Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing growth. For the longest time, many believed that they had to purchase workstations with its own processing power, RAM, and hard drive. But thanks to virtualization, companies can save money and get the computing processes they need with thin and zero clients.
What are thin and zero clients?
Thin clients are stripped-down computers with minimum processing power and memory. They rely on a basic operating system and a network connection to access a more powerful system where almost all computing processes take place.
Zero clients work the same way. The only difference is that there’s no local storage or operating system installed on the device; all the software, storage, and processing power sits on a server until you need it. This setup makes it ideal for cutting costs, and here’s why.
Reduced hardware costs
When it comes to upfront costs, thin and zero clients are the obvious choice. Conventional desktops start at $300 per user, while thin clients can go for as low as $90 per user. And since they have no hard drive or other moving parts, lean devices tend to be more durable and have a longer lifespan than their traditional counterparts.
Simplified IT management
Another benefit of thin clients is that they can be managed from a server. Suppose a new software update was released. Instead of manually downloading the patch on each computer, you can simply install the update on your server and roll it out to all thin clients. Apart from upgrades, you can make backups, security configurations, and application deployments in the data center. This quickens setup, reduces downtime, and increases employee productivity.
Minimized security risks
Thin clients also help you avoid costly malware attacks and data breach incidents. Your employees and poorly managed endpoints are the biggest vulnerabilities with traditional desktops. Thin and zero clients reduce these problems by limiting direct access to the operating system. This prevents employees from copying sensitive data to removable media and installing software, malicious or otherwise.
If your thin client is damaged or corrupted, you don’t have to worry about your data, as it’s originally stored in an impenetrable server.
Decreased energy consumption
Because processing is done locally, traditional desktops generate a lot of heat and require more power, which results in huge power and cooling bills at the end of the month. By contrast, thin and zero clients consume only 4-6.5 watts of power, almost 1/50th of thick client requirements. What’s more, they require little to no cooling, allowing you to enjoy significant cost savings.
When looking for cost-cutting solutions, thin and zero clients should never be overlooked. The reduced hardware costs, power bills, and security risks are just too good to pass up. But if you’re still unsure about this technology, give Simpatico Systems a call at 855.476.6347. We’ll assess your tech needs and determine whether or not thin or zero clients can help you succeed.
Everyone wishes there were more minutes in a day. Between repetitive emails and seemingly endless meetings, it’s hard to find time for important tasks. Thanks to the increasing affordability of enterprise-level IT however, SMBs can start getting at least half of those problems under control with email automation.
What is email automation?
Usually included in customer relationship management (CRM) software, email automation centers around the idea of combining your business data into emails to customers and prospects. This allows you to draft templates with placeholders for names, addresses, and other variables that the platform will match with individuals from your email list.
Even better however, is personalizing how and when your emails go out to clients. Automatically inserting customer data into an email is great, but it still requires that you draft the content that surrounds it and hit Send. Email automation grants you the ability to create templated emails that are automatically merged with client data and sent when certain conditions are met.
Examples of email automation
To really get an idea of how valuable this solution is, it’s important to see what it looks like in action. Say you own an eCommerce site that sells complementary goods, like golf clubs and golf balls. You could create a campaign wherein anytime someone buys a set of clubs, pre-written emails automatically go out one month later on how high-quality golf balls improve your handicap.
You’re not limited to two-step workflows either. Take a look at this example:
- Step 1: Send a personalized email with a special offer on golf balls for existing customers.
- Step 2: Send a follow-up based on how customers interacted with the offer email:
- If a customer cashed in the offer, send a thank you email.
- Step 3: Follow it up with a similar offer three months later.
- If a customer visited the promo page but didn’t convert, send a promo email for another type of product, like golf bags.
- Step 3: Follow it up with either a thank you email or another promo for golf clothes.
- If a customer didn’t even open the email, send a survey email asking about their interests.
- Step 3: Follow it up with email campaigns based on what they selected.
- If a customer cashed in the offer, send a thank you email.
Email automation means there’s no need to micromanage your customer relationships. As long as you define the path to purchase for high-volume products, you can program workflows to nurture customers and prospects automatically.
For as little as a couple hundred bucks a month, your customer outreach campaigns can compete on the same level as your corporate counterparts with little effort from your team. Add in an expert IT provider and you have the ability to blow the competition out of the water. To learn more, contact us today at 855.476.6347!
Written by: Nathan Hasse
In top-down organizations, there is a clearly defined hierarchal order that has a leader on top and all subordinates accounted for with direct reports and assigned responsibilities. This is the business model that we have all become accustomed. Employees are given tasks that are often needed to be completed daily to make the company successful. Marching orders are generated from the top and passed down through the ranks.
For employees below the C-suite, the most common “side effect” of this structure is a general feeling of lack of communication and direction for their position. While this is never the intent, it happens due to the good old fashion game of telephone. It starts with a small group of decision makers on top that are guiding and directing the decisions for the entire company while sometimes not understanding the day to day challenges or ideas that come from the teams doing the jobs. These decisions are passed through many levels of management and even though they are articulated as accurately as possible, information is inevitably lost. To counteract this, upper management often has to watch individual effort closely while continuing to reemphasize the direction to make sure everyone continues along the same path.
This is the most common structure for organizations in the USA. It is even common for the majority of workers to have only ever worked in this style of organization. It would be understanding for most with that experience to feel uneasy seeing a bottom-up org chart. But is bottom-up really as chaotic as it looks?
At first glance of a bottom-up org chart, one may feel that no one has direct responsibility to anyone and this will create chaos in the work environment. This can absolutely be the case if there is a weak leadership team.
Let’s instead assume we have a strong leadership team. This team can focus a lot of their energy on finding “A” players throughout management and staff level teams. At the same time, they would actively start creating this bottom-up structure to challenge these “A” players by communicating an end goal and then directing their staff to work out their own ideas on how to accomplish the goal. This collaborative work environment not only drives creativity but buy-in and ownership among the team skyrockets because they are executing their own ideas, instead of ideas that were crafted and handed to them whether they agree or not.
For example, let’s say your company puts an emphasis on finding an additional 5% total gross margin. While this goal generated from the leadership team, it gets passed to each member of the organization for evaluation and brainstorming within their respective positions or teams on how to make the goal achievable. The ideas to come out of these brainstorming sessions would be discussed with their boss, evaluated and modified through open discourse, then finally delivered to the leadership team for final sign off. When this final sign-off is given, there is no lack of communication or misunderstanding of the direction because it originated with the people who are actually going to be doing the work.
Which makes sense for you?
Every company has to evaluate and find what model best fits their approach, people and culture. My challenge for each of you reading this article would be to think about each company you’ve worked for and write out what each did well and what each did poorly. For those items that the companies didn’t do well, ask yourself if changing the structure would have made a difference.
If you’re looking to apply an organizational change, the good news is you don’t have to wholesale change your entire company. For most, this would be trying the bottom-up strategy. You can start small with a few end goals while coaching your employees on how they should work together to create the directive that they will ultimately work to accomplish.
With diligence and strong employees, the opportunity is there to build and create a much stronger company and culture where buy-in and accountability is key.
Written By: Logan McLean
Can we talk about an uncomfortable truth? There is one department, more than any other, that determines the success of a company: sales. You may have the best engineers, the best product and the best service on the market, but you will still fail if sales fails. So how can you insulate your business from the potential ups and downs of the traditional sales effort while also rocketing yourself ahead of your competition?
The best companies on the planet have solved this riddle. They work to create a culture where everyone sees themselves as part of the sales team. Now stay with me, I can almost feel your cringe from my side of the monitor. Before you quickly close your browser, run a virus scan and go take a shower just to get the thought of being a salesperson out of your head, let’s talk about how this can transform your company as well as provide an amazing amount of value to your clients.
