Make Strategic Decisions Better with a Virtual CIO

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Many businesses do not have the resources or budget to hire technicians to perform regular maintenance on their systems, let alone someone managing the technicians behind the scenes. The chief information officer, or CIO, is the one who would typically make these calls, but businesses that cannot hire an in-house CIO for whatever reason have the option of hiring a virtual CIO. Read on to learn about the benefits of a Virtual CIO for your business.

What is a Virtual CIO?

A virtual CIO is the same as a traditional CIO, just not on-site. A virtual CIO is an outsourced IT resource under contract with your organization to provide services involved with handling your company’s IT strategy.

The significant difference here is that a virtual CIO looks at your IT strategy as a whole and how that strategy aligns with your business goals. When done correctly, the virtual CIO encourages and informs your IT decisions, allowing you to move toward your organization’s specific goals.

The best way to illustrate the difference between technicians and the virtual CIO is that technicians are responsible for addressing day-to-day challenges and issues for your organization’s IT infrastructure. In contrast, the virtual CIO is responsible for ensuring that the business’ long-term technology goals are met. Think about the virtual CIO as the travel agent booking your vacation, planning things in the style of a roadmap each step of the way.

What are the Benefits of a Virtual CIO?

The first notable benefit of a virtual CIO is the price. Considering their status as a c-suite employee, the traditional CIO is going to require considerable compensation. Small businesses often cannot offer competitive salaries for such high-demand talent, so instead of investing in a position, you can invest in a service with more affordable monthly payments. Plus, you don’t have to invest in finding a CIO’s searching or hiring process, increasing the value you get from outsourcing.

Furthermore, there is a certain level of objectivity that comes from a virtual CIO. Sometimes people get caught up in the passion of running a business and start to make decisions that might not make sense. They let their feelings and predispositions dictate their actions. Someone from outside the organization is more likely to make more objective decisions, hence why many companies hire external auditors or consultants.

Without someone spearheading your IT efforts, they are doomed to fail. Let 4 Corner IT take this task on, and you can say goodbye to the stress associated with technology decisions. To learn more about the benefits of a virtual CIO, reach out to us at (954) 474-2204.

Let’s Look at Some of the Best Business Software Solutions

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All businesses utilize software to a certain extent, but not all companies have the same needs. That being said, there are certain types of software that all businesses can benefit from, regardless of industry or service offerings. We’ve put together a list of business software solutions that companies can utilize to improve operations.

Productivity Suites

Most businesses use a productivity suite, which is basically just a fancy way of talking about a suite of software that includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation software, email and calendar management program, and other productivity applications. In fact, we would say that it is almost a prerequisite for a business to have a productivity suite just for the ability to open and edit files or documents. Some of the most common productivity suites out there include Microsoft 365 Apps for Business and Google Workspace, but there are other more focused productivity suites for specific purposes, like the Adobe Creative Cloud.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Similar to productivity suites, most businesses use traditional landlines to make and receive phone calls. While this was an accepted practice for some time, the more modern solution is to utilize a Voice over IP application on either a desktop or a mobile device to make and receive calls. Not only does this save you quite a bit in terms of up-front costs and operational costs, but it also makes adding new users to the infrastructure infinitely easier, as it does not involve installing new hardware (unless, of course, you want to use physical handsets).

Password Management

Passwords are a major pain point for businesses, so you need to treat them as such. While passwords can be made complex, this also makes them difficult to remember. This is where password management comes into play; these solutions offer a secure, protected vault for your passwords and can pull from this vault when the credentials are needed, removing the need to remember them entirely. It is a great way to augment your accounts’ security without compromising on password quality.

Antivirus and Other Security Solutions

It goes without saying that you need to be securing your business’ network and endpoints at all times. It doesn’t matter how small of a business you run. Hackers can and will find data on your network that presents some kind of value, whether it is to them personally or to someone on the black market. They might even be out to cause a little bit of chaos and infect your computers just for the sake of doing so. Who can say for sure? All we can say for sure is that you need to secure your network and its endpoints.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Encryption is a powerful tool that helps you keep your data secure, especially while out of the office. A virtual private network can encrypt data sent to and from your device, improving privacy and security while on unsecured networks. It is especially helpful when working on a public Wi-Fi connection or while traveling.

