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Moving To The Cloud: Is Your Business Ready?

Moving To The Cloud: Is Your Business Ready?

What Is The Cloud?

The “Cloud” is somewhat of a nebulous term for those who aren’t fully versed in the latest IT technologies.  Although many people understand the basic gist, many business owners and managers have no idea how the cloud can be incredibly beneficial in terms of productivity and scalability.

In the simplest sense, cloud computing for business refers to the ability to access computer, IT, and software resources over a network connection.  For example, instead of installing separate versions of Office on each computer in your office, you can opt for Office 365, which is a cloud-based software that allows users to access all programs such as Word and Excel through the network.  The software is constantly updated on the fly over the network, improving security and functionality.  Files can be easily shared between users, and even be worked on at the same time by many people.

Is Your Business Ready To Move To The Cloud?

In deciding whether your business is ready to move to the cloud, consider the plans you have for growth.  Most software and resources that your business currently uses can be brought into the cloud.  Rather than investing in several new physical servers, your business could invest in a virtual infrastructure that would allow the deployment of new servers easily and quickly – all while saving money and maximizing the usage of hardware you already own.

Most small businesses can benefit from moving to the cloud, from small to large.  In fact, business adoption of cloud-based resources is growing faster than anticipated, and is one of the fastest growing sectors of current IT technologies.  Really, the question you should ask yourself about utilizing cloud for your company is not if, but when.

Cloud Computing For Business Increases Possibilities

Most companies are taking advantage of the cloud for more than just cost-reduction, although that is one of its most appealing advantages.  Instead, businesses are using cloud-based resources to improve productivity, improve the overall efficiency of the company, quickly dial resources up or down as needed, and provide easy scalability to enable new growth plans and business models.

Moving enterprise applications to the cloud allows for ease of deployment and access – employees are no longer tied to a physical location.  Employees can easily access important applications while away on business or simply work from home.

Business Continuity Improves With Cloud Based Models

There are numerous benefits of moving to the cloud, however one of the biggest is in terms of having solid business continuity in the face of natural or man-made disaster.  Having data and applications in the cloud reduces downtime should your office be destroyed by a fire or flood.  Employees that have a laptop stolen while on business will no longer lose all their valuable data.  By ensuring that your important applications live in the cloud you won’t have to stop everything and suffer costly downtime should disaster strike.

Cloud based backups also offer one of the best ways to have a solid backup and disaster recovery system in place.

Ready To Move To The Cloud?

If you want to take the next step and talk to a professional about how the cloud could propel your business forward, AMA Networks would love to help.  Contact our IT pros today to get set up with a free assessment personalized around your business and goals.

Backup Strategy Best Practices For Your Business

Backup Strategy Best Practices For Your Business

Why Backups Are Essential

If you were asked how confident you were that your business could be back up and running after a catastrophic data failure, what percentage would you give?  If it’s anything less than 100%, then your business needs to take a careful look at its data protection strategy.  By following a few backup strategy best practices you can be confident that your business will not suffer serious downtime or data loss in the event of a hack, hardware malfunction, or natural disaster.

Having a data backup plan in place is relatively easy, however it is something that many businesses and organizations put off and forget about.  Or, they have a rudimentary backup system in place that is vulnerable to hacking or destruction.

Because of the current hacking and malware climate where the biggest targets are sensitive data as well as ransomware attacks, having a data backup in place can prevent costly data loss and customer trust.

According to PhoenixNap Global IT services, the average cost of a data breach in 2017 was $7 million, and 60% of businesses that experienced a data breach closed within 6 months.

Types Of Backup Strategies

There are a few different data backup strategies that you can take advantage of.  The most rudimentary is an “on-site” backup: an external drive or server that gets automatically backed up with any data changes that have been made to files.  This is what many computer users think of when they are asked about backing up data.  However, this simplistic system has a few faults.  Firstly, this data is vulnerable to intrusion through the main drives that it is connected to.  Secondly, if this is the only copy of the backed up data and is stored on site, then it is vulnerable to destruction by natural disasters and theft.

The best strategy to back up data is a 3-2-1 strategy: 3 total copies of your date with 2 copies on different media, and one copy off-site in the cloud.  On-site backups are often faster should you need to quickly restore the contents of a hard disk.  You won’t need a network connection or need to download files from the cloud.  However, having that third backup in the cloud is essential in the event that a fire or flood completely destroys your office or workplace.

To truly have a bulletproof backup system, then having two cloud backups with separate companies is another good idea.  This is protection in case one company experiences a data breach or failure.  It would be rare, but it is still a possibility.

