Enterprise level Wi-Fi system using UniFi®

There is no question that Wi-Fi has become an important element in running your business.  The positive side to Wi-Fi becoming such a commodity is that the market is competitive when it comes to offering up new networking solutions.  As your MSP, we’re familiar with your bandwidth usage, office layout, and budget.  Whether you are a one room office, a warehouse or a multilevel facility (e.g. church, school) we can design and implement an enterprise-level Wi-Fi system using UniFi® access points.  Imagine having a Wi-Fi network that can easily accommodate hundreds of devices and integrates with your current equipment to deliver secure and consistent coverage no matter where you are on the property.

Most of the time when people hear “enterprise solution” they equate it at a high cost.  With UniFi® access points you can have cutting edge technology at a reasonable price (UAP AC Pro has an MSRP $149).  The average rating for these products is 4.4/5 stars; you’re getting a high-quality product for a fraction of the cost of other access points and you’re not skimping on any of the features.  UniFi® access points give you a dense coverage and fast connection, possibly up to five times faster since you have an option to use the AC band.

Band Name Speed Indoor Range Frequency Released
Wireless AC 1 Gbps 115 Feet 5 GHz 2013
Wireless N 300 Mbps 230 Feet 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz 2009
Wireless G 54 Mbps 125 Feet 2.4 GHz 2003

 

If you’re still using the G band because you’re avoiding the cost of upgrading, consider all the productivity you could gain at a price point that is hard to beat.  We have found that within our own client base we are able to facilitate clients being able to keep up with connecting to the latest devices and also create a completely secure, scalable Wi-Fi network for both employees and guests.  Whether you need to cover hundreds of people on a guest network or 5 employees, we have you covered.

So what is an access point and why should I use one?

An access point is a device that connects to a wired router, switch or hub via Ethernet cable.  Once connected the access point is able to project a Wi-Fi signal.  This is especially helpful since you can install the access points in areas where a router is not in range. 

Couldn’t I just use a range extender if I have a deadspot?

Yes, but range extenders are not always efficient in business applications.  Range extenders can typically only support a maximum of 20 connections.  Access points can typically handle around 60 (connections vary by model).  The access points also allow for seamless connections so the user won’t even notice a connection difference as they move around the workspace. 

Are access points secure?

Absolutely, access points have built in features that allow you to limit guest activity on your network.  In addition to making guest connections to the internet only, we can also control how much bandwidth they use.  The UniFi® guest portals can also be customized so the guest login page has your company logo and welcome message.  Not only is your data secure and protected by offering a separate guest network; the overall appearance to your clients and guests is polished and professional.

If you’re looking to possibly upgrade or having any questions about our service, please reach out to us today.

Building Your Plan for BYOD!

Building Your Plan for BYOD!

As the line between working in-office and working from home becomes more and more blurred, a new trend in employee technology has begun to emerge – BYOD, or bring your own device. Many companies are offering their employees the option to bring their own devices into the office environment as it can improve both employee satisfaction and office productivity.  But CIOs still must consider three different basic set ups/options before taking the plunge:

  1. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – In this set up an employee has complete control over choosing and supporting the device they use at work since it is fully owned by the employee. This is a very popular method with smaller companies or those who utilize independent contractors.
  2. Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) – In this set up employees are offered a choice of devices that have been approved by the company for their security, reliability, and durability. The approved devices work within the company’s IT environment, however the device itself is owned by the employee; either they have paid for it themselves or it was paid for through a company stipend and the employee can keep it for the length of their employment.
  3. Company-issued, Personally-Enabled (COPE) device – Here an employee is supplied a phone or other device, paid for by the company, that they can use for personal activities. The employer can decide how much access and freedom employees get when using these devices.  This is the closest option to the traditional Corporate Owned Business Only (COBO) model of old.

While CYOD and COPE are often employed in larger organizations, BYOD is by far the most popular option with SMB’s.  There are many benefits to the new BYOD office set up.  When employees are totally familiar and comfortable with their own devices they are likely to be more productive since they do not require any time or training to get up to speed on optimal usage.  Additionally, personal devices, as opposed to business owned, oftentimes are the latest model with all the latest updates and features.  Early adopters love having the latest version of their preferred device and companies can leverage that desire to their advantage.

A further advantage to adopting BYOD is cost savings to the employer.  By having people responsible for part or, in some cases, all of the cost of their mobile devices, businesses can potentially reduce the impact of mobile device costs on their bottom line.

