Do Business Better with Office 365

The modern work environment no longer requires for employees to be chained to their desks in a traditional office. As more office’s utilize laptops for their employees’ primary workstations, the benefits of Microsoft’s Office 365 become unavoidable. Office 365 allows for employees to work with confidence, from anywhere, and in their own way. Here are 3 reasons why Office 365 can help you do business better.

Work with confidence. Your files and data are save and secure with Office 365.  Automatic security updates occur monthly as new features are released. In addition, with Microsoft’s Office 365’s multi-factor authentication cyber-criminals no longer only need your password to hack into your account and steal your important documents. Office 365’s multi-factor authentication requires your password AND a security code that is provided to you instantly through a text, phone call, or an app on your mobile device. It doesn’t get much more secure than that!

Work better from anywhere you go. Take your files on the road with you, (even when you are off your corporate network) with Office 365. Collaboration is made easy with real time HD videos, digital white-boards, and content sharing. Your team doesn’t have to stop working just because you are out of the office. Keep productive with the advanced share features offered with Office 365

Work YOUR way. You no longer must be in the office in order to be productive. Access your files from anywhere and on any devices with Office 365’s mobile apps. Compatible with any Windows, Android, or iOS devise, nothing will stop you from getting your work done with ease. Not sure where you saved the last document you were working on? Find any document easily with Office 365’s Smart Lookup technology.

Successful people are constantly seeking out better ways to conduct their business.  Free your workers from the chains of their desks and offer them better work experiences with Office 365. Have questions about how Office 365 can help your office conduct better business? Contact us to set up a free consultation today!

5 Ways to Reduce Downtime

It may not come as a surprise that operating a business is an expensive venture. When a business is faced with technical problems on their network, software or equipment, costs go beyond just a financial standpoint. The time that employees spend trying to fix these issues, or waiting for technical support to do the same, could be spent in a manner that is productive for the business. Here are a few ways to reduce that risk, save your business some financial stress, and make sure it operates at an optimal level.

  1. Choose a vendor that aligns itself with the vision of your organization. Downtime is inevitable in the workplace. One way to ensure that your business stays productive during that time, is to hire the right IT management service. Having an entire staff for the management of your business’s IT systems can be expensive. Hiring a team of educated and trained professionals will help solve the problems in a quick, satisfying manner and can save stress from a financial standpoint.
  2. Consistently update your software and hardware. The phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is not always applicable. In the fast-moving world of information technology, it is important to stay as up-to-date as possible. Keeping up with the latest updates for applications on your mobile devices and workstations is a simple, effective way of reducing the risk of downtime. While consistently updating systems may not eliminate downtime, it is the first important step.
  3. Implement procedures, in the event that a business experiences system downtime. An important step in reducing downtime is simply taking the necessary precautions to ensure that your business stays productive when disaster strikes. As was mentioned previously, downtime can be inevitable at times. Natural disasters and major power outages are unavoidable. It is useful for businesses to create a list of tasks and objectives to have completed while dealing with system downtime. Outages are unpredictable and being proactive in preparing for them is an easy and effective strategy.
  4. Purchase reliable equipment. While it might be tempting to make the decision to purchase lower priced products and services, it can greatly increase the risk of system downtime. The decision to invest in high quality equipment is a simple, effective step in being sure that you avoid system errors. Higher quality products will last longer and perform at a more productive level. Even though the initial purchase of low quality equipment is cheaper, it will require maintenance and will have a shorter lifespan.
  5. Regularly clean the facilities. Another cluster of problems that can occur with equipment is water damage, careless employees, small pests chewing through wires, and fires. Take the time to properly train employees on the importance of maintaining a clean workspace and checking the necessary structural hazards.

Operating a business is expensive and it is important to be confident in the stability of your technology. Following these few simple objectives will help minimize the frustrations of dealing with downtime. It starts with finding the vendor that is right for your business needs. Here at First Call, we separate you from those technical frustrations and help save your business time and money. Contact us to set up a free consultation today!



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Having Trouble Deciding if Your Business Need Cloud Storage or Online Backups?

It is easy to confuse the differences between cloud storage and online backups. At first glance, they both appear to do similar things. As a business decision maker, knowing and understanding when to use cloud storage or online backups can be the difference between setting your business up for success, or damning it to failure.

Cloud storage may be thought of as a secure virtual extension of your hard drive. With the demand for larger hard drives continuing to increase the overall cost of new laptops and computers, you can save money by purchasing a device with a smaller hard drive and supplementing additional file space with cloud storage. Cloud storage is also beneficial in that documents saved to the cloud may be accessed from any internet device (with the correct credentials, of course). You and your employees will also enjoy better collaboration options with the clouds’ sync and share options. While any business can benefit from these features, businesses who are based in remote locations or require travel for their work will most benefit from cloud storage.

Online backups should be a priority for all businesses. It is imperative that you keep online backups for important files in case of an unfortunate event such as a fire, water damage, or theft. Online backups are unique in that they create a replication of the files and documents (and their structure) that you choose and then store them in a safe, virtual location. This means that in the unfortunate event that your business experiences unexpected data loss, all your important file can still be restored, in the same file structure as they were in prior to the incident. If disaster strikes and your files are not backed up, it is (if not, completely) impossible to recover data from a damaged hard drive. In fact, 60% of small businesses will never recover from data loss. With online backups, you can schedule for the files that you choose to be backed up daily, weekly, or monthly, protecting your business from such failure.

There are many ways that businesses may benefit from cloud storage and online backups. While all businesses need to have a backup solution in place, not every business needs cloud storage. It is important to first assess your businesses unique needs before deciding on the best storage and backup solution options.

Here at First Call, we make it our mission to strengthen Montana’s organizations through predictable, secure, and advisable IT. Contact us today to set up a free consultation and discuss your business’s unique needs with one of our IT specialists!

Questions You Should Be Asking When Considering a Managed Services Provider

Questions You Should Be Asking When Considering a Managed Services Provider

These days it seems like there is a new MSP popping up every week. Deciphering their rhetoric is no easy task. The truth is every organization has different needs and every MSP has a different offering. No matter what the offering, there are multiple factors that you should be considering to make the right decision for your business. Here are the top 3 questions to consider before making your choice.

  1. Do they understand my business’s needs?
    No two businesses are alike, and an effective MSP knows and understands this. In order to make the right recommendations, MSPs need to first comprehend your business’s specific business objectives. If they are not asking you about your business, then you should not trust them to meet your IT needs.
  2. Is their support method reactive or proactive?
    The majority of MSPs offer a reactive support method; meaning that they sit around and wait for an issue to arise before acting to fix it. That’s how they make money. However, the reactive method requires longer down times and every minute you are down, you are losing money. In contrast, MSPs who follow a proactive approach are constantly monitoring your network essentials, making infrastructure recommendations that increase uptime and productivity, and working with your organization to make sure your It plan matches the needs of your business plan and budget.
  3. Do they have a disaster recovery plan?
    Disaster strikes (a tornado, earthquake, or fire)—now what? A superior MSP can answer this question with ease. If the MSP you are considering does not have an effective plan in place for worst-case scenarios, then you need to keep looking. As you already know, being prepared is what sets apart a successful growing business from a mediocre sedentary business.

Keep it simple. If they don’t meet these three basic requirements, then move on and find one that does!

Why You Shouldn’t Hire Your Own IT Person

While it may seem like a good idea to hire your own personal IT staff initially, it is important to do your own cost-savings analysis to make the right decision for your business. “In many instances, having a reputable MSP [Managed Services Provider] is far less expensive than hiring, training, and retaining your own IT staff,” says Cathie Briggette from Focus Technology Solutions. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it is generally more cost effective to outsource some, if not, all your IT. Additionally, information technology is growing and changing rapidly, and so it is impossible for one person to keep up with this vast industry effectively.

First Call Computer Solutions has assembled a team of A-level IT professionals who value customer service and want to assist you in making the right IT decisions for your business. The First Call team works together to maintain and trouble shoot your IT assets, utilizing multiple different expertise and backgrounds. Our professionals are equipped with industry leading tools and processes that have proven their effectiveness time and time again. If you are ready to reduce your IT related downtime and increase your employees productivity, contact First Call today!

Break-it and Fix-it Doesn’t Work

Break-it and fix-it is a passive maintenance method where a company waits for their equipment to break and then searches out the best way to repair or resolve the issue(s). This method is not cost effective as it increases downtime and requires more resources than necessary to fix the problem.

Here at First Call, we offer a proactive approach where your IT equipment is remotely monitored and updated as necessary. This approach allows for companies to identify potential issues before they arise, reducing the overall IT related downtime within the business. In addition to decreasing downtime, the proactive approach will also increase employee productivity and morale, decrease risk while increasing security, and increase your competitiveness and your bottom line. With Managed IT services you can avoid the infamous break-it and fix-it scenarios and get back to growing your business.