Adding new software solutions to your business’ infrastructure might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. 4Corner IT can help your business implement software solutions designed to improve operations and provide sustainability for your business. To learn more, reach out to us at (954) 474-2204.

4 Options for Your Business’ Communication Infrastructure

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Businesses depend on their communications solution to work with clients, vendors, and their staff. Depending on the specific needs of the company, a business might implement any number of communication solutions, all of which have various strengths, weaknesses, and uses. We’ll walk you through some of the most common communication solutions, as well as why you might want them for your company.

We want to kick this off with a quick reminder that all of these solutions here are fully capable of being implemented in a cloud-based environment. This is important because it improves accessibility and allows your team to stay connected no matter where they are!

Now, let’s get into the details.

Email

You likely already have an email server for your business, but if not, then there’s no better time to talk about the benefits. Not only does it let you stay in touch with clients and give your company a professional presence, but it also gives you a way to communicate in-office with your coworkers and staff. It goes without saying how important email is, but you will want to make sure that your solution best suits your company’s needs. One of the big considerations you will have to make is whether you want to host your own or outsource the responsibility to a provider. As always, it depends on your company’s budget and technology management expertise.

Instant Messaging

For cases when emails are not urgent enough, you have instant messaging. Instant messaging allows you to instantaneously connect with people within your company for whatever you happen to need. IMs are particularly useful to get answers to quick questions or to get an immediate response. They can also be helpful for just chatting and staying in touch; group chats can be very effective at building camaraderie and establishing a good company culture.

Voice over IP

Email and instant messaging are more text-based methods of communication, so let’s discuss another method that relies on voice: VoIP, or Voice over IP. VoIP can effectively replace your company’s telephone solution with software for your desktop, laptop, or smartphone. It’s particularly great because it eliminates the need to work with your local telephone company by allowing you to use your Internet connection instead. Plus, VoIP has all of the features that your traditional telephone solution has, plus some.

Unified Communications Solutions

Perhaps one of the best ways to stay in touch with your company is with a unified communications solution that includes most, if not all of the above features. It provides a single centralized solution for all of your company’s communication needs. Think of the solutions like Slack and Microsoft Teams–these are great examples of unified communications solutions.

4Corner IT can equip you with all of the important tools you need to boost communications in the workplace. To learn more about what we can do for your business, reach out to us at (954) 474-2204.

What a Global Internet Outage Tells About the Cloud and Your Business

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The week of June 14th, 2021 saw many applications and websites suffer from an internet outage. This, consequently, created considerable problems for many organizations that used these services. Businesses suffered from continuity issues, but perhaps the biggest takeaway is just how vulnerable the Internet really is to these kinds of issues. What happened, exactly?

A Small Firm’s Challenges Created Significant Ripples Online

Fastly is a firm that provides a content delivery network for several influential websites. This service basically supports a network of duplicate servers across 26 countries around the world, allowing websites to store data and content on them. If a user is closer to the location where the data is being stored, it can be accessed faster. This is the whole point of using Fastly–to ensure that users don’t have to wait too long for their news. On June 10th, however, several of these websites and applications went down. These websites and applications were ranked as some of the most popular on the web.

The internet outage was resolved quickly, but not quickly enough. It still created considerable issues for businesses and cost millions of dollars. These damages were caused by a 75 percent decrease in traffic for a full hour, which is pretty shocking, to say the least. Due to the nature of these services, the affected websites were unable to switch to alternative services, as doing so would have required a fair amount of preparation and would be quite a complicated process. We can glean some valuable insights from this scenario, particularly in how the Internet is structured and the concerns that lie therein.

The Concerns Underlying the Modern Internet

A content delivery network might help to provide content delivery systems with more content, but there are issues that come from using a CDN. These types of services are quite popular online, but since they rely on a central server to supply the information, anything that would render that server unable to work would make that content inaccessible. It’s just like any other cybersecurity issue that might affect a centralized server. CDNs might offer greater speeds compared to the traditional infrastructure that would otherwise be used to distribute content, but the advantages are not without their drawbacks.

