The Ins And Outs Of An MSA

MSA-1

Change is hard.

Ask any business owner and they’ll tell you that the slightest change can cause ripple effects throughout an organization if not properly administered. Changing the way you manage and maintain your IT is no different, which is why it’s important to understand the details of your new relationship with a managed service provider.

MSP’s, like Five Nines, offer a varying degree of ways they deliver services to their clients. Because of this, understanding the agreements in place will ensure there are no surprises as the relationship progresses. Here are a few different things to keep in mind when reviewing a managed service agreement.

 

Service Model

Generally, there is a flat monthly fee you will pay all managed service providers. The recurring amount you pay covers a differing amount of service delivery models.

  1. Time & Materials (T&M): these agreements are generally a smaller (think retainer) monthly fee, with additional charges for support that isn’t considered regular maintenance or monitoring. You can expect an invoice, in addition to the monthly fee, at the end of the month for the amount of time that was spent supporting your environment.
  2. Select: in a select agreement, your monthly payment covers a specified amount of time allocated per month to your business. Any time that goes into supporting your network that goes over your allotted time will be charged at an hourly rate.
  3. All-You-Can-Eat: this monthly fee is determined either by the amount of employees at your business (Five Nines' model) or amount of devices that are being supported, and covers all support (both onsite and remote) with no additional fees.

What hardware do you own?

A common trend throughout the managed service industry is offering hardware-as-a-service (HaaS), which means MSP's will place hardware within the environment that offers an added benefit of security and manageability. They’ll do this charging a monthly fee for those services, which reduces the amount of capital needed up front to switch providers.

Always keep in mind what hardware is yours and what is your MSP’s. This is helpful if you ever decide to switch providers, knowing you’ll have to replace or buy that product from the provider.

 

Additional Monthly Services

Along with with the monthly support fee, there are some fairly common additional charges that will be on your managed service agreement:

  • Backups: backups are the most critical aspect of your environment and must be properly maintained in case of a data breach. Oftentimes, there is a separate charge for backup software and offsite storage costs, which are always worth the peace of mind to ensure 100% backups.
  • Additional Software: most MSP's are going to offer some variation of software that adds additional security benefits, such as antivirus and anti-spam tools. Five Nines includes both of those in their monthly support amount, but a tool like encrypted email is a service that you will be charged for.

These different pieces are generally what make up managed service agreements, but it’s always important to carefully review all charges on a proposal or invoice. Having a clear understanding of what you’re paying for will give you the peace of mind that your network has the proper tools to stay up efficient and secure.

 What does it look like when IT becomes an asset? Click below for the free Five Nines Power Hour "IT As An Asset", as we dive into IT responsibilities, service requests and security, as well as technology standards, budgeting, and IT training and knowledge.

Click Here For The Free Webinar

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Scott Pulverenti2 - Copy

Scott Pulverenti

Account Executive 

As an Account Executive, Scott is responsible for building relationships, solving problems, and extending the Five Nines brand into new markets.

Facts About Me

- I've recently become an avid runner. My goal is to run a full marathon!

- I'm a huge baseball fan - Go Royals!

- If I'm ever feeling down, you can usually find me chowing down on some grilled hot wings from the Watering Hole.

- In my free time I really enjoy cooking! I like my eggs over-easy, peppered, and with Louisiana hot sauce.

- I'm a bit of a history nut and have been spending a lot of my time recently reading about the American Revolution. 

Topics: Outsourced IT, IT, Five Nines, Managed IT Services

Unplug Over The Holidays: Leave "IT" To A Managed Services Provider

Unplugging Blog-2

There are only a few times throughout the year when it is encouraged to unplug from work. Where you should spend time with family, eat too much food, and unplug from your phone and email. I think you know where we are going with this… it's almost officially the holiday season.

How unplugged will you really be over the holidays, if you are constantly worried about your business technology? The truth is, you can never really unplug from the chaos if your IT infrastructure is not fully supported.

We encourage you to unplug over the holidays, and leave your IT in the hands of a capