Who’s Behind the Wheel of Your Business’ Technology?

There are countless issues that could arise when it comes to managing and maintaining your technology, but the people who are in charge of the process should not be one of them. If you don’t have a dedicated IT team to take care of your business technology, you might not be properly maintaining your technology. Thankfully, there are ways to get around limited resources, and it might not be what you think.

Who Manages Your Technology?

As is often the case with businesses with limited resources, more employees wind up doing more tasks than they should be. Sometimes businesses expect their employees to have a baseline understanding of technology, but it is not necessarily the case. In fact, assuming this can be dangerous, and untrained employees should absolutely not be maintaining your technology solutions. Under the wrong circumstances, an untrained employee could cause irreparable harm to your infrastructure.

 

Plus, consider the fact that poorly functioning technology can get in the way of employees doing their jobs properly, reducing productivity and impacting your bottom line. Employees who don’t know any better will simply let the dysfunctional technology be, which is why it’s better to have professionals handle the maintenance on a regular basis.

 

One of the biggest hold-ups for businesses without internal IT resources is that they don’t have the budget to hire full-time technicians to take care of all their technology challenges. They might choose to address problems as they occur rather than before they occur, and this could impact operations in a negative way.

 

The conundrum is that companies need regular IT maintenance, but they can’t afford or access it. So what’s the solution? It’s actually pretty simple: managed IT services.

The Good News

Whether you have an in-house IT team or not, all businesses can gain access to the IT support they need to be successful in the business world, and it’s all thanks to outsourcing. Most maintenance and management of technology systems can be performed without the need for an on-site visit, so it doesn’t matter what your geographical location is. Plus, considering how affordable it is compared to adding more salaries to your budget, you’ll find that it saves you time and money.

 

Point North Networks wants to be your go-to IT resource for all of your technology needs. To learn more about what we can do for your business, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

A good Project Management

Four Problems that Can Undermine an IT Project

It might be an understatement to suggest that things don’t always go smoothly in business. The truth is that when one problem is solved, another is often created. This is why we lean on our technology. These “solutions” are intended to fix many of the speedbumps, but that doesn’t mean that choosing, deploying, and supporting these systems don’t come with some problems as well. Today, we look at three reasons an IT project could fail.

Failure to Align to Business Needs

Incorporating technology to make things more efficient is typically the goal, but in many instances, management and technology deployment aren’t working in concert. This can lead to IT projects that fail because of friction that is caused when there isn’t any unity in the direction things are going. In order for IT projects to work as designed, there needs to be some cohesion between planning and practice.

A good strategy to avoid situations like this is to set ground rules about when a major IT project can start. Not only should any project have full clearance from decision-makers, but it should also include regular status updates to keep everyone abreast of any changes or delays that may happen. Typically, new IT deployment will result in some downtime, so having the blessing of everyone that could be affected is a good plan.

Runaway Costs

Not every project is going to run smoothly. One could say that most projects deal with some inefficiencies and even redundancies that increase costs. Most major IT projects require substantial investment and if there is a lack of commitment it can cause projects to fall flat. Of course, many IT investments are earmarked when a budget is set and therefore can be subject to alteration due to other financial factors affecting the business.

To avoid having the IT project tablecloth ripped out from under your china, you should be pragmatic about your IT investments. This means once you’ve decided to invest in something, complete it since most IT investments will end up providing quicker returns. Go full steam ahead or don’t go at all.

Communication Issues

When we cite “communication problems,” we aren’t talking about problems with your data plans or email server, we are talking about keeping lines of communication open between all the people that have a stake in the project being a success. That means everyone: production workers, administrators, and everyone in between. Obviously, most projects are handled by the project manager and it is his/her responsibility to disseminate information as required.

Today, there are some pretty impressive and easy-to-implement tools that will allow project managers the ability to quickly send correspondence to various people, create chats with teams of people involved in the project, quickly start video meetings, and more. The better equipped your project manager is to be an effective communicator, the more smooth a project will likely go.

Poor Project Management

That brings us to the last point, but it may be the most crucial. A solid project manager will do things that will make for successful IT projects. A good PM will manage the expectations of stakeholders, demands of the staff, and make it look easy. It’s not, but for some people being in the middle of a major project is exactly what they were built for. The good PM will not only understand the needs of the project team, the underlying problems that the project is trying to address, but also do it in a way where people who need information won’t have to go and search for it. A good project manager is a great delegator, a great prioritizer, and a great communicator.

At Point North Networks, Inc., we have plenty of experience running point on the Twin Cities Metro Area businesses’ IT projects and would love the opportunity to talk to you about your next IT project. For more information about anything IT support-related, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.

 

 

 

Microprocessor Shortages

What’s Going on With the Microprocessor Shortages?

There is a microprocessor shortage influencing all kinds of businesses around the globe, and it’s only going to get worse following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine produces somewhere between 45 and 54 percent of the world’s semiconductor-grade neon, something which is absolutely crucial to the creation of microchips. The invasion has put a halt to neon-refinement companies Ingas and Cryoin, and as you can imagine, this puts a massive strain on an already struggling supply chain.

 

This suspension of production has led to even greater uncertainty over the worldwide production of microchips, something which is a huge problem. Smartphones and other devices are in high demand, especially thanks to the supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The past 18 months have seen major increases in both demand and prices for products such as computers, smartphones, cars, and more, all thanks to the decrease in availability of microprocessors. With two of the largest neon manufacturers out of operation, these problems are only going to get worse.

 

Fortunately, however, these major chip manufacturers keep a stockpile of neon, but it’s likely that this stockpile will be depleted as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict drags on. As such, it’s possible to see shortages in new microchip-run devices and products, and that’s not to mention the increase in price that the demand will cause. In an ironic twist, the Ukrainian neon market is a byproduct of Russian steel manufacturing, so it’s unlikely that the situation will be resolved before this conflict comes to an end.

 

Russian violence has affected the neon market in the past, like in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, a region which was part of Ukraine. This situation resulted in neon prices skyrocketing by 600 percent, and you can bet that consumers ate the costs that this increase produced.

 

While some large chip manufacturers have been able to make arrangements with distributors to acquire the necessary materials to continue production, smaller manufacturers will struggle to maintain operations if the conflict doesn’t come to an end. It’s possible that this neon shortage could have a significant global impact. Industries and governments could initiate their own neon production, but this production could take anywhere between 18-to-24 months to actually get off the ground, and that’s not even mentioning the massive price tag associated with it. Many are hoping that this conflict is a temporary one so they don’t have to resort to this.

 

This conflict and the resulting shortage has forced us to reexamine the way we procure technology, but rest assured that we will always work to help your business get the technology it needs to push ever-onward. To learn more about how we can help your business make the most out of its current and future technology acquisitions, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

 

IT Budget

Three Ways to Help Your IT Budget Go Further

Running a business can be stressful, and if you can’t find time to juggle the countless variables that are at play every day of the week, you’ll quickly find yourself falling behind what needs to be done. Technology is one such area where falling behind is easy, especially when it comes to purchasing and implementing new tools. Unfortunately, your IT budget is not limitless, so how can you make the most of it? Let’s take a look.

Identify Inefficiencies

When you need to make your investments count, it can often be difficult to make large purchases without a little bit of reticence. You should first determine where your business could benefit from technology spending, then make implementing these solutions a priority. If you can address inefficiencies in your operations, you’ll be more likely to gain more from your technology and, thus, make the investment worthwhile.

For example, if you have ten employees and two of them have two displays, then these two employees are likely getting more work done than the rest of your employees. If you can invest in eight more monitors, then you can exponentially increase productivity for the entire crew, making the investment an excellent way to reduce inefficiencies. There are tons of other ways your business can use this principle to make the most of its technology budget—you just have to think a little outside the box and examine the baseline operations of your infrastructure.