Why Should Backup Media Be Stored Offsite?

Again, having offsite backups available is key in truly protecting your data and having a good backup strategy.  With the widespread availability of affordable high-speed internet, cloud backup utilities have become a very easy way to save data offsite.  They are separate from your systems within the office or offices, and therefore should be one step protected from a malware breach as well as a natural disaster.

There are a few cons to cloud storage offsite with third party providers.  One of the biggest is that you do not control the data stored in a third party’s cloud, so you have to trust that they have proper security in place such as proper encryption standards.  It is important to vet cloud backup providers carefully before trusting them with your data.

Corporate Data Backup Solutions

Hiring a professional IT company to ensure that your backup solution is bulletproof is one of the best investments you can make in the safety and longevity of your company or organization.  At AMA Networks we strive to ensure that each client has a seamless backup plan where data can be recovered in an hour or two, if not minutes.  Along with our partnership with Datto and Replibit, AMA Networks provides businesses and organizations a secure and flexible backup strategy as well as real-time redundancy protection.  If you need a solid corporate data backup solution, give AMA Networks a call today.

Creating And Managing A Virtual Infrastructure For Your Business

Creating And Managing A Virtual Infrastructure For Your Business

For many businesses that are growing and expanding, setting up a virtual infrastructure is one of the best ways to ensure that your IT systems don’t fall behind the curve.  These environments are easy to keep up to date, manage, and provide excellent redundancy options.  They are also cost-effective, allowing you to easily deploy new servers as needed without having to necessarily buy new hardware each time.

What Is Server Virtualization?

A small company can run on just a few computers or laptops.  But as soon as a company starts to expand it ends up requiring more and more machines to host software, employees, and other utilities in order to run efficiently.  This can quickly grow unwieldy and expensive.  By consolidating servers onto virtual machines you can fit more “virtual servers” or “virtual machines” on less hardware.  A virtual environment is also much more efficient in terms of power, hardware resources, cost, and the ability to ensure everything is backed up.

Advantages Of Virtual Machines

Virtual servers are essentially software reproductions of separate, physical machines.  Instead of having three physically different computers, you can run three virtual servers on one physical server.  Each virtual server has its own software-based CPU, RAM, hard drive space, and operating system.  Other computers see this virtual machine as its own separate entity, and even the virtual machine itself cannot tell that it is only software-based.

These virtual servers are much more flexible in terms of employees being able to log on from any desktop if need be.  They are also very easy to image or back up; if something goes wrong such as file deletion, a virus or malware, or other issue it is very easy to restore the server to a prior state.  This makes them a good option for those looking to put better network disaster recovery planning in place.

Virtual machines also allow companies to run different operating systems on one computer.  Typically, the operating system will appear in a window on the main computer.  They are also highly portable, allowing employees to run on the same environment even while on the road.

Advantages For Businesses Running Virtual Infrastructures

Hardware Utilization: Instead of dedicating physical machines each time you need to deploy a new server, you can place several servers on one machine.  This allows you to ensure that all the hardware resources that you’ve spent money on are used to their full potential.  Why have 3 machines running at 30% capacity each when you could create three virtual servers on one machine, using all its hardware resources efficiently?  This saves companies lots of money in terms of hardware expense as well as even power consumption.

Faster Deployment:  It’s much faster to deploy a virtual machine than to get a physical server or computer.  This can be helpful for businesses that need to quickly react to new projects or needs.

Things To Keep In Mind When Deciding On A Virtual Environment

Although a virtual environment has many advantages, a business needs to have a good IT plan in place to ensure that things are organized and maintained in a structured way.  Patches, updates, and security measures are all still required for each virtual machine, and having a good virtual infrastructure manager and competent IT team is key to ensuring that everything runs seamlessly.

Typically, a good IT team will be able to use server management software such as Veeam to constantly monitor the virtual servers and ensure that any downtime or issue is promptly found and fixed.

It’s also important to ensure that your company doesn’t end up with “sever sprawl”; when servers are so easy to deploy, it can create a situation where there are just too many.  It’s important for companies to have standards that decide when a server is truly needed so that only the necessary amount of servers are activated.

Finding An IT Team To Manage Your Virtual Environment

AMA Networks specializes in helping businesses set up or transition to virtual infrastructures.  We recently helped Spanugo set up a complete virtual environment, and currently help them maintain 50 virtual machines.

If you’re in the southern California or San Diego area and are interested in seeing if setting up a virtual environment is the right step for your business, give AMA Networks a call today for a free consultation!

Questions To Ask A Potential IT Company Before You Hire Them

Questions To Ask A Potential IT Company Before You Hire Them

Choosing an IT support company is an important step for any business, whether you’re hiring one for the first time or looking to replace the support you currently have.  It can be confusing and overwhelming, but if you know what questions to ask a potential IT company when you contact them you’ll be able to get a better sense of whether they are a good fit for your business.  Here are a few questions to a potential IT company in order to pick the best company for your needs.

Do You Have Any Specialties?  What Is Your Typical Client?

These questions will help you figure out whether a certain IT company will be able to provide your business with the right tools and software that are appropriate for your niche of service.  The IT needs of a school can be much different from that of a large retail company.  From security certifications to harnessing the advantages of cloud computing, it can be very advantageous that your IT company have experience with your field.  You wouldn’t want to be the first retail shop that your IT company has worked with if they have only done government or education jobs in the past.

What Is Your Typical Response Time?  Do You Have 24/7 Support?

It’s not a matter of if, but when.  Disasters and data failures are an infrequent but unavoidable issue with any computer system.  Having a quick response time from your IT company can help your business avoid long downtime associated with system failure.  Although 24/7 support has become an industry standard among IT companies you want to be sure that you’ll be able to get the help you need right away, not be waiting in line behind a bigger or larger paying client.

Do You Have Proper IT Certifications?

This should go without saying for any IT company, however it’s always a good idea to check for proper certification.  This is especially true if you’re a doctor’s office or educational facility that needs to comply with certain federal security standards such as HIPPA.  HIPPA compliance is a very important matter and you’ll need to actively be able to prove that your security is up to par.  It’s a good idea to ensure that your IT team is familiar with these security requirements and has the proper certifications to install them.

How Long Have You Been In Business?

This question will enable you to ascertain how experienced the IT team is and how established they are in terms of their longevity.  You don’t want to hire a new IT team only to find out that they were unable to sustain their business and shut their doors, leaving you without IT support until you find a new company.  This is also an important question in terms of experience level – it’s advantageous to hire a team that has the necessary experience in the field to handle a wide range of problems.

Can You Provide Me With Any References?

A good IT service provider will be more than happy to provide you with a few business references for you to contact if you want.  You don’t even need to necessarily call them but having an IT team that is proud of the work they do with their clients is a big plus.  You can also ask for any relevant case studies or past work examples they’ve done with clients similar to you.  Should you decide that you want to reach out to previous clients, important questions to ask would be related to the quality of service, response times, as well as general likability.

What Is Unique About Your IT Company?

This is an interesting question to ask, but the better companies that are proud of their work will be more than eager to answer this.  What makes them stand out from the pack?  How are they different?  Pay attention to the way they answer and it will tell you a lot about the company itself.

At AMA Networks we especially pride ourselves on our core values and client experience, and have been doing San Diego area IT support for over 20 years.  We strive to give the best service and never try to oversell anything that your business doesn’t need or want.  We believe this attention to our clients puts us head and shoulders above the competition.  If you’re looking for an IT company for your business, give us a call today for your free assessment.

What To Look For When Choosing A Small Business IT Support Company

What To Look For When Choosing A Small Business IT Support Company

As a business owner there are many things to manage, from employees and payroll to managing leads and making sales.  Dealing with your computer systems shouldn’t add to that list – especially if you’re not a “tech” type person.  Choosing a small business IT support company to handle your IT needs can take a lot off your plate; you’ll improve your workflow, save time, and have less to think about.

Picking out an IT company shouldn’t be a hassle, however it can get overwhelming to someone that is not familiar with the field.  Here are a few key things to look for in a potential IT company for your business.

Look At The Size Of The Company

When it comes to IT services you’ll want to make sure you choose a company that is large enough to offer a full spectrum of services, but not so big that you’ll get lost in the shuffle of a faceless corporation.  “One man shop” type companies might be able to get you started, but as your business grows you may want to expand your IT.  This means you might have to hire another company if the company you started with is too small to accommodate you.  Ensure that the IT company you choose is able to offer an array of solutions.

Decide What Type Of Services You Need

Will you need 24/7 support for your business?  Will you be adding VOIP?  Are you a medical service provider that needs HIPPA certified security?  Make a list of key services that you will need from your IT company before contacting companies.  You don’t need to have a complete list, but having a few key necessities prepared will get you started when contacting potential small business IT support companies.  Questions to ask a potential IT company can also include what they might recommend for your business.  Sometimes you might not even know there is a potential IT solution for a certain pain point in your current setup!

