All posts by Jeremy Stayton

To Outsource or Not To Outsource Your IT

By | Business, IT, Outsourcing | No Comments

Outsourcing IT can be a challenging proposition as IT has become increasingly more critical to operations… just think, in years past you could get work done with a pad of paper and a telephone. Today, what happens when you can’t get into your computer? Or you don’t have access to your email? For most organizations this causes a complete standstill.

When it comes to deciding whether to outsource or not, the best course is usually to outsource certain functions and not others. This is highly dependent upon the size and type of organization you are in, although managed service providers, or MSPs, are starting to perform many of these critical IT functions better than an internal team. One of the hardest challenges for smaller organizations is that when they get to 20 or 30 people a dedicated IT resource is often needed and the cost to hire that person isn’t in the budget (see the IT Hiring Guide here: https://www.sym.bio/hire-an-it-director). This is also a bit of a burnout job at this smaller scale because there is nobody to cover for them during vacation or sick days.

We’ve put together a guide to help you determine the right type of IT for you. The guide contains a clear comparison of the different types of IT vendors, how to choose a vendor and a checklist for evaluating service level agreements.

Grab the guide here: https://www.sym.bio/outsourced-it-guide

IT Security for SMBs and the Rising Risk of Cyber-threats

By | Business, Food for thought, IT, Security | No Comments

70% of Cyber Attacks Target Small Businesses.

This scary stat came out in late 2016 from the National Cyber Security Alliance. The reason for the very high volume of attacks against small businesses is that they make easy targets. While the payday may not be huge, the results can be devastating for the business. Most small businesses are under the impression that they are too small to be interesting for cyber crime. This means that routine IT security patches and server upgrades or maintenance are frequently deferred, exposing vulnerabilities.

Take into account one of the more popular cyber crimes, Ransomware, which systematically encrypts as many files as it can across your entire network. Once encrypted, a ransom email is sent to the company asking for anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the key to unlock the encrypted files. The price is usually set below the cost of hiring the IT firm to fix the problem and saves the time of performing lengthy restores.

At Symbio we encounter this occurrence fairly often when an employee opens a file or visits a site they shouldn’t have. To combat this, we have architected our IT as a Service platform to stop the spread of the attack and then to rapidly restore from the point just before the attack occurred. Regardless of the hack, make sure that you have a strong IT Security policy in place with the proper processes and infrastructure to back them up.

Going to do a series of posts around; IT Security, Liability, Data Compliance (HIPAA, FAFSA, HI-TRUST, PCI, etc.) because these are very important topics and one thing we see over and over is smaller organizations that have avoidable IT disasters.

A Step-by-step Guide on Hiring an IT Director or Manager

By | Business, CTO, Outsourcing | No Comments
IT staffing

What does your IT hiring look like?

We recently came up with a guide to help with the vacuum of IT talent for small and midsize organizations. Generally speaking, most IT professionals prefer to work at larger companies or at places with ongoing complex technical problems to solve. A 30-person nonprofit or small office of accountants is not exactly a dream job for most IT people. Because of this, we have put together our own hiring guide that lays out the process and tips that we use in finding our own talent. Whether you are a recruiter, a business owner or just someone tasked with hiring… this guide will aid you in your process.

If you’d like to access the free guide, then just go to: https://www.sym.bio/hire-an-it-director-guide

I recently posted about this on LinkedIn as well, which can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/guide-hiring-director-manager-jeremy-stayton

 

Is IT as a Service right for you?