Invest in Training

You can invest in technology, but you can also invest in something which is less likely to break down and require replacing eventually: training. If you purchase new technology or equipment, your employees will need to know how to use it. By ensuring that your employees are properly trained, they’ll be more likely to yield a return on investment for your new technology solutions.

 

What it really boils down to is that the better your employees are at doing their jobs, the more money they will save you in the long run. By training your employees, you are giving them access to knowledge and tools that will aid them while going about their duties. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Association of Talent Development, companies that invest in comprehensive training programs see 218 percent higher income than those that don’t.

 

Furthermore, today’s threat landscape is so advanced that your employees will need all the help they can get to avoid falling prey to a hacker or other advanced cyber threat. If you invest in security training now, you can save money by preventing security breaches in the future. Plus, it will help you maintain customer relations; nobody wants to work with a business that doesn’t take security seriously, after all.

Outsource

Outsourcing can be an effective way to take advantage of goods or services you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. It effectively gives you access to more for less, and it helps to control costs in the budgeting process. In particular, outsourcing technology services can be an effective way to keep your IT in proper working order. Through managed services like those provided by Point North Networks, Inc., you can utilize all kinds of technology solutions that you might otherwise have difficulty implementing with limited resources at your disposal.

One common way that businesses outsource is with their cloud platform, but the cat isn’t out of the bag yet in regards to how much ROI you actually get from implementing it. Still, the fact that outsourcing gives you access to solutions you wouldn’t otherwise be able to manage is more than enough reason to consider it. Outsourcing your cloud, for example, gives you the ability to scale your services per user or per GB used, so you can still leverage the services according to your operational needs.

 

If you partner with a company like us, you can take advantage of several services designed to help your business thrive and gain value from technology. Here are some examples:

  • Comprehensive backup and disaster recovery
  • Remote monitoring and proactive management of all IT
  • Best in the Twin Cities technology procurement
  • Dynamic cybersecurity tools
  • Patch and licensing management
  • Vendor management
  • And more.

Even without a huge IT budget, your business can be successful and innovative. To learn more about how you can accomplish this, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

 

Disaster Recovery

What You Need to Know to Get Through a Data Disaster

A disaster recovery plan is a strategy that allows a business to return to normal after a disruption of some type. Some data disasters are brought on by outside attacks, some are the result of a natural disaster or environmental issue, and some are simply a return to normal after an internal problem interferes with business operations. Today, we’ll take a look at a few things you need to know about disaster recovery to help you mitigate the negative effects of a data disaster.

In IT, disaster recovery is focused on the safeguarding of data and information systems, but for the business it is a wholesale strategy that protects a business’ ability to function after it has dealt with an often avoidable issue. With companies now dealing with much more data than ever before, as well as customers who don’t respond positively to data breaches or downtime, having a comprehensive disaster recovery platform in place is essential to getting through tough situations that may affect your business. Let’s take a look at three things you need to know to properly manage your disaster recovery plan.

Planning is Imperative

The first misconception that most people have about disaster recovery is that it is a massively complex strategy that has a lot of moving parts that need to be handled before you can go on business-as-usual. This isn’t the case. For most smaller businesses, it could simply be a strategy highlighted by a comprehensive data backup and recovery plan. As organizations get larger, however, more detail will be necessary about how to recover systems, applications, and working conditions.

Regardless of what type of organization you run, you need to understand that if you are enacting your disaster recovery plan, there are some serious issues that are affecting your business and you need to confront them head-on. Planning out scenarios can help your team be ready to do what needs to be done to get your business back up and running fast after a disaster. You will need to know how your backup system works, who is in charge of the different parts of your DR platform, and set a responsible recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) to pinpoint how far back your recovery needs to go to get stable applications and data back and how much time you have to get that done.

Test Your DR

One of the biggest problems organizations have with their disaster recovery platform is that they haven’t tested it. In fact, nearly a quarter of businesses have never tested their disaster recovery plan. Failure to test opens up a litany of issues, including the DR platform falling on its face and leaving your organization clutching at straws. You don’t have to test the platform monthly, or even quarterly, but ensuring that your DR platform is tested at least once a year can help you avoid a lot of would-be headaches.

