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Preferred Blog

Preferred has been serving the Tinley Park area since 1991, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

It’s Time to Plan Next Year’s Budget, so Consider Managed IT Services

It’s Time to Plan Next Year’s Budget, so Consider Managed IT Services

As we’re in the midst of Q3 of 2023, common wisdom says that now is about the time that small businesses should be planning their budgets for the next fiscal year. As such, if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to give managed IT services some serious consideration.

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You Aren’t Wrong When You Say IT is Complicated

You Aren’t Wrong When You Say IT is Complicated

I was meeting with an old colleague the other day. We met over Microsoft Teams to just check in and see how they were doing—no real itinerary, just to check in with a familiar face that I haven’t personally talked to in a few years. They had a little trouble getting into Microsoft Teams, since they were used to Zoom. I patiently smiled and helped them through it, and told them “No worries, it’s always the little differences that complicate things!”

At the time, I said this just to be empathetic. At first, the nerdy computer-geek part of my brain told me that the process to get into a Zoom meeting vs a Teams meeting, from their perspective, is exactly the same. But after the call, I really thought about this small interaction, and you know what? Things have gotten complicated.

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Who Handles the IT at Your Company? Are They Doing These Critical Tasks?

Who Handles the IT at Your Company? Are They Doing These Critical Tasks?

Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, managing technology can easily become a full-time job. If you are only calling a technician when you are dealing with a computer issue, then you might be sitting on a ticking time bomb. Whether you have internal staff responsible for managing your IT, or you rely on a third-party, you’ll want to make sure the following tasks are getting done.

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Businesses Have Access to These 3 Powerful Communications Tools

Businesses Have Access to These 3 Powerful Communications Tools

What kinds of communication tools does your business utilize on a daily basis? Chances are that your communication infrastructure can benefit from some of the latest and greatest solutions on the market. Communication is one aspect of your business that you definitely do not want to skimp on, as failing to implement the proper tools can bleed into other aspects of your organization, including operations and, in return, your bottom line.

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VoIP Significantly Improves Business Communications in Multiple Ways

VoIP Significantly Improves Business Communications in Multiple Ways

With all the communication tools that businesses use today, there still is no more important option than the telephone system. Unfortunately for small businesses, the telephone system can be expensive and hard to manage. However, there is a way for you to get a fully featured telephone service with some of the most important tools your business needs, at a fraction of the price you currently pay for your enterprise telephone system.

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Document Your IT Infrastructure

Document Your IT Infrastructure

Quick, off the top of your head, how many network switches are in use at your office? How many wireless access points? How many routers are past their warranty or no longer getting support?

That’s not a question most business owners are asked on a regular basis, and we don’t really expect you to be able to rattle off the answers. You should have all of that information documented though.

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Extend the Effectiveness of Your Wireless Network

Extend the Effectiveness of Your Wireless Network

Your business wireless connection is an increasingly important consideration, which means it needs to be installed and supported thoughtfully. Today, we will tell you a little bit about Wi-Fi and how to get the best performance out of your business’ wireless network.

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Remote Monitoring and Managed IT, and the Impact it Has on Small Business

Remote Monitoring and Managed IT, and the Impact it Has on Small Business

With more people than ever working from home, their ability to receive the support they need to keep their devices in top working order is crucial. As a result, many businesses have turned to managed IT service providers to maintain their employees’ computers. MSPs like us utilize a tool called remote monitoring and management software (RMM). Let’s discuss what it is and why it is so useful for managing your company’s IT. 

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What Your IT Documentation Needs to Include, and Why

What Your IT Documentation Needs to Include, and Why

It is important that you have a handle on the technology that your business utilizes, which will require you to maintain comprehensive documentation regarding it and its support. Here, we’ll go through what a managed service provider includes in this documentation, as well as how it is used.

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Test Your Backup!

Test Your Backup!

Your data is vital for your organization’s continuity. Your data consists of everything from your company documents, accounting records, client contact information, prospects and leads, procedures, and everything else needed for you to keep operations running smoothly. That’s why all businesses need a solid backup solution that is monitored and tested regularly.

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I Didn’t Realize How Much I Needed This: Color-Coded Chrome Tabs

I Didn’t Realize How Much I Needed This: Color-Coded Chrome Tabs

Google Chrome is rolling out a neat little update for everyone over the next week (it may already be out for some users by the time this posts). It’s a feature that I know I’m personally going to love, and I didn’t even realize how badly I needed it until now.

Let’s take a look!

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Why We’re Just Waiting for Break/Fix IT Services to Go Away

Why We’re Just Waiting for Break/Fix IT Services to Go Away

As much as we hate to admit it, the first thing that many people still think of when they hear the term “tech support” is the experience that comes with an antiquated approach to technology services: the break/fix method. Fortunately for us, we are seeing many businesses make the better decision, and turn to the clearly superior option, managed IT.