It also does not help that the software specifications that make the Internet what it is today can disrupt billions of devices should they become vulnerable. Since most issues encountered by the Internet are smaller in scope, tools like machine learning are being used to troubleshoot and identify the root causes of these internet outages.

That said, not all organizations utilize a CDN, and many use cloud computing services for this particular need. With all this in mind, many businesses are not immune to the challenges of another internet outage, particularly from major cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google. These create challenges for businesses that rely on these services.

We don’t want this fear to be an argument against cloud services. Instead, use it as an opportunity to understand the risks and concerns involved with its use. 4Corner IT can help you determine what your specific needs are and how your IT can address them. To find out more about how your business can use the cloud and other technology to augment its processes, reach out to us at (954) 474-2204.

Automation Technology: Benefits and Concerns

Robotic hand pressing a keyboard on a laptop 3D rendering

With the advent of more advanced technology, many workers are understandably concerned about automation and the impact it could have on their jobs. Computers systems grow more advanced each and every year, leading to improvements in artificial intelligence that have unskilled workers in certain industries where automation is king. Let’s explore some of these concerns, including why some of them have merit while others may be a long way off yet.

How Do We Define Automation Technology?

Automation in its most simple context is anytime technology is used to fulfill tasks that would normally be performed by humans. The idea is that as human input is minimized; workflows can be made more predictable, repeatable, and efficient, reducing the risk of user error and other unforeseen issues getting in the way. Computing systems have been using automation for a long time, but recent innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning have opened up the floodgates to a whole new realm of possibilities, leading many workers to question whether they will be replaced by technology in the near future.

Should Workers Be Worried?

The answer to this question is not as clear as you might think. Some people are worried when they really should not be, whereas others have much more cause for concern. About a quarter of today’s workforce feel that automation might come for their jobs within the next five years. Young people in particular are worried about the future of their jobs (about 37 percent), as they are generally more aware of how technology can influence businesses to work toward automation. There is a trend showcasing that the older a worker is, the less likely they feel they can be replaced by an automated system.

Age disparity and the income difference associated with it also play a part in this equation. 34 percent of workers that make less than $50,000 annually are fearful their job will be automated. From that point onward, the fear decreases exponentially as income increases. Since most jobs being replaced by automation are filled by unskilled workers, this trend is hardly surprising.

If you look at automation by industry, you will find that many human jobs have already been lost to it. In industries like automotive, business support and logistics, advertising and marketing, and retail, automation presents considerable risk to jobholders.

Truck drivers are the perfect example of those who might be concerned about these developments in automation technology. Self-driving trucks are not just a developing technology; they are already here. With the signing of legislation and a bit of further refinement, truck drivers could very well be at risk of losing their jobs. The biggest concern here is that these workers may not have other skill sets that could land them employment elsewhere—at least not with the same financial stability as with their current profession.

The long and short of it is that most workers know if their jobs are in any danger of being replaced by automation, and while they might not be ecstatic about switching careers, the truth of the matter is that automation takes away opportunities and replaces them with new ones.

Can Automation Technology Help Workers?

While many workers worry about their jobs due to automation, much more are using it to make their jobs easier and more manageable. People have specific skill sets that allow them to succeed in any given role, but it is a fact that much of managing a business involves small repetitive tasks. Technology can be used to make these tasks easier to accomplish, allowing employees to refocus their efforts and skillsets on larger tasks that would otherwise be mired underneath everyday operations. When skilled employees are allowed to flourish in this fashion and utilize their skills to the best of their abilities, productivity can soar. If automation is used to this end, businesses have much to gain from it.

Through automation, companies can save money, work smarter (not harder), and fully leverage their available resources. When businesses are operating as efficiently as possible, the quality of their products/services and demand for them can increase, leading to the creation of more jobs and opportunities for workers. Does this scenario sound likely to you? What are your thoughts on automation in the workplace? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments and check our blog regularly for technology-related content.