Since testing your DR strategy can disrupt your business and cut into productivity, some business leaders won’t want you to do it. It’s this reason that IT administrators have to push back and ensure that the system is tested at least once annually. Any time you test any system, you will inevitably find problems with it. It stands to reason that your DR strategy will have some issues, but every test provides an opportunity to fix problems. As a result, updating the DR plan with lessons you’ve learned during testing will be invaluable if the real thing needs to be enacted.

The Human Element

You may think of your disaster recovery strategy as an IT issue, but your entire DR platform is handled by humans. A comprehensive DR strategy has to include contingencies for employees. For instance, if your business’ location is compromised for whatever reason, do you have the ability to get them access to company data they need to do their jobs?

Take the COVID-19 pandemic for instance. Not many businesses had “global pandemic” on a list of their DR contingencies and it cost many organizations greatly. With governments handing down shelter-in-place mandates in the early part of the pandemic, many businesses had to invest a lot of capital, often capital they didn’t have, to ensure that their businesses could continue. Regardless of what you do with your technology, businesses are mostly human endeavors and ensuring that your policies cover eventualities like work-from-home strategies can make all the difference between being profitable and closing up shop.

 

Don’t get caught in-between. If you would like to have a conversation about business continuity or disaster recovery with our IT experts at Point North Networks, Inc., reach out to us today at 651-234-0895.

 

 

Data Backup

Why Should You Bother with Data Backup?

A good business owner envisions the future and what it could bring about. You may have already devoted a considerable amount of time to the good things that could happen, but how often do you picture the bad?

If you don’t imagine the worst-case scenario, you could be putting your business’ life on the line. Are you prepared to deal with a data loss incident?

You might think we are being a bit dramatic, and maybe we are, but a business that doesn’t focus on longevity is one that will ultimately fail in the face of adversity. You need to consider what a worst-case scenario could mean for your business.

Data backup and disaster recovery are critical components of any successful business. Most companies rely on data in at least some capacity, so without it, operations can be stymied significantly. This data might include client information, metrics, corporate data, important files, and so on. If you lose this data, how do you plan on keeping your business running?

Disaster Recovery Process

The process of disaster recovery is just as important, as without it, you cannot get back in business following critical data loss. Disaster recovery is what enables your business to maintain operations even in the face of severe disasters, like a hacking incident or a natural disaster. While having data backup is helpful, you still need a method to restore it as quickly as possible so as to avoid downtime. You might consider concepts like data backup, operations, workforce longevity, and alternative working conditions when putting together your disaster recovery plan, whether the disaster is from nature or your fellow humankind.

Your business should implement a cloud-based data backup system and disaster recovery tool that takes periodic snapshots of your data. This will allow you to accomplish the following:

  • Backups can be taken throughout the workday rather than only once at the end of the day.
  • Your backups will be accessible at a moment’s notice, something which is incredibly valuable when recovering from a disaster.

When your company is under pressure from a disaster, time is of the essence. You don’t want to be worrying about how and when to restore your data. It helps to just have the cloud take care of these processes for you.

Start taking your data backup and disaster recovery seriously before you suffer from a situation that could easily have been prevented. To learn more about how you can take advantage of enterprise-level data backup and disaster recovery solutions, reach out to Point North Networks, Inc., at 651-234-0895.

Remote Work Is More Normal Now that It Has Ever Been

Remote work is more common than ever before, but it wasn’t always this way. It’s still a relatively new method of operations, and while there are quite a few benefits for both employees and employers, there are other impacts related to remote work that can have far-reaching consequences.

We want to address some of the positive and negative impacts that this remote work trend has had on society.

Housing Costs and Availability May Balance Out

Big cities might have more opportunities for employment, but the cost of housing often makes it difficult for people to commit to employment opportunities in these areas. There is often a housing shortage in metropolitan areas, and as things stand now, the country is short almost 4 million homes (as of early 2021), with most of this shortage being located in places where these jobs are considered valuable.

