Juicy Read: The Customer Service Revolution

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The Customer Service Revolution: Overthrow Conventional Business, Inspire Employees, and Change the World   

By John R. Dijulius III

Numerous companies have made customer service their biggest competitive advantage, are dominating their industries, and have made price irrelevant! DiJulius will show you exactly how to create your very own customer service revolution.

 

 

Fresh-Picked Gadget the iPhone Binoculars

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If you’ve ever wanted to add more utility to your iPhone, SkyMall’s iPhone Binoculars might be what you’re looking for. They feature 36mm lenses, attach onto the back of your phone to give your camera 8x magnification.

Want to see these gadgets in real life? Come visit our “gadget grove” of tech toys you can try out yourself.

 

Three Steps to Disaster Recovery Planning for Your IT

alertDisaster strikes all too often. You may have wondered what would happen if a tornado struck, or everyone got snowed in, but have you ever really thought it all through? Be prepared! Follow this three-step process to lay out a technology recovery plan that will fit your business and budget.

Set Priorities

The first step: decide what matters most. In the event of something catastrophic, what computer systems are most critical? Bear in mind, in the worst case scenarios (fire, flood, tornado, etc.), your office may be completely gone. Which systems will allow you to stay afloat as you start to recover?

For example, most business owners consider email a lifeline. Managing financials – especially being able to cut checks – is high for some companies, while others say they would temporarily rely on handwritten checks. Ability to take orders, see the service schedule, look up customer information…any of these could be at the top of your list. Pick what makes sense for you.

Review Hypothetical Situations

Next, look at what kinds of issues might impact your business. The following list includes a variety of problems that could take part or all of your business down. You can shorten the impact by investing in disaster recovery preparedness. Review the following scenarios and pay close attention to what systems are impacted and how long they could be down.

Office and/or equipment destroyed: this could happen with a fire, flood, or the like. You will be dealing with temporary office space, and you must somehow keep the business running in the meantime. You will need to quickly procure replacement equipment as well as your offsite backups for data recovery. Find out how fast these steps can happen. Any services hosted in the cloud should be fine, as long as you have a way to access them. You may even consider moving critical services into the cloud.

Office inaccessible but fine: in the case of snowstorms or floods, your office may be fine but you can’t get to it. If you have advance notice and many of your team have laptops, make sure they are set up for remote access. Cloud-based services are also easy to access remotely. This can keep you going until you can get back into your office.

No power: if you have no power, your equipment can’t run. Thunderstorms and ice storms can take down power lines; in a worst case scenario, it can take days to restore power. Although you probably have UPSs (uninterruptible power supplies) on your servers, they are usually sized to provide only a short amount of runtime so that equipment can be safely powered down. A generator is your best bet in this situation. You’ll also need power for PCs if people are working onsite, or they can connect remotely from a location with power.

No Internet: if your Internet connection goes down, you will be cut off from the web. There will be no access cloud-based services, and you can’t send or receive email. Usually internet outages are brief, but sometimes they can last for a day or more. There is a relatively easy step you can take here: purchase a secondary Internet connection. Be sure it uses a different technology; for example, don’t get DSL if you have a T1 connection. These may share the same phone circuit and could both go down at once. Cable service or broadband wireless connections are good and affordable backup options. You can also set up a firewall that will automatically switch to the backup connection if there is an issue. Otherwise you will have to do that manually, which could take a little time.

Cloud service is down: if a cloud service is down, you should call support immediately but you have limited control over what they do. The best step is a proactive one: select your vendors carefully so that you know you are with a reputable provider with strong support. In the event of an issue, there’s not much you can do besides wait it out.

No phone service: if phones are down, you can switch to cell phones for outbound calls. However, you don’t want to miss inbound calls. Check with your phone service provider to see whether they can forward calls in the event of an outage. If you have a satellite office, forward them there. You can also forward to someone’s cell phone. You may be able to set this up to happen automatically, but you may want control over this so one of your team isn’t suddenly surprised by a huge flood of unexpected calls that end up in someone’s personal voicemail.

Server failure: if your server goes down, recovery is entirely dependent on your infrastructure. For hardware issues, your best protection is virtualization and image-based backup technology. This combination, when properly configured, allows you to move everything on the failed server over to another server very quickly – at least, if you have another server to move it to. It can also help with software issues, because you can “roll back” the server to a point before it crashed. Without this protection, you are dependent on your techs to solve the problem as quickly as they can. Ask your techs what the timeline on a recovery from backup would be. The answer might be minutes, hours, or days. Also factor in warranty status: if you have same-day parts replacement on your server, you will be in much better shape than if you have an expired warranty on an old server where parts may be hard to find.

Create a Plan

This list does not cover every possible disaster scenario, but it’s a great start. Make a list of next steps: calls to vendors for more information, questions for your tech about what you have in place, and any major concerns. Once you’ve done your homework, you may have some upgrades to do. Finally, document your plans so that they are readily available if and when disaster strikes.

New year, new opportunities

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.    ~ Stephen Covey

Another year has gone by…how can it be?

I look back on all that happened last year and can’t help but wonder where the time went. The business has evolved in many ways over the last year, and yet my to-do list of plans is still miles long and is constantly competing for priority over my day to day stuff!

What an I doing about that list?

Well, I am beginning the year with a quarterly meeting and strategic planning session with my management team. My management teem meets quarterly to discuss priorities or ‘rocks’ for the quarter. We assess what’s working and what’s not working in the business and resolve any issues currently on the table. It also gives us a little time away from the office to work ON the business instead of IN the business.

Step by step, we evaluate every aspect of the business, from what we do to how we do it, and how we measure our success. With so many distractions every day, it’s always challenging to stay on task—but we’re following a very specific process from the book “Traction” and it helps to keep us focused.

I hope each of you is doing something similar to stay focused on what really matters.

Strategic planning can be tedious at times, but it’s also an exciting and empowering process that can transform your business.

Here’s to new opportunities in 2015!

wendysig

 

This Small Business Intruder Is Stealing Your Money And Ruining The Environment

save money on ITSpam. Everyone knows what a pain it is but few truly understand the costly impact it has on their business and the environment. The average employee spends up to15 minutes per day cleaning out the e-mails on Viagra; if you have 25 employees earning an average of $45K per year, that means you are paying them approximately $2,200 per month to press the delete key.

According to Ferris Research, spam cost businesses more than $30 billion dollars last year in lost productivity, IT costs, and spam control software—that’s more than $4.48 for every man, woman, and child on the planet!

To top it off, spam also has an environmental impact. The “Yale Environment 360” report cited that transmitting, deleting, and reading spam wasted enough electricity to power 2.4 million American homes and created greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 3.1 million cars. The majority of the electricity used (80%) was from sifting through and deleting junk mail.

3 Ways To Stop The Spam Invasion!

Check out these 3 ways you can reduce this costly and time-sucking e-mail pest from hindering your company’s productivity.

1) Don’t Respond To Or Opt Out Of Spam E-mails

Don’t assume these are legitimate communications! If you try and opt out of these lists, you are basically verifying your e-mail address to the spammers, ensuring even MORE junk e-mail than before. And you certainly don’t want to respond; that will make you an even bigger target!

2) Use Your Junk Mail Folder

Microsoft Outlook  will automatically separate spam into your junk mail folder so you can spend less time sorting through your inbox. It also reduces your chances of opening a malicious junk message which may contain a virus or worm.  The downside of this folder: you might have to periodically check it to make sure no “good” messages are sitting in there.

3) Get A GOOD Spam Filter

Whether the spam filter you choose is a hardware appliance, software you install locally on your network, or a third-party spam filter that cleans and captures messages before they arrive on your network, having one is important. Over time, you can “train” these filters to know which messages to block and which to keep.

The Absolute Best Spam Filter

After looking at dozens of spam filters, we’ve discovered one that is by far the best there is. Not only will it rid your inbox of those annoying, time-consuming, unsolicited junk messages finally and forever, but it also prevents loss of email even if your server crashes or your Internet connection goes down.  Our spam solution is easy to use, simple to set up and is guaranteed to reduce your spam by 96% – or your money back.

Call or e-mail us now to get started:  314-414-8400 or info@cioservicesllc.com.

 

Fresh-Picked Gadget the Z3 Compact

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The Z3 Compact is a premium phone that returns to a more palm-friendly size, with a 4.6-inch display. Its battery  lasts two days with average use, runs the latest version of Android, and it’s water-resistant .

Want to see these gadgets in real life? Come visit our “gadget grove” of tech toys you can try out yourself.