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What Exactly Do We Mean by “Managed” Services?

What Exactly Do We Mean by “Managed” Services?

Managed services - what are they? The short answer, other people managing the IT systems that you rely on every day to be productive and accomplish your tasks. In essence, they are a freedom from dealing with the troublesome and time-consuming parts of leveraging technology. You may have heard this much about managed services before, but have never been given a deeper understanding of what they entail. That is precisely what we aim to accomplish below.

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Tackling Cloud Security

Tackling Cloud Security

Security is always top of mind with businesses migrating to the Cloud. Cloud Services are rapidly being adopted by most businesses today. According to IDC, the worldwide public cloud services market reached $45.7 billion in 2013 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23% through 2018. Cloud Security is an important consideration for businesses migrating to the Cloud. So, what are the top security concerns businesses face?


 

Top Cloud Security Concerns

CompTIA’s Ninth Annual Information Security Trends study identified system downtime/business interruptions, exposure or loss of data during file transfers to the cloud, and concerns over encryption of data (either transactional or at rest) as the top three issues identified by business owners and IT Professionals. In addition, respondents raised concern over complying with legal/regulatory requirements. What can a business owner do to migrate securely to the Cloud?

Cloud Security and Compliance

Most experts agree, start by understanding your Cloud Security requirements. If you have regulatory requirements, a Private Cloud solution may make it easier to comply with standards including HIPAA and PCI. However, this doesn’t mean you are more secure. Beyond encryption, having a solid strategy for using the technology in your organization is a key factor in Cloud Security.

Employees: Key to Tackling Cloud Security

Your employees may be your biggest threat to Cloud Security. Without the proper training, your employees may access your company’s Cloud Services from unsecure devices. This could cause security breaches and data leaks of privacy information. What’s more, it is important to control the adoption of Cloud Services within your business to help mitigate Cloud Security risks. Proper policy, training, and guidelines create awareness and educate your employees about Cloud Security Risks.

Other Cloud Security Factors

IoT (Internet of Things) presents a new risk to Cloud Security. Smart devices including TVs, appliances, office equipment, and other devices that collect and transmit data across the Internet, can cause exposure to your overall security. Research firm Gartner predicts that the IoT market will grow to 26 billion units installed by 2020. Proper network security and encryption is a first step in reducing this emerging security risk.

Migrating to Cloud Services provides many benefits to business of all sizes. Making the leap to Cloud Computing can be done securely with the proper planning & guidance. Reach out to your technology solution advisor to get help tackling Cloud Security.

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Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining: Business Benefits of Cloud Computing

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Moving to the Cloud is a strategic, business-driven decision. Cloud Computing can offer a range of solutions to help drive business performance. Many businesses are migrating to Cloud Computing already. To ensure you get the most from your investment, you need to be able to determine how cloud solutions can help your business grow revenue, scale, accommodate teleworkers, let you move faster than your competition, and help you make your technology infrastructure costs more predictable.  Read on to gain an understanding of the many business benefits of Cloud Computing.


 

Cloud Computing Saves on Upfront Costs

Many popular Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions are available on a subscription basis.  You won’t be paying for hardware, systems software, database or other upfront costs.  In most cases these recurring subscription fees move your capital expense to an operating expense.  However, you will need to plan for customization, migration and integration services to make Cloud Services that are robust and dynamic. Cloud Computing Provides a Faster Time to Market

You won’t be waiting on hardware to deliver for your new Cloud Service.  In many cases you can deploy new Cloud Services on demand.  Additionally, your Cloud Service Provider (CSP) is responsible for keeping the systems up to date with the latest updates and upgrades.  SaaS providers can upgrade features and functionality during regularly planned maintenance windows. This keeps your systems up to date with the latest functionality and capability.

The Predictable Cost of Cloud Computing

Monthly subscription services provide business owners a predictable IT expense.  License policies based on number of users, usage and other predictable factors make it easy to plan and budget your Cloud Computing expense.  Because your systems are maintained by a Cloud Service Provider, you won’t need to worry about surprises like systems’ end-of-life scenarios that could add costly hardware, operating system and software upgrade expense.

Cloud Computing offers your company many business benefits, including greater business value and the ability to leverage Cloud Services for business growth and innovation. Contact your Cloud Services Reseller to find out more about the silver lining Cloud Computing has to offer.

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Is Your Network the Weakest Link for Data Protection?

Data Protection

Data protection isn’t just about reliably backing up your application data and files. It is also important to be able to rapidly restore data in the event of data loss. In addition to natural disasters, cyberthreat and human error drive the need for a solid data protection plan and reliable network performance. There are many aspects to keeping your data protected and your Network in compliance. Here is a short list of considerations:


 

Networking and Broadband Connectivity

Having a fast, reliable network and broadband connectivity helps you gain access to your online backups for rapid recovery of your application data and files in the event of a data loss. Without a reliable network, your time to recover may go from hours to days. There are many affordable ways to avoid unnecessary downtime, including Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Software Defined Networks (SDN) options for Wide Area Networking (WAN) and connecting to the Cloud. Without reliability your network may be the weakest link in your data protection plan.