If and when your company adopts a BYOD policy, the best way to ensure that you do not encounter an excessive surge in calls for help to your IT team is to have strong and comprehensive BYOD guidelines in place.  Here at Midwest IT Solutions we have worked hard to research and develop guidelines for our clients to follow. Any policy should encompass seven key areas:

  1. Specify what devices are allowed. You will be getting into the business of saying, yes iPhone, no Android, yes iPad no any other tablet. Once you have decided what devices are allowed it is key to make clear what level of support (if any) you will offer owners of these devices.
  2. Establish strict security protocols for those devices.
  3. Define a clear support policy i.e. what level of IT support will you (the employer) provide?
  4. Decide which Apps will be allowed, which will be banned.
  5. Make clear who owns the apps and data used on the employee’s devices.
  6. Be sure that your BYOD policy is aligned and fully integrated with your current Acceptable Use policy.
  7. Be sure to come up with an employee off-boarding plan.

There are many factors to consider before any manager or executive rolls out a new BYOD policy.  A successful BYOD policy can aid in productivity and employee satisfaction, a less detailed BYOD policy can lead to security breaches and numerous IT headaches.

At Midwest IT Solutions we can help you navigate through the complex new world of BYOD.  With Midwest IT Solutions’ guidance, you will be able to leverage the wonderful benefits of BYOD without facing the many pitfalls.  Do not try to chart your own course through this exciting world, contact us today!

Cloud Computing: The MSP Advantage

It’s no secret that cloud computing is the future of computer and network care for businesses worldwide.  “The cloud” eliminates the need to have physical servers and hardware in your office. Cloud computing focuses on maximizing the effectiveness of the company’s shared resources, as well as being effective in heightening companies’ day to day tasks with multiple users.  It is a highly efficient way to store your company’s data in one place at a flat monthly cost, as opposed to worrying about the large capital investment of new network equipment on a regular basis.

Cloud adoption and cloud-based file sharing are becoming increasingly popular among the general public, but can cause concern among CIOs. Unfortunately, IT organizations are having a hard time keeping up with large, public cloud providers.  According to an article from Business Cloud News, a recent survey conducted by Fruition Partners of 100 CIOs found that 84 percent believe cloud adoption reduces their organization’s control over IT.

About nine in ten believe unsanctioned use of public cloud services has created long-term security risks. This is troubling to CIOs because it can lead to possible information leaks or other data security breaches. In addition, 79 percent of CIOs believe that there are cloud services in use that their IT department is not aware of.  This reiterates the danger of losing grasp of the company’s technology while using a large cloud provider.

Partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help prevent these worries from arising.  A proactive relationship with an MSP gives you the ability to aid in, or fully move, to a private cloud option.  It ensures that your company will be working with a partner that has experience with many cloud networks, therefore providing the highest level of support possible.  This is crucial when it comes to the transition of moving your company’s data and file sharing for all users within your company at an affordable cost, while at the same time, preventing downtime on the network.

In conclusion, the value of having an MSP on your side to aid in cloud based technologies for your business is second to none.  Small to midsize companies can focus on the core competencies of their business that make them money, while letting the experts control all business technology in the cloud.

Midwest IT asks: Why is Managed Services is the right answer for your network?

If you’re a traditional small to medium sized company, the idea of managed services provided by a vendor may seem an unlikely solution. But then how do you explain the trend toward outsourcing pieces of IT and in some cases, all of IT?

It has become obvious that some companies in the SMB market have nobody on staff that really knows or understands the technology they are using, even though they are running mission critical business applications.  Businesses end up spending money needlessly on things they do not fully understand.  Many times a break fix IT vendor may have a customer implement technologies that make more sense for them to sell($$$), than it does for your company to buy.  The other issue can be the “IT guy” that wants to use your business network to test cool new technologies. Either way, it is not smart spending. In some cases they have very skilled operations people, but they are ready to retire. Those soon-to-retire staffers understand their network environment well, however replacing these people is difficult. The MSP generally does not have a large financial interest in a solution that you are attempting to implement, which gives you an unbiased staff of professionals the assist your company in making smart IT decisions for your business.

In the world of MSP’s or Managed Service Providers, there is a flexibility that companies can benefit from. In most cases with an MSP, there is a general “Flat Rate” cost for your IT Services.  The best ones are able to package together their “best practices” and provide the client with a number to budget for their IT costs that allows them to stay close to their budget.  This is a major benefit to the customer, as they do not have all of the peaks in spending that comes with non-budgeted break/fix IT. With companies that are using break/fix, you gain an engineer/account manager that makes decisions in YOUR best interest. In the case of having an employee that is soon to retire, an MSP can implement tools to get the clients network onto an MSP platform, while allowing the current IT person to continue their day to day tasks.  Then, when the retirement happens, the customer’s network has a seamless transfer over.  The users have a new help desk to contact for issues, but the environment stays the same.  No large headaches or expenses.