Location, Location, Location

Many times a good IT support company can resolve any issues or emergencies remotely.  However, there may come a time when they will have to send an engineer out to your site.  If you hire a company that is hours away, you’ll have to wait that much longer to get help.  Choosing a company that is within at least an hour drive is a good idea.  For example, if you’re in the city of San Diego, choosing a San Diego IT support company would be smarter than choosing one based in Orange County or Los Angeles.

References

You can ask any IT company for client references before you hire them.  Many companies obtain clients through word of mouth, and asking around can yield key information on which companies provide good service vs which companies are less than stellar.  Most companies that have a good client base will be more than happy to provide case studies and client contact information.  One big question to ask these references would be how the potential IT company reacted to any emergency support problems – this is a big factor to consider and can separate good companies from bad ones.

Trust Your Gut

What kind of a feeling do you get when interacting with the companies that you’re interviewing?  Do they seem professional and willing to put you first as a customer?  Or do they seem to have an agenda, trying to upsell you on services without taking a personalized approach?  These are important elements.  Don’t let yourself get sold on a flashy company that won’t give you personalized service.  If you set up a personal meeting with a potential company and go to their offices, you can also get a better sense of how you’ll gel with them as well as get a sense of the company’s overall organization and morale.  IT support is a large part of any business, so make sure you are comfortable with the company you choose.

At AMA Networks we strive to provide customized services to San Diego area businesses without pressuring them to upgrade or spend more money.  We put our customers first and ensure they get the best care possible.  If you need managed IT services give us a call today to get your free assessment!

Three Benefits Of Managed IT Services

Three Benefits Of Managed IT Services

Being a business owner often means that you’re wearing many hats.  However, if your business has an array of computers that all need to work together in sync, taking on the hat of doing your own IT support is probably not the best use of your time.  This is where the benefits of managed IT integration can come into play.

Managed IT services is a means of hiring a third party company and outsourcing the care and maintenance of your IT systems.  This can provide a wide range of benefits such as ensuring your systems are up to date, patched with the latest security measures, and properly backed up in the event of an emergency.

How can your business benefit from managed IT services?  Here are three big ways:

Managed IT Monitoring And Support Means Less Downtime

Having the right managed IT provider can be beneficial in that they will take a proactive approach to preventing disasters and emergencies before they happen.

By monitoring your network, problems will be caught before they become an issue, such as out of date security, patches that need to be installed for software, and servers that might be on the fritz.  Additionally, ensuring that a proper backup and recovery system is set up will provide a faster recovery in the event of a physical drive failure or breach of security.

Ensuring that your network has the proper protocol in place to prevent server downtime is very important in making sure that your systems remain up and running.  However, no computer or IT network is 100% free from the danger of physical breakage and malfunction; in the event of a server meltdown, having a properly set up backup and recovery system in place is priceless.  You could be back up within hours vs days.

Up To Date Security Protection From Ever-Changing Threats

Staying ahead of security threats is an ongoing task that requires staying on top of the news, ensuring the proper threat protections are in place, and making sure those threat protections are as up to date as possible.  This is difficult enough for a home computer with a single user.  But multiply that by the many computers and many users that many businesses employ, and it becomes much more complicated.

This is where a managed IT team can be extremely useful.  They are trained to know exactly how to properly set up a security solution for your business, and they have the dedicated task of keeping that security up to date.

There aren’t too many things worse for a business than experiencing a data breach.  Preventing these attacks is paramount to staying open for business as well as not losing important information or being held liable in a lawsuit.  With more and more important data being stored and transferred online, security breaches are now costing businesses and consumers billions annually.

When thinking about what to look for when choosing an IT support company, see if they have the proper certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Partner program.

Stay On Top Of Compliance Requirements

There’s enough to worry about when running a business, but with the ever-expanding complexities of IT requirements it can be too much for in-house IT staff.  Maintaining compliance with the various industry standards is an increasingly challenging task that will likely only get more and more difficult as technologies advance and change.

Ensuring that computer systems and processes are compliant with industry standards is a major concern for many medical offices, government and education systems, and brick and mortar stores.

For example, maintaining HIPPA compliance for a medical office can often consume a small IT staff, but with the right managed IT service this can be outsourced to a team that is trained and up to date on the latest in terms of any changes in policy as well as ensuring that old systems can keep up with the requirements for compliance.

No matter what your business needs in terms of IT services, AMA Networks provides San Diego IT support and managed services to a wide range of businesses and industries in the Southern California area.  Give us a call today to set up your free network assessment and start taking advantage of the benefits of managed IT services today!