Network Security and Compliance

Keeping your network security up to date is a critical component of your data protection plan.  Making sure all endpoints and servers are protected with Antivirus and Anti Malware threat detection with up-to-date threat definitions will help avoid loss of data due to cyberthreat.  Consider routine monitoring of your network to ensure your network is secure. Not only will this help prevent and detect any security breaches, monitoring your network will keep you in compliance with industry regulations including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a standard for credit card processing.

Employee Awareness of Cyberthreat

According to a 2015 research report, “Trends in IT Security” by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA),  companies see many sources of human error contributing to security threats resulting in loss of data. End-user failure to follow policies and procedures, general carelessness, and failure to get up to speed on new threats, top the list of specific actions that cause problems. Periodic training of your employees will close these knowledge gaps around technology and strengthen your data protection plan.

Network performance is a key element to avoid any unnecessary downtime due to data loss. Having a data protection plan that keeps your network secure and your employees aware of cyberthreat, helps avoid unplanned business interruption due to data loss and data leaks.  If you have concerns about your network and data protection plan, contact your network specialist today.

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Five Tips on Password Protection

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Should you care about how your employees protect their personal passwords?  Depending on your password protection policy in the workplace, your employees may create passwords based on familiar passwords they use for personal use.  Cybercriminals often hack personal websites for privacy information, including username and passwords, so they can gain access to internal systems.  Offering tips to your employees on creating strong passwords may help you protect your valuable corporate data.

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The Benefits of Fixed-Price IT Managed Services

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More and more, we hear of security breaches that are derailing business’s activities, whether such problems are malicious software (“malware”) designed to grab privacy information from an employee, a computer crash or even a natural disaster such as an earthquake. A data breach can put customers’ personal information in peril, thereby causing embarrassment and even costing steep fines. This is why it is important to hire a reputable IT managed service provider before you need one. Businesses rely on their IT systems to do day-to-day business, and most of the time, things go as they should. But what about when they don’t?

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Is Your Network Ready for the Cloud?

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Moving to the Cloud requires a fast, reliable network to ensure high availability to Cloud applications and their data. Critical systems including Cloud backup, SaaS, VDI, VoIP and other critical systems need consistent broadband access to ensure employee productivity, compliance and keep customer service levels high. This begs the question, is your network ready for the Cloud?


Network Assessment for Cloud Readiness

When moving to the Cloud it is important to understand where you may have points of failure on your network before they happen.  Consider starting with a Network Assessment. By simulating peak loads for voice and data on your network, you can identify weaknesses in a controlled environment. By proactively monitoring your network, you can ping to measure packet loss, latency and uptime; also, you can identify bottlenecks for failure, allowing you to fix problems before they happen. Avoiding unnecessary downtime and/or data loss improves employee productivity and helps ensure compliance.

Maintain Network Security and Compliance for Consistent Computing Access

Malicious attacks, including cyber threats and unauthorized access to your network, will not only expose you to loss of critical data.  They may also degrade your network performance. Unauthorized network use by employees may also consume bandwidth that slows down your network. Unauthorized video streaming and access to unauthorized websites contribute to a slow network.

Upgrade or Improve Network Performance

There are many options to create an affordable wide area network. Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is an emerging option to create secure, reliable access to your Public or Private Cloud Services. This new technology, which provides centralized management and policy-based enforcement, makes it faster to deploy and easier to manage multiple remote sites.

Depending on your requirements, you may be able to use inexpensive broadband that performs like secure and high-bandwidth Enterprise-grade Wide Area Networking. To find out how, contact your Network Specialist today and ask for a network assessment.

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Migrating to the Cloud – How to Avoid Turbulence

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Migrating to the Cloud can be bumpy if you are not prepared. Chances are you have already started migrating to the Cloud. Without realizing it, you may be accessing the Cloud by using mobile and web based applications and services that store and share your data from the Cloud. According to International Data Corporation, (IDC) public IT Cloud services (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) spending will reach $127 billion in 2018. The Cloud will outpace the total IT market at a rate of more than five times. With this shift, companies are migrating to the Cloud at a rapid pace, so it is important to plan your Cloud migration to avoid any unnecessary turbulence.

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      Cybersecurity is crucial for everyone to focus on, both in the professional environment and in their personal lives. That’s why I wanted to put together a list of cybersecurity practices you should encourage your team to follow when they aren’t in the office or working remot...

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      Preferred is rated Best Places to Work - 3 Consecutive Years!

      Preferred has been named as one of the Best Places to Work in Illinois in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The awards program began in 2006 and is promoted by The Daily Herald Business Ledger in partnership with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, MRA-The Management Association, the Small Business Advocacy Council and Best Companies Group.