In other cases, some companies are employing a full time IT person when they really do not need it.  I have seen companies with 25 to 50 users pay $60,000 – $100,000 for salaries + benefits. Sample MSP pricing would be  $40,000-$50,000 range for 25 users and 50 users would be $75,000-$85,000.  These numbers usually also include software the client is also paying for.  (Backups, spam filtering, offsite storage, etc)  This means that companies are paying $20,000 to $30,000 more to have someone onsite every year. Owners and managers of companies this size should really look at this.  With many of these companies, the owners or decision makers are made to believe that their network is “special” or more “complex” than most.  In a few rare cases, there is a justified reason for having someone on staff, however, most times, this is not the case.   Given that the MSP can provide a quality level of service, how much better would the company be doing investing that money back into their technology, instead of paying labor costs.

Business owners should at the very least do the research and see. Usually at no cost you can have an MSP come out and evaluate your current IT situation.

Should your business have its own “APP”?

I recently began researching the pros and cons of having an app for Midwest IT.  As I ventured out into Googleland to find a decent development platform, I began to think about possible functions that we could implement that would improve our customer service and make things easier for our end users.  What I found out was that some of the development tools were pretty powerful, giving many more options than I had first anticipated.  So I began a trial run to build our first app.  Lets see how this thing will work!

First I started a list of what it should do,

  • Submit support tickets
  • Easily call us
  • Easily refer someone to us

Then as I went into deeper thought, I came up with a few other great ideas

  • Easily email pictures (error screens, flashy lights, etc)
  • Sign up for a newsletter
  • Get info on our referral program
  • Find our website
  • Connect to our Social Media
  • Let people know about upcoming events
  • Send people notifications

I wanted to start with a basic, clean and functional main screen that would not be confusing.

app1

Then I added additional items to the More menu.

app2

The process was not overly difficult and the test app seems to function fast and easy.  Overall, I was very impressed.

When I analyzed having an app as a value add from a business perspective, it really seemed like a no-brainer.

  • The cost is relatively cheap.
  • It is very easy to maintain.
  • You have an additional direct point of contact to your customers.
  • Additional resource for announcing items to all customers.  (New products, deals, service alerts, industry notifications, etc)
  • Presents a additional professional service level to prospects.

If this seems like something you would be interested in, please let us know!

Keep your focus!!

Running a business is a 365 day a year job. While you focus on running your business let Midwest IT Solutions focus on keeping you up to date on the latest developments in information technology. In the 4th quarter of 2015 Microsoft launched Exchange Server 2016 and implemented updates to its Office 365 service and software suite. While both feature improved security, there are several key differences, which is crucial to understand when making the appropriate choice for your business.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based subscription service and therefore is no need to purchase any additional hardware. The low monthly subscription structure makes it a cost effective option for many small to mid-sized businesses in industries who need to comply with all current privacy and regulatory guidelines. Many business owners do not realize that free email services, such as Gmail, yahoo, and AOL are not compliant with certain security and privacy regulations. Any company that is found to be non-compliant in regulated industries may face a government fine, as well as have to pay a service to get them back in industry compliance.

In addition to meeting confidentiality requirements, the email service in Office 365 has an added feature called “Clutter.” Clutter utilizes smart technology to learn patterns in users email. If it sees that emails from a specific sender are consistently never opened or immediately delated it will send those messages to the Clutter folder rather than the inbox.

Unlike Office 365, Exchange Server 2016 is Microsoft’s most up to date and secure email software for on premise options. Some business owners prefer to keep their email server on premises rather than Office 365 due to a higher level of internal control. Depending on your particular business’ needs, it can offer higher performance than Microsoft’s cloud based service. There are some cases where an on premises server is the best, such as businesses that require large capacity file shares (50GB in size or more) or operations that would be bandwidth-prohibitive in a cloud scenario. Offices that have less infrastructure access to the internet would be wise to take this into account during their decision making process.