By | Business, IT, Outsourcing | No Comments

In short; IT as a Service can make complete sense for small and mid-sized businesses that want access to enterprise-class infrastructure and features without having to manage all the mundane support needs, all while consolidating tech expenditures and overhead into a predictable monthly fee — just like a utility. It does not, however, fit for all businesses.
I’ve been working with some very innovative guys over here at Symbio and am compelled to share some of my learnings regarding IT as a Service. First off, the business model for ITaaS is quite unique and better aligns business interests with those of the client. By charging a flat, per-user fee that covers ALL hardware, licensing and support expenses, Symbio is incentivized to ensure that the support lines ring as little as possible… that means that the infrastructure is extremely well maintained and preventive measures are taken to meet client needs before they arise. When was the last time you called your utility company to tell them what a great job they are doing because your power hasn’t gone out in 3 months? Exactly.
The other thing that stands out is the cost savings to the customer while at the same time always having upgraded tech. One possible IT as a Service model, and the one Symbio uses, leverages desktop virtualization via their own hosted environment, which essentially means that your desktop lives in a data-center (where it should be) and you access it via software or a ‘thin-client’. The benefits far outweigh the cons for most organizations; efficient upgrades and patches deployed to customers remotely, a desktop that can be accessed from anywhere or any workstation, rapid resolution of issues, disaster recovery and audit compliances to name a few. Additionally, what I’ve seen on average is that most firms are able to lower their average annual cost by over 20% when embracing the IT as a Service model, and at the same time dramatically improving their technology and productivity.
There are however businesses where this does not make sense. Organizations that are heavily dependent upon graphics processing or primarily using Macs are not a good fit for this technology as the enterprise management tools aren’t quite there yet. Also, systems dependent upon absolute guaranteed uptime (high frequency trading, medical emergency, etc.) would be best suited to locating all infrastructure as close to the user as possible. In some of these cases it makes sense to bring all the expertise in-house, and in other scenarios it may be best to hire a managed service provider to manage your infrastructure. One size does not fit all, but it may fit most.
Just like outsourcing payroll or legal functions, it seems like more and more often, outsourcing IT makes complete business sense for small to mid-sized businesses. Some food for thought.

Upgrading to a High Performance Storage System

By | Business, IT, News, Outsourcing | No Comments

With summer almost upon us, we’re excited to announce that we’ve completed the deployment of our new high performance storage system. This system is orders of magnitude more performant than our existing system and it means we will no longer have a single spinning hard drive in production. We’re going to complete the data migration portion of the project over the next couple months, and then the last vestiges of 1970’s era technology will finally be behind us. We are now a Virtual Desktop provider that doesn’t use hard drives for anything other than data backups!

What this means for our clients is that our VDI environment will be much more responsive from a user experience perspective and load times for applications will be dramatically reduced. We’re excited to roll out this upgrade to all our clients as a value-add and competitive differentiator for the years to come — aren’t you glad you got rid of that clunky desktop computer?

Spear Phishing: What you need to know

By | IT, Security, SysAd | No Comments

As your IT advisor it is very important for us to remind you to never ever click on attachments that you are not expecting, and if you are responding to a questionable email, please check the address for accuracy.

Here’s why:
Over the last few years, we have made excellent strides towards improving operating systems security. We also have seen a decline in traditional computer viruses. However, there is still a lot of money to be made in the business of compromising your computer (or Virtual Desktop). As a result, there are a lot of people diligently trying to trick you into installing malicious software. We have all seen infected websites, usually pop-ups, which try to trick you into thinking you have a problem that can only be fixed by installing some piece of software. If this has ever happened to you, hopefully you know to exit the Web Browser (Alt-f4 on the keyboard rather than the X in the upper right) and that you should never install ‘security’ software from a random website.

Just as you should never trust website pop-ups, you should also be very careful about trusting your email. Our industry has spent many years developing very complicated software in an attempt to automatically remove things like spam, malicious software, and questionable web links from your incoming mail before you ever see it. This security software works remarkably well given how hard people are working to get around it. The fact is: email was never designed to be secure.

As security systems have improved over the years, smart attackers have shifted their techniques from attacking our filters and trying to get past them, to more direct, personalized emails and contacts. Instead of poorly written emails that look like gibberish, we’re seeing well written emails that reference people by name and occasionally mention specific details about your company which can be gleaned from your website.

These social engineering techniques have been a part of the systems security landscape for a long time, but we’re now seeing enough of it that computer security folks decided to give it a name: Spear-Phishing.