The sales department isn’t the whole company, but the whole company better be the sales department. – Philip Kotler
While everyone across your entire organization can benefit from having this training, the biggest impact will of course come from your staff who are regularly interacting with your clients. These will be your customer care agents, field service technicians, office administrators, accounts receivable team etc.
Creating a sales mindset throughout your organization is a process. It needs to be trained, implemented, rewarded and constantly encouraged. Here are some steps that must be taken to help lay the foundation for this difficult undertaking:
1. Overcome the negative salesperson stereotype
When I discuss this idea with people not in sales I get a few varieties of the same response: I’m not a salesperson and I never want to be. This is typically because at some level most people still believe the perpetual stereotype of the slimy salesperson who screws customers over for a quick buck. I’ll let all of you in on a little secret: if that slimy salesperson is selling, they aren’t successful and they don’t sell for long. True professional salespeople know that long term relationships built on trust and superior service is the only way to succeed. You cannot do what we do successfully by screwing people over.
The simple way to overcome this is to coach this one simple truth: the act of sales boils down to advising a client on how to solve a significant problem in a way that makes their lives better and/or easier. If you’re business doesn’t have that solution, we don’t sell them anything. If we can, we do. There is nothing unethical about that because we’ve created a symbiotic relationship.
2. Train every single person in the company on the elevator pitch.
And no, I’m not talking about product specifications or pricing models. Your elevator pitch should answer these questions: why your company exists, why you’re excited to be contributing to that existence and why your client should care. If you can’t answer those in less than 30 seconds, you don’t have an elevator pitch.
The second important point here is that everyone should be trained on this. Not just customer facing staff, but everyone. This is because answering these questions should reinforce the company’s mission, increasing overall buy-in and creating a cohesive message as well as a unified feeling of purpose and direction.
3. Train your staff to ask the client smart questions.
This may be one of the harder concepts to fully appreciate, even for professional sales people. A smart question is an open-ended question that helps both parties truly understand the situation by finding the real problem (rather than symptoms), what and who it affects and how much it actively costs to continue operating the same way.
A common mistake most make is prematurely assuming that they know what is best for the client without truly taking the time to understand their unique situation. My advice is to create a healthy list of smart questions, role play Q&A sessions where the focus is on asking the right question and simply listening while the client answers. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. When this is done correctly, the client will (with your help) lead themselves to what will best solve their problem; not the other way around.
4. Share positive company lore that reinforces your core values while speaking to the strength of your products and/or services.
One of the best ways to show value to prospective clients is through real world examples of how your company helped another client who was in a similar predicament. This allows the client to place themselves in the shoes of another and imagine the positive outcome as their own. This also helps reinforce the power behind our first step: the unwavering conviction that what you do can make a significant, positive impact for this potential client.
Great companies have realized this and have made a concerted effort to track examples of when their employees have accomplished something truly great. These examples are then spread throughout the organization to not only encourage replication, but to help in the sales process by making it easier to tell your unique story to potential clients. If your company hasn’t begun tracking lore, start now. If you have, make sure this lore is being communicated in all sales efforts.
5. Reward not only those who put in the work and succeed, but those who put in the work and have not yet succeeded.
Two things are vital for a new salesperson: patience and trust in the process even if results are not immediate. This is a key lesson for management too. By rewarding not only those who have successfully brought in business but also those who have been putting forth the effort regardless of direct outcome, it sends a message to continue the effort. The last thing a company wants to happen is to put in all of this work cultivating a sales culture to have people get discouraged quickly and revert to their old habits.
Rewards can be monetary through a commission sharing system or a leads-given style competition. However, rewards do not always have to be monetary. Personally, I prefer rewards that directly benefit the employee’s family because it helps establish the same buy-in at home that we hope to achieve at work. This can be something as simple and relatively inexpensive as hiring a housekeeper to clean the employee’s home, earning an extra PTO day, getting them a free gym membership or reserving dinner and a movie for date night. All of these directly benefit and emphasize life away from the office (for more, read my Right to Disconnect article).