Exchange 2016 offers all of the same security features as Office 365 and is fully compliant with all privacy guidelines. However, it does not have the Clutter feature that Office 365 users are able to utilize. If you are currently using a now unsupported, or soon to be unsupported version of Exchange, it is past time to upgrade; preparing to move to Exchange 2016 is a must. Any business currently running a version of Exchange Server earlier than 2010 will need to perform an additional step as they upgrade. Files must be moved to Exchange Server 2010 as an interim step as newer versions cannot co-exist with any framework developed prior to 2010. It is important to remember that Microsoft will be terminating all support of any version of Exchange prior to 2010 on April 11, 2017. If your internal IT department has their hands full managing your day to day operations or if you do not have an internal IT department, Midwest can help you ensure a smooth transition as you migrate to the Exchange 2016 environment.

How do you know which option is the right choice for your business? Midwest can help you navigate the confusing world of information technology. You focus on what you do best and let Midwest handle the IT. Contact Us…

 

Internet Use

Today’s business world is driven by the internet in many facets. However, the internet also can make you more vulnerable to data breaches and viruses. As the threats have changed over the years, you’ve likely made sure update your hardware and software. However, your changes can’t all go into your network, your users themselves can pose an unknowing or unintentional security threat with bad browsing habits. Unsafe browsing habits can expose your network to hackers, viruses, malware and ransomware. These are all possibilities when users access untrustworthy sites, share information and download files from the web. The internet is a powerful tool but it can become a distraction making your employees less productive.
Working with your MSP you can make better choices with your internet policies and security features. Current versions of firewalls offer content screening and flow control. If you’re not already utilizing these features, it’s a great way to cut your risk by blocking commonly attacked and work inappropriate websites out the gate. This also helps ensure that your ISP’s resources are being used in the most efficient way. Make your users aware of your protocols and be ready to enforce them.
A comprehensive Internet Usage Policy will not only cover the company’s expectations of use but also contain the appropriate disclosures regarding monitoring and ownership of information. The company’s usage policy helps your employees adhere to best practices on the internet. Regular reminders help keep everyone on the same page. Some things you may want to review with them are:

  • Internet use should be limited to job-related activities
  • All Internet data that is composed, transmitted and/or received by the company’s computer systems belongs to the company and is part of its official data. Therefore it’s subject to disclosure for legal reasons to appropriate third parties.
  • The company reserves the right to monitor internet traffic and monitor any data that is sent, received or composed online.
  • Sites and downloads may be monitored by the company and will be blocked if they are deemed to be harmful or unproductive to business.
  • Installation of software and instant messaging services are prohibited.

It’s important that your employees take safeguarding your systems seriously. With the overturn of the FCC’s privacy rulings our internet data is once again less private than many would like. It’s essential that employees understand that what they do on the internet can have an impact on the company.

The Value of Outsourced IT

Your days are filled with making decisions that will guide your business into the future.  It is easy to put your IT needs on the back burner, but that will lead to days spent fighting IT fires rather than focusing on your growth.  In the 21st century, technology is at the center of any business.  Your entire operation can grind to a halt due to one computer snag; costing you lost productivity and the potential for lost clients.  According to recent research by CompTIA, the proactive monitoring that a managed service provider offers reduces your costs by 50% per downtime incident.  Outsourcing your IT needs to Midwest IT is the best way to ensure that your business is running smoothly.  We leverage enterprise-level applications to support your business and provide a team of friendly, knowledgeable IT professionals for you and your staff.

Gone are the days when your only concerns were a slow internet connection or a finicky printer.  The information technology environment of today is increasingly complex; a major firewall breach that threatens your data, your VPN failing, or your VOIP not allowing calls are just three problems your business could face.  The costs for keeping a modern office running efficiently on your own can be endless as well.  You need to be confident that all of your hardware and software will continue to work for you – not against you.  This is a job too challenging for just one computer expert to handle.  It is no longer practical, nor preferable, to be a jack of all trades.   At the very least, a help desk employee and a systems administrator are required.  The average combined salary of these positions is $90,000-$120,000 annually, plus the costs of keeping their training and certifications up to date.  These employees would still not be able to handle every computer glitch you are likely to face. In addition to the peace of mind that Midwest IT provides, there are many less obvious financial benefits such as leaner overhead, bulk purchasing and leasing options for hardware and software, as well as compliance with government regulations.

Outsourcing lets you focus on your core competencies while Midwest IT focuses on ours. Instead of just the experience of one person, you gain the knowledge of our full team of IT professionals.  By working with Midwest IT, you benefit from our experience of working with hundreds of clients.  We have already seen most of the IT issues you will face and know exactly what is necessary to avoid or fix them in a timely manner.  IT is Midwest’s core focus, and we can offer solutions to you at a fraction of the cost of an internal department.