 

Remote work, if the shift to full-time remote work is utilized, means that these jobs can be filled by people without requiring them to purchase or rent a home in these high-cost locations. Someone working remotely could work remotely for a company halfway across the country and live in a place where housing costs are significantly less expensive. Some experts believe that this trend would increase the cost of living in more rural or suburban areas while decreasing the costs associated with big city life.

 

However, if this is to become a reality, there needs to be a balance between the increased cost of more affordable housing and decreased cost of urban living. One example can be seen in the Tulsa Remote program, where Tulsa, Oklahoma residents are offered several perks—including a $10,000 grant—to all those remote workers who come to live in the city for at least one year. This type of investment means that Tulsa has been attracting new, high-earning residents, resulting in a return on their investment of $13.77 for each dollar spent on remote workers willing to relocate to the city.

The Climate Could Benefit

It’s reasonable to think that a decrease in urban living would lead to more vehicles on the road, as the decrease in public transportation access and walkable amenities would mean more people driving from one place to another. However, what if the opposite were true? What if having more people in these less-urban locations means that there would be greater incentive for these walkable amenities or greater demand for public transportation? The climate would surely benefit if this were the case.

 

Remote work has also led to a significant decrease in travel for many people, such as eliminating the morning commute, business travel, cross-country air travel, etc. All of these decreased emissions could do wonders for the environment.

Let’s Be Clear—We’re a Long Way from Ubiquitous Remote Work

We’ve discussed some of the obstacles, like changes in housing costs and zoning laws, but some places simply aren’t remote-friendly. Access to the Internet limits remote work capabilities for some people, especially when you consider that much of the country still doesn’t have access to broadband Internet.

 

Despite these obstacles, however, we are committed to helping your business make a shift to remote work, should you desire to make that change for your organization. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

How Do Hardware Shortages Affect Business Decisions

How often over the past year or two have you gone to replace a device on your infrastructure, only to find that the price has increased or the device simply isn’t available? This is an issue with the current hardware shortage, particularly for business electronics. Since businesses depend on technology, it becomes critical that you understand how this shortage impacts your day-to-day operations.

 

As you are surely well aware, there is a hardware shortage out there for computing devices due to a component shortage. This shortage stems from semiconductors, and it’s bleeding into every facet of device creation, from manufacturing to acquisition. Naturally, this creates issues for businesses that need to invest in new hardware for their employees. Here are just a few of the ways this shortage has impacted businesses like yours.

Price Point

As the costs of components increase, so too do the costs of the devices they are a part of. This is an unfortunate side-effect of the costs of manufacturing increasing, and the consumers ultimately pay more for devices. This can also impact the costs associated with services offered by providers, as they need to purchase and maintain equipment to manage these services.

Timeline for Acquisition

With hardware being in short supply, you can expect the acquisition of any new devices to take a bit longer than usual—particularly if you are looking for something very specific. We recommend that you build out a hardware acquisition timeline so that you know when and how often you need to perform hardware refreshes on your infrastructure.

It Makes Upkeep Even More Important

Finally, since devices are more expensive and harder to come by, you should understand that upkeep of your current hardware infrastructure is even more important than before. If something critical fails within your infrastructure and you are unable to immediately replace it due to shortages, what happens? Be sure to take care of what you currently have so that you can get as much value out of it as possible before it kicks the bucket.

What We Recommend

Point North Networks, Inc., recommends that you work with us to ensure that your hardware needs are met within a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost. Due to our connections and our working relationships with vendors, we know the most reliable ways to get the technology you need to succeed. Plus, it’s always better to have someone else do the legwork for you so you can avoid the frustrations that come from devices simply not being available when you need them most.

 

To get started, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.

Get More Efficient with Technology and Shifts in Strategy

Collaboration is important for many businesses and it is something that takes some time to master. In fact, a lot of businesses that do pretty well struggle when it comes to getting their project teams and operational staff to work together. Today, we thought we would take a look at technologies and strategies that will not only help collaboration, but can promise rises in productivity as well.

