and implement choices faster. Their staff can spend less time waiting for people to return calls or emails.

The more efficiently you can work, the more money you’ll save.

Provide Better Customer Service

We all want to provide our clients with the best service possible, meeting their needs at every point. Unified messaging facilitates this by enabling all types of communication easily and quickly. Clients won’t have to wait around for answers to their questions, data they require, or other important information. Instead, staff can easily connect with customers, whenever and wherever, dealing with their requests promptly.

Unified messaging also allows customers to work with your staff in real time even if they aren’t using the phone. For clients who prefer instant messaging, for example, this makes your company more approachable and flexible. With people becoming increasingly tech-savvy, offering multiple contact methods is an ideal way to attract a wide variety of clients.

By providing your customers with numerous ways to get in touch, and by enabling your staff to communicate with clients quickly and effectively, you should notice improved relationships and a more profitable business all around; two things every company should take as great signs. Give ITG a call today to see if your business is ready for unified messaging.

The Most Surprising Byproduct of Cloud-Basing Your IT Infrastructure

There’s been so much written about the benefits of a cloud-based IT infrastructure in recent years that it can be difficult to keep up. Everyone knows about the productivity-related benefits that the cloud brings with it, along with the fact that both communication and collaboration are now easier than ever before.

However, speaking as a company that has recently redone our entire infrastructure from the ground up, cloud-basing everything and setting up access to anyone, anywhere, at any time, we’re in a position to tell you that there’s a truly surprising byproduct of this decision that almost nobody is talking about.

It’s lighting-fast Internet.

A Cloud-Based IT Infrastructure in the Internet Age

After cloud-basing our entire IT infrastructure, our Internet isn’t just fast – it’s uncannily fast. Indeed, one of the major limiting factors of our operation used to be our Internet connection. We were at the will of the standard speed offered by our provider, which essentially meant that we rarely had the speed necessary to execute certain functions as quickly as we needed.

We didn’t make the decision to remove all of our hardware and cloud-base our entire IT infrastructure for fast Internet. Quite the opposite, in fact – we were trying to unlock all of those productivity, efficiency and collaborative benefits that people spend so much time discussing. However, as a result of this decision, we’re now the proud owners of a enormously fast Internet connection – it’s like replacing your old water gun with a bazooka in more ways than one.

Giving New Meaning to the Word “Instant”

These days, our Internet browsing is essentially instant. “Waiting” for a page to load or for a file to download just isn’t something we have to do anymore.

Along the same lines, programs that would formerly slow to a crawl during peak hours are now much faster. Though it’s true that this will still vary depending on service loads (as certain programs use the Internet to complete functions in different ways from others), by and large we’re seeing an unprecedented increase across the board.

We knew it would be fast – but not this fast. Not by a long shot.

There are a lot of companies out there that are using programs that are notoriously slow. Their systems have a lot going on and this loss of speed has typically been seen as an unfortunate “cost of doing business” in the modern digital age.

Preparing for the Future of Business Today

Cloud-basing your IT infrastructure, on the other hand, is different. This changes the game, for all time and for the better. Since we’ve successfully got our system where we want it, everyone has access to the incredible speed they need to do the most important jobs they need to do at all times, no exceptions.

Whether people need to access the Internet to share files with one another, to load websites or to access apps they use frequently to do their jobs, it doesn’t matter. The speed is there and now, thanks to a cloud-based IT infrastructure, it always will be.

If you would have told us that this would be a byproduct of moving into the cloud, we would have done it a long time ago based on this benefit alone, to say nothing of all the other incredible positives that we were able to unlock at the exact same time.

Key Takeaways:

  • After making the decision to move our entire infrastructure into the cloud, the most surprising positive byproduct was by far fast Internet.
  • Everything – from the files we share to the programs we use – are now faster as a result.

Cloud-Basing Your IT Infrastructure | Infrastructure as a Service

What is a Software Defined Network and What Does it Mean for Me?