Also, please understand that increased “job security” is not a reward. Often we hear from management that employees should be willing to go the extra mile outside of their job duties (in this case, into sales) because ultimately it increases their own job security. This does not motivate anyone. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. Please do not make it all the way through training and implementation to skimp on the reward with this lousy excuse.
Keep in mind, these rewards should not be seen as a threat by the traditional sales staff. On the contrary, all of this should flow back to sales as hot leads. The goal here is not to create conflict, the goal is to increase the number of people evangelizing why your company exists and why anyone should care. In the end, this not only helps increase the number of sales made but it also increases close ratio and client satisfaction.
You don’t have to be an extroverted, smooth-talking, networker to be good at sales. If you are in front of the client and not a sales person, you’re more than likely the person doing the actual work: field service technicians, help desk, customer care, etc. You have more trust and credibility than most salespeople could hope to gain in a year. Remember, selling is no different than advising a client on how to solve a problem. If you provide a solution that’s mutually beneficial, you’ll never be that slimy salesperson and everyone wins.
About the author: Logan McLean is an amateur writer, a poor woodworker and an expert queso critic. Born and raised in Texas, he avoids country music and any sort of group dancing. He surrounds himself with people who are far more intelligent and successful than he is… they are not difficult to find. He loves technology, epic fantasy novels and low budget sci-fi movies almost as much as he loves his wife and kids. Logan serves as Director of Business Development for Simpatico Systems. Contact Logan at email@example.com.
Post by: Fabienne McGeever
Bandwidth refers to the amount of information that something, like a connection to the internet, can handle in a given time. Bandwidth calculations consider both theoretical ratings and actual throughput. It also measures speed for what is being sent out (upstream) and what is being brought in (downstream), explained today as up and down, from each workstation. Both up and down have a separate and unique speed measurement. Typical scenarios that are especially sensitive and are noticed around a networked company and is felt throughout include issues like:
- time to establish a new connection
- time to load a Web page, and basic browsing
- time to download an app, patch, or other files
- ability to stream video content for long periods uninterrupted
- Processing day to day functions in your specific software package including systems software and application software. Systems software includes the programs that are dedicated to managing the computer itself. Application software includes personal and business that keep employees and your company running).
Let’s use an analogy to help make bandwidth clearer. In this example, the bandwidth is the number of tables in a restaurant, and web traffic is diners. The math is simple: The more tables in the restaurant, the more patrons can dine there at any one time. The service however will be affected when there is an overabundance of patrons and not enough service, or a particular patron is over demanding; insistent that he deserves more attention.
Network connections each possess a bandwidth rating according to the maximum data rate it is physically capable of supporting. Examples are: wired, WiFi, DSL, (VPN) Virtual Personal Network, (RDP) Remote Desktop Protocol and Ethernet connections are examples. Fast Ethernet or Higher level network protocols like (IP) Internet Protocol use links at 100 Mbps (megabits per second). Each of these connections have a distinctive speed rating. All networks can easily be extended to link entire businesses or office buildings using network bridge devices. Being cognizant of what ports, switches, routers, tunnels and adapters are also important, but that’s another article! These devices do play a part in a networks performance. In the IT world, this can explain why things are not working the way or as fast as you are expecting. Whether proactive, reactive or both, maintenance is king! Equipment makes a huge difference and letting your hardware become obsolete is never a good idea.