Voice over Internet Protocol

It’s no secret that the telephone system is one of any business’ most crucial tools. What may be a secret, however, is that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get the comprehensive business telephone system you need. Most businesses that still use telephone services through a telephone company are missing out on an opportunity to significantly cut their communications costs while also gaining access to some of the very best collaborative tools a business can have.

VoIP is a platform that uses your business’ Internet connection to fuel its telephone system. Not only does it provide the crystal-clear communication that customers and employees demand, it also provides options that no RJ11 cable can deliver. Services like video conferencing, text messaging, and mobile phone access make VoIP a much more valuable product than your typical business telephone service through the telephone company. With hundreds of additional features available, you can pick and choose the communications platform that is right for your needs and budget.

Cloud-Hosted Collaboration Tools

One of the positive elements that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that since so many people worked (or are continuing to work) remotely that many businesses had to find a way to get their newly-remote employees the tools and resources they need(ed) to have a chance of success. A lot of businesses had moved some of their information systems to the cloud previously, of course, but the growth of cloud-hosted management software nearly tripled from March 2020 to today.

There are several platforms that work for businesses. Some choose to go with services that allow for one-button video conferencing, while others lean heavily on the message board and instant messaging capabilities. Some just provide collaborative access inside working documents. Regardless of what platform a business uses, however, it should be noted that it is all in a concerted effort to build a collaborative workforce in a time when a lot of their human resources need remote access.

Today, a business can get about any type of computing they need in a cloud-hosted platform from some of the top business software developers on the market. Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and others can be used to the benefit of just about any business that is looking to expand their computing capabilities to the cloud to adapt to an increasingly-remote workforce.

Move Support Off Production Workers

For many businesses, the same people that create products and services are forced into support roles due to budget constraints. If you want your team to be on point and working collaboratively, having to juggle support issues could be negatively affecting their productivity. There are several ways that you can move support off of your employees. They include:

  • A rotating support schedule – Instead of having support be a major distraction for your whole staff, consider assigning one or two workers to handle support calls and requests on a rotating schedule. Not only does this provide fairness, it also ensures that your product and service support is covered as it is a crucial part of your offering.
  • Hire new workers for support – If you have extra capital, hiring a support staff is one of the most effective ways to get returns out of a department that doesn’t bring in much in the way of revenue.
  • Use technology – Nowadays there are artificially-intelligent platforms that can be used to handle organizational support queries effectively and keeps the amount of human resources involved with support to a minimum.

Collaboration is going to continue to be a key for a lot of businesses as purse strings tighten in the near future. Getting your team to work together improves your products, services, and your customers’ experience. If you would like to talk to one of our knowledgeable IT consultants about how to integrate the right technology to get your team working together more effectively, give us a call today at 651-234-0895.

 

 

Point North Networks wins 2022 River Heights Chamber Small Business of the Year Award

Point North Network Award Winner Image

It comes with great honor to announce that Point North Networks has won the 2022 River Heights Chamber Small Business of the Year Award.

Since its start in 2005, Point North Networks has held a commitment to its clients & employees by upholding the core values that the company was founded on. We believe that honesty is the foundation for every great relationship, we appreciate the input and feedback of others, we will always reflect the highest level of quality and efficiency, we strive for long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships, and we strive to always give our clients more than they expect. These values undoubtedly led our team to win this great achievement.

“The River Heights Chamber has been fantastic for our business,” said Brian Emerson, President of Point North Networks. “We aim to be the most trusted IT firm here in the Twin Cities. Following our core values while having the support of our local Chamber has made it possible for us to uphold that reputation and make a difference to businesses in our community.

The River Heights Chamber awards its Small Business of the Year award to a business that is an involved member, demonstrates a commitment to their customers, suppliers, and employees, and demonstrates involvement with the community. Point North Networks has been a member of the Chamber since 2017 and its President, Brian Emerson, has served on the Board of Directors since 2019.

Watch our video feature made by the River Heights Chamber to learn what the Point North difference is all about.