In terms of technological trends in the modern business world, you’d be hard-pressed to find something more important than the software defined network. Not only does it represent a massive disruption in terms of how, where and why apps are delivered to organizations, it also sets the stage for a much more productive and collaborative future at the same time.

What is a Software Defined Network?

At its core, a software defined network (also commonly referred to as an SDN) is a network specifically designed to allow software or apps to be accessed without the hardware required to run them existing onsite.

In many ways, it’s not unlike the streaming video revolution. When you want to watch a movie, you don’t spend hours downloading a file – you use the Internet to access the portions of the movie you need as you watch it in an on-demand capacity. Software defined networks are the same way, serving up the apps you need using an Internet connection when you need them, regardless of where you are.

Why Is a Software Defined Network Important?

There are three core benefits that a software defined network brings to the table that are more than worth exploring. The first is redundancy – you’re no longer relying on a single piece of hardware that you hope beyond hope never fails or becomes outdated. In essence, it’s like using a computer that is so powerful it will never become obsolete and you never have to worry about replacing it.

The next major benefit is one of resiliency. Regardless of where you are or why you’re trying to access a particular app, you can access it – period. Whether you’re sitting in your office on your desktop computer or are at your kid’s soccer game on your smartphone, you have access to the same information all the time, allowing you to work from anywhere.

Finally, speed is a major benefit of an SDN. Even when using huge amounts of data through the Internet, as most businesses do, software defined networks are still almost instantaneous. You no longer have to deal with slow and outdated hardware that might be limiting your productivity.

What Role Does an SDN Play in the Future of Business?

In this regard, the key benefit that a software defined network brings to the table is one of empowerment. The fact of the matter is that most businesses just don’t need the expensive hardware they’re forced to buy – instead, they need the Internet. The hardware itself is only a means to an end and now, thanks to software defined networks, you can skip the middle-man and cut right to the apps themselves without the expense formerly required to get there.

A software defined network isn’t just saving businesses money, allowing even small organizations to compete technologically with their larger brethren – it’s also putting businesses in a position where they’re ready for the future of their industry, regardless of what shape that happens to take.

Key Takeaways:

  • A software defined network, also commonly called an SDN, allows software or apps to be accessed without onsite hardware.
  • An SDN is where the future of business is headed, so you’d better start making plans now.

Cloud Provider | Infrastructure as a Service

Lessons Learned From the Move to an All Cloud-Based Environment

At ITG, we recently made the decision to embrace a pretty significant shift in the way we did business. In an effort to always improve the level of services that we’re able to offer clients, we decided to move into an all cloud-based environment. We’re happy to say that our project is now complete and that we’ve learned some pretty important lessons along the way that are more than worth sharing.

How We Moved to a Cloud-Based Environment

As with most businesses of our type, ITG formerly had an incredible amount of hardware to deal with on a daily basis. There were literally rooms filled with just about every piece of equipment you can imagine, from multiple VMware hosts to virtualized hosts to backup devices, redundant switches and more. We had too much hardware and technology, but it was all in the name of the most important thing of all: providing services to our customers that they knew they could depend on.

All of our hardware had to be redundant and resilient at the same time. IT needed to be up 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without fail. However, we still knew that we could never be 100% resilient specifically because of all of our hardware. What if we got hit with a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane? What if we had a physical breach like a robbery or arson? The answer in all of those situations is the same:

ITG would have been in serious trouble.

What We Learned From the Cloud-Based Environment

By taking all of that hardware out of the equation entirely and hosting our applications in the cloud, we gained a number of valuable results almost immediately. We were able to provide equal access to everything via redundant Internet connections, offering true resiliency to our clients for the first time.

We were able to empower people to work from anywhere provided that an Internet connection was present. Because we weren’t constantly in a race to replace, maintain and reconfigure hardware on a continuing basis, we were able to offer not just better performance – we could offer fewer headaches at the same time.

Looking to the Future

Perhaps the number one lesson we learned by moving to an all cloud-based environment isn’t just the fact that this is the way of the future. Instead, we learned why it’s the way of the future. Moving to a cloud-based environment represents a pretty significant disruption when compared to the way things used to be done, but it’s the best type of disruption of all – one that makes our lives better. Easier. Faster. More efficient.