So how much bandwidth does one need? Internet usage doubles every 12 months. If you need 10Mbps of bandwidth service right now, next year you’ll probably need 20Mbps. Businesses need 100Mbps per 1,000 users or 100Kbps (kilobits per second) per user. Mbps is over 1000 times faster than 1.0 Kbps. Reports project users will require 1Gbps per 1,000 seats or 1Mbps per user. There are only a few things to consider in purchasing bandwidth through your (ISP) Internet Service Provider. Who is using the Internet, what are they using the Internet for and when are users actually using it. Unfortunately, traffic is not a steady trickle of bytes it comes in bursts. Cost and availability from your provider both limit the bandwidth provisioned to you. Your ISP will let you know what is available in your area. Even more important is how your internal network bandwidth is allocated throughout the building. Throttling is recommended to help prioritize who needs what and how much. If a few are utilizing all the bandwidth, you can evaluate the necessity and make a business decision to control or purchase more bandwidth and/or put parameters in place for bandwidth distribution. Setting up this regulator lets you know who is monopolizing your bandwidth. This doesn’t preclude your ISP throttling you. They may be allowing full speed traffic to benchmarking sites while artificially squeezing anything else to slower speeds. “Unmetered bandwidth” is also an option; however, unmetered means a hosting plan with unmetered traffic… But unmetered does not mean unlimited. Unmetered hosting plans are often very limited in the amount of data you can send and receive. Data is often transferred between your servers and the public web at a lower speed. Some easy, low cost fixes to increase your speed might include just changing up your web browser, updating your operating system, changing out hardware like your network card, RAM and of course making sure your network is secure!
Fiber optic cable is now replacing copper cable, raising the standard in broadband speeds from the world of megabit into gigabit speeds . Your network condition is directly related to production and plays a critical role in the success and growth of your business.
Simpatico Systems, LLC is able to perform a network assessment and advise you on how to get your network in the best condition, in addition to being compliant for best practices and performance. Call us today – 855.476.6347 opt 1.
About the Author: Fabienne McGeever is a middle child/twin in a family of ten children. She gained the unique perspective to see both sides and get along with most. She loves snow skiing, the beach “in any form,” and glamping. Fabienne lives in Santa Clarita, CA and serves as a Corporate Admin/Client Relations Liaison for Simpatico Systems. Contact her directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Both businesses and individuals across dozens of countries are scrambling to fix their computer systems after a ransomware, named WannaCry, caused major disruptions earlier this month. Like most ransomware, WannaCry encrypts files and demands a Bitcoin payment for their release. What’s worse, more WannaCry variants will likely be developed in the near future, according to security researchers. Fortunately, there are some common strategies you can use to mitigate the damage of the ransomware.
Update your software
The first (and probably best) defense against WannaCry ransomware is to update your operating system. New research from Kaspersky shows that machines running Windows XP, 7 and outdated Windows 10 versions were affected by the ransomware. To check whether your systems are up to date, open your Windows search bar, look for Windows Update, click Check for Updates, and install any major updates.
Also, don’t forget to download the latest security patches for your business applications and security software.
Run security programs
Many antivirus programs now have mechanisms for detecting and blocking WannaCry malware; so when you’ve fully updated your security software, run a full system scan.
Keep in mind that antivirus isn’t a foolproof security solution. Instead, run it alongside other security applications like intrusion prevention systems and firewalls.
Use data backup and recovery tools
If WannaCry does infect your computers, only a solid data backup and recovery solution can save your business. Before ransomware strikes, periodically back up your files in both an external hard drive and a cloud-based backup service.
External hard drives will serve as your local backup solution for quick recovery times. However, we recommend keeping the external drive disconnected when it’s not being used and plugging it in only when you need to back up files at the end of the day. This is because when ransomware infects a computer, it will usually look to encrypt local backup drives as well.
Cloud-based backups, on the other hand, allow you to store files in remote data centers and access them from any internet-enabled device. When selecting a cloud services provider, make sure they provide the appropriate cloud protections to your files. For example, your backup vendor should provide reporting tools to keep track of any anomalies in your files. Document versioning features are also important. This allows you to recover older versions of a document in case the current version is encrypted.
After your local and cloud backups are set up, perform regular tests to ensure your disaster recovery plan works.
Finally, it’s important to stay on guard at all times. WannaCry is just one of many ransomware strains affecting businesses today, and in order to stay safe you need to be constantly up to date on the latest cybersecurity- and business continuity-related news.
For more ransomware prevention tips and services, call Simpatico Systems today at 855.476.6347. We’ll make sure hackers don’t hold your business hostage.
Even to this day, the perception of cloud technology suffers from a reputation for bad security. But as time goes on we’re beginning to see that cloud security is almost always better than that of local area networks. So whether you’re considering a cloud web server or internet-based productivity software, take a minute to learn why the cloud your best option.
Unless you have an overinflated budget, relying on local copies of data and software means IT staff are forced to spread themselves across a bevy of different technologies. For example, one or two in-house tech support employees can’t become experts in one service or solution without sacrificing others. If they focus on just cybersecurity, the quality of hardware maintenance and helpdesk service are going to take a nosedive.
However, Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) benefit from economies of scale. CSPs maintain tens, sometimes thousands, of servers and can hire technicians who specialize in every subset of cloud technology.
Cloud security isn’t superior just because more technicians are watching over servers. When all the facets of your business’s IT are in one place, the vulnerabilities associated with each technology get mixed together to drastically increase your risk exposure.
For example, a server sitting on the same network as workstations could be compromised by an employee downloading malware. And this exposure extends to physical security as well. The more employees you have who aren’t trained in cyber security, the more likely it is that one of them will leave a server room unlocked or unsecured.
CSPs exist solely to provide their clients with cloud services. There are no untrained employees and there are significantly fewer access points to the network.
The same technology that allows you to access data from anywhere in the world also allows you to erect a wall between your local network and your data backups. Most modern iterations of malware are programmed to aggressively replicate themselves, and the best way to combat this is by quarantining your backups in the cloud. This is commonly referred to as data redundancy in the cybersecurity world, and nowhere is it as easy to achieve as in the cloud.
The cloud doesn’t only keep your data safe from the spread of malware, it also keeps data safe from natural and manmade disasters. When data is stored in the cloud, employees will still have access to it in the event that your local workstations or servers go down.
The cloud has come a long way over the years. It’s not just the security that has gotten better; customized software, platforms and half a dozen other services can be delivered via the cloud. Whatever it is you need, we can secure and manage it for you. We know the cloud. Call us today … 855.476.6347
Good things come to those who wait, and this is especially true for small- and medium-sized businesses that plan on creating an eCommerce website. According to Vistaprint’s study on 1,800 consumers, 42 percent of respondents are “very unlikely” to buy from unprofessional or ugly websites. Go through your site and ensure everything is in order. These key indicators might help:
A variety of clean photos
Always take photos under professional lighting to really get the best images of your products. When customers are browsing, it’s normal for them to want to see as much detail as possible, so try to include as many photos, from as many angles your prospects might want.
The last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers. That’s why it’s important to include all of your products’ technical information and dimensions before creating simple and straightforward product descriptions.
Returns and refunds are an inevitable part of online shopping. In fact, a large percentage of online shoppers make purchase decisions based solely on how streamlined the returns policy is. Make sure to establish clear policies for returning and refunding items that are easy to find for customers.
Customers unfamiliar with your brand need a story they can relate to on your website. In your About Us page, include information on who you are and what you do that sets you apart from the competition. Whatever you write, make it accessible from any page on your site.
Fix broken links, make navigation straightforward, and remove outdated pages. You can’t sell 404 pages to customers, and if your site doesn’t make it easy to find what they’re looking for, game over.
Not everyone is a web design expert, luckily you can always hire one. If your budget is tight, there are DIY site builders specifically geared toward small businesses. Or with a relatively low monthly expenditure, you can hire a managed website provider.
With more revenue originating online, small- and medium-sized-business owners can’t afford to overlook the importance of creating a fully functional eCommerce website. Prior to going live, it’s essential to go through your entire site and resolve any mistakes before consumers see them. For further information on completing eCommerce websites, let us know! We can step through the process with you.