Treat Your IT Equipment Like You Would Treat Your Bugatti

Imagine that you entered a raffle and won the keys to a brand-new Bugatti Chiron. After squealing for joy and taking the car for a spin to show it off to your friends, you would probably then find a nice comfortable spot in a garage to keep it. While you own the car, you would make sure to perform routine maintenance on it so that it keeps in the same pristine condition as when you first won the car.

Your IT equipment deserves the same level of respect and care as your Bugatti Chiron with IT Managed Services.

It is no secret that performing regular maintenance on your car will keep it working properly longer and ease the pain when there is a larger mechanical issue. The same concept can also be applied to your business’s IT equipment. In our 15 plus years of experience, First Call has learned the importance of routine maintenance on IT equipment to keep assets working properly and reduce unnecessary costs associated with downtime.

Five Things You Should Do Right Now to Preserve Your Network and Systems

1. Backup Files Every Day – As catastrophic as data loss is, the number of businesses that still are not backing up their network is unbelievable. According to the Symantec Small to Medium Size Businesses (SMB) data, only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data on a daily basis and fewer than 50% are backing up data weekly. Any number of events can result in data loss, so the importance of frequently backing up your network cannot be overstated.

2. Ensure Backup Procedures Are Checked Regularly – Many times business owners think that they have a backup system in place only to find out after it’s too late that it hasn’t been working properly. It may seem like your files are being backed up daily, however, the backup could have become corrupt or it is not backing up huge chunks of critical data. Check your backup procedures regularly to ensure they are working properly in order to be sure that ALL of your data can be recovered. In the age of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Devices) it is also important to frequently backup data on your employee’s personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys, so make sure you have a procedure in place to check those backups as well.

3. Make Sure Updated Virus Protection and Firewalls Are Always Enabled – Far too many companies either have no virus protection, expired virus software licenses, or disabled virus programs that aren’t running at all. This makes their business technology vulnerable to virus attacks from emails, spam, data downloads, and unreputable websites. Further, because of inadequate firewall protection about 40% of small to medium businesses will have their network accessed by a hacker. Chances are, when these businesses are attacked they will be entirely unaware it is happening. In order to protect your valuable data and assets, ensure your virus protection is adequate, up-to-date and functioning properly and that your firewall is intact. Finally, don’t forget to update security patches and change passwords when an employee leaves in order to deter hacking attempts.

4. Monitor Server Drives – Dangerously full server drives can bring their own set of problems – ranging from program and server crashes to sluggish email delivery. Proactive monitoring and maintenance of your server can spare your business a lot of problems down the road.

5. Regularly Check Critical Built-In Logs – Very few problems with technology emerge suddenly. These problems typically progress over time and evolve into more serious problems. Frequently review your critical built-in log files to help identify the problem before it has gotten out of control and wreaks havoc on your business infrastructure.

Can You Really Afford Not to Have a Backup Plan?

According to Symantec SMB, 50% of SMBs admit to having no backup and disaster recovery plan in place. 41% of those surveyed confessed that they had never even given much thought to implementing a disaster recovery or business continuity plan. If you are one of them, then you really need to think about whether you can afford the status quo. Answering these questions will help you decide.

1. How often is employee productivity and customer accessibility or service stalled each day from a downed network or system?

2. How much downtime can your business truly afford and what kind of backup or recovery solutions are in effect when systems are unavailable?

3. What level of IT support can be accessed? Can it be accessed quickly enough to minimize damage? Are you confident that your business can either be back online or be able to access lost data with minimal disruption, no matter what?

4. Is your most critical data frequently backed up? Is the data on the personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys of employees backed up? Are all backups stored in a location off-site and quickly accessible in the event of theft, fire or flooding? Are you using any custom installed software and is the supplier still in business should this software need to be re-installed or updated? Are account details, licensing agreements, and security settings somewhere on record, and is it duplicated off-site?

5. Are your systems truly protected from theft, hackers, and viruses? Are passwords to sensitive data changed whenever employees leave the company or business unit?

6. When was the last time you tested backup processes to ensure they are working properly? How quick were your back ups?

Answering these questions will help you understand if you are needlessly bleeding money every day by subjecting your business to the high hourly rates, service charges, trip fees and wait times of on-call IT support. If you are an SMB, you don’t have to fear technology failure. A trusted MSP can help you resolve these challenges in a more effective and efficient manner.

Contact First Call

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