At ITG, we see ourselves as preparing for the future by embracing the cloud-based environment with open arms. This is us “drinking the Kool-Aid,” so to speak. Now, we’re going to put our money where our mouth is and offer it to clients everywhere so that they can enjoy these benefits, too.

Key Takeaways:

  • Making the decision to move to an all cloud-based environment brought with it benefits that went far beyond what we were expecting
  • Not only were we able to streamline our existing operations, but we were also able to provide a much more valuable and efficient service to clients – everyone wins

Cloud-Based Environment | Desktop as a Service

Why Your Internet Connection Will Be Your Biggest Problem in Five Years

In today’s world, the internet is an essential part of everyday life, both at home and in the workplace. The internet has come a long way and providers are now able to deliver impressive speeds to every customer. Unfortunately, hardware continues to slow things down, so faster speeds are not always necessary. In fact, few customers are able to use everything the provider has to offer. As hardware technology continues to evolve and improve, the speed and quality of your internet connection will become increasingly more important.

Barriers to Maximum Internet Connection Speeds

Nothing limits productivity in the workplace more than connections. We rely on connections to the internet, as well as connections between various electronic devices, in order to accomplish the majority of our tasks. This phenomenon is collectively referred to as the “internet of things,” and it is expected to grow in the future. However, equipment designed for connection to the “internet of things” has not yet caught up to the maximum speeds internet providers are able to offer. Furthermore, some manufacturers are still hesitating to enter the “internet of things” marketplace because of lingering uncertainties. Thus, speed and internet connection quality are not yet an issue.

Looking Forward

Although the internet of things is still in its early stages, its full implementation is inevitable. When this phenomenon takes over, every business will be forced to join the movement in order to remain competitive. At this point, your internet connection will suddenly become your biggest concern. The amount of bandwidth it will take to operate all of your equipment effectively will increase exponentially, and having a fast, high-quality connection will become a priority.

Preparing for the Future

Today, the cost of your internet connection is probably negligible when compared to your other expenses, but that is likely to change in the next five years. In order to prepare for this evolution in the business world:

  • Be proactive. – Start analyzing your connection, infrastructure and hardware today. Stay ahead of the game by investing in the latest technologies and bringing the “internet of things” to your office.
  • Stay up-to-date. – Watch the news for important new developments and advancements so that you can prepare accordingly.
  • Make room in the budget. – Innovation is expensive, and you need to be prepared for the expense that will come with increased connectivity. Start making more room in your budget for new, updated technologies.
  • Beef up security. – As the popularity and necessity of the “internet of things” continues to grow, you will be forced to take on more bandwidth. Unfortunately, with more bandwidth also comes more risk. Invest in high quality security measures and consult professionals in order to ensure that your sensitive data is always protected. When the amount of bandwidth you use changes, reevaluate your security and modify it if necessary.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your internet connection and speed is probably not a limiter today, but it will become very important in the future.
  • As the “internet of things” becomes more popular, business owners will scramble for bandwidth.
  • The time to prepare for this revolution is now.

Desktop as a Service

How Telecommuting Software Ties into Cloud Infrastructure

If you want a clear cut example of how cloud-based infrastructures are changing the world of business for all time and for the better, look no further than the idea of telecommuting. Years ago, for an employer to give employees the ability to work from home (or any other remote location), they needed to rely on complex software to route people into certain environments. These types of configurations wouldn’t just need to be built, but also maintained in the long-run – a costly endeavor, even when you consider the significant gains in productivity they could expect to receive. Now, the cloud is changing this in a wide range of ways that have more companies jumping on the telecommuting bandwagon than ever before.

The Paradigm Shift

In today’s modern digital world, telecommuting software ties directly into cloud infrastructure much the same way anything else does. If your infrastructure is all cloud-based, all users are telecommuting – whether they’re on your property or not. In terms of productivity, the playing field is essentially level – because software is no longer hardware dependent, all users are essentially remote employees. On-site employees are now accessing the same thing that off-site employees are and geography is essentially irrelevant.