 

Windows Server 2003: RIP 2015

In 2014, Microsoft ended support for Windows XP. In 2015, Windows Server 2003 is on the chopping block. Are you ready? Support ends July 14, 2015, which means you need to start planning your transition now.

Why It Matters

Your first question may be, “why does this matter?” If you have an old server running, and it’s completely stable, why mess with it, right? Aside from the obvious – no support – a key reason to upgrade is security.

We’ve had wave after wave of major security exploits this year. In many cases these exploits targeted older technology that was seemingly secure – for example, the HeartBleed bug. If new exploits come out that impact Windows Server 2003, there will be no patch. You will be vulnerable, which means you will be scrambling to upgrade on an emergency basis. If you get hit with a virus that exposes customer information, it could be a public relations nightmare.

Even if your own server doesn’t get hit, performing a server upgrade under those circumstances isn’t likely to go well. Bear in mind that software designed to run on Windows Server 2003 isn’t likely to play nicely with Windows Server 2012 (the current version). That means you’ll have to upgrade your software at the same time you upgrade your server.

A related issue is regulatory compliance. Most regulated industries, like medical or financial, require you to run on supported software. After July 14, 2015, you will be out of compliance and could be subject to penalties.

Your Options

The most obvious solution is to upgrade your server to a newer version. 2012 is the latest, although you can still get the 2008 version through Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Program.

However, you shouldn’t automatically assume a new server is the way to go. If you are running a software applications on an old server, check with your vendor to see if they have a hosted “cloud” version. If they do, consider migrating your software there. Then you can retire the server instead of replacing it.

If it’s running email and sharing files, check out cloud services like Office365 (from Microsoft). You’ll need a fast and reliable internet connection, but this is another case where you may be able to migrate to the cloud instead of replacing an old server.

There is one last option: you can pay Microsoft an exorbitant fee for ongoing support, but it is unbelievably expensive and intended only for large corporations.

If You Upgrade

If you decide to replace your Windows 2003 Server, where do you start? How do you plan?

First, inventory all software applications running on your old servers, so you know what you have to move. For each one, contact the vendor. Find out what has to be upgraded and how to handle migration. Renew your support contracts and be prepared to spend extra for upgrades. Don’t forget to check out training. New versions will likely be more intuitive and more efficient, but your team will need help if the latest version of the software looks completely different from what they use today.

Your worst case situation will be if you have old, custom software, or anything that cannot be upgraded to a new version. If you run into this, consider switching to a new software application that does the same function. It is terribly risky and expensive to keep running on old unsupported software versions, especially when it’s critical to business operations.

Next, check your hardware. If your server is more than four years old, you should upgrade to improve performance and reliability. In most cases it makes sense to virtualize your servers. This means that you use a tool like VMWare or Hyper-V that allows you to install multiple “virtual” servers on one physical server. It’s much like buying a building and having several tenants share the space and resources.

Finally, check your Microsoft software licenses. If you already have some newer servers, it’s possible you are already covered. In a virtual environment, there are a few exceptions but generally one Windows Server license can be used for two virtual servers. If not, you will need a Windows Server 2012 license. You will also need the appropriate number of CALs (client access licenses) which are dependent on the number of users or devices on your network. This is a one-time purchase that applies to the environment overall, so if you add more servers in the future you don’t need more CALs. You only add CALs when you add users or devices. If you are running Microsoft SQL Server, you’ll need to upgrade that as well.

At this point you know what you are migrating, but you still need to create a step-by-step plan. You can set up the new server in advance, but any software migrations will need to be carefully coordinated. Bring in the expertise you need to ensure a smooth transition; otherwise you could experience significant disruption to your business.

If You Move to the Cloud

If you are able to migrate your software to cloud applications, enlist your vendor early on to create a migration plan. The cloud version of your software may have different features that need to be configured, and your team may need training. There will be a data conversion step, where they take your data from the current system and move it into the online version. You’ll normally do this first in a test environment, to make sure it all works. Then you’ll pick a date for the actual migration. This could take an hour or a few days – it just depends on the complexity of your software.

Final Steps

Whether you upgrade or move to the cloud, there’s one last step: retiring your old servers. Turn them off, but keep them around for just a few months. Better safe than sorry – you may find something you missed. After that, have the data on the hard drives destroyed and turn them in for recycling. And enjoy your new applications and the efficiency they bring!