Telecommuting software is really just the way that we connect now. Gone are the pitfalls normally associated with creating those multi-sited environments or for provisioning access to different groups of people in different ways. If everything is accessed via the cloud and an Internet connection, not only is hardware no longer a concern – even a computer’s operating system doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. All that matters is the speed and availability of an Internet connection.

As a result, hardware-dependent companies are going to be decreasing their reliance on certain resources sooner rather than later. In a way, they can’t avoid it – in Connecticut alone, the average savings that a business can expect from making the switch from a hardware-based environment to a thin, cloud-based client are approximately $225 per PC per year. This isn’t just a one-time savings, either – this is every single year.

These types of benefits are just a byproduct (albeit an important one) of the cloud-based world in which we now live. When your telecommuting software is tied into the cloud, the only thing that is really taking up power is a computer’s monitor. Every other aspect of a hardware-based environment essentially becomes redundant in an instant, which is very much a good thing. You no longer have to invest heavily up-front in the hardware resources to maintain your environment. You no longer have to pay to manage or maintain it over time. Instead, you get an infrastructure that allows your employees to work how they want, when they want, wherever they want. This isn’t some far off fantasy, either – this is the world we’re already living in.

Key Takeaways:

  • In today’s cloud-based world, ALL employees are essentially telecommuting – whether they’re on-site or not.
  • Telecommuting software is just the way that we connect now – the pitfalls of creating those multi-sited environments and creating access for them are basically gone.

Cloud Infrastructures |Infrastructure as a Service

Softphones vs. Desk Phones: Which to Choose?

Deciding which kind of phone system (like softphones or desk phones) will best benefit your company can be a difficult task, because no one wants to purchase equipment that isn’t a great fit for them. By considering the perks and drawbacks of both softphones and desk phones, you can make the best decision for your business.

Softphones are overtaking desk phones as the preferred system of call center strategies, but most companies still rely on landlines and desk phones to carry out their day-to-day functions. There are several factors that you should consider when deciding on a phone system:

Filling Different Needs

Softphones are phone applications that can be installed on a PC, laptop, or tablet. Softphones are most often paired with individual headsets in a call center setting. Desk phones are just as their name sounds; tangible phones on a landline that sit next to a computer or on a desk.

Softphones offer flexibility and mobility since the applications can be installed on a myriad of devices. Desk phones offer a higher degree of dependability since they don’t rely on an internet connection to work and provide a more professional feel.

Softphones and desk phones differ from each other in cost, compatibility, utility, and how they’re integrated into different work styles.

Cost and Space

Each desk phone will be a larger investment per item than softphones, but require very little effort to install. Just plug each one into the wall and you’re good to go. Softphones will be cheaper per device and user, but require more resources to be operational. Softphones rely on Internet connection and compatible devices.

Softphones save desk space for employees because they are essentially part of the device they’re downloaded on. This also saves your company money by cutting down on electrical and cabling costs, which would increase the number of desk phones you have.

Utility and Function

One of the main appeals of softphones is the capacity for video calls and instant messaging. Video calls are available on some forms of desk phones, but softphones are usually the better option if you’re looking for this feature specifically.

Softphones can be used remotely because all they need is an internet connection and a device with the application installed on it, unlike a desk phone which can only be used at the office. Desk phones are more reliable in call quality and still provide a more professional feeling than making a phone call on a tablet can’t quite convey.

Work Styles

When choosing a phone system, it boils down to purpose when making the final decision. Desk phones are typically more accessible and reliable than softphones. If you’re looking for audio only and are concerned with the highest call quality, desk phones may be the answer for you.

Softphones offer ease of access and mobility. If you have a lot of employees who will be working remotely or on the go, softphones could be the best route for you to take.

Winner Take Call

Softphones and desk phones provide for vastly different needs in a business. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both systems, you can make the best decision possible to and find the closest fit for your company. At ITGCT, we’ll work with you to determine the best phone system for your unique needs. Reach out to us today, and we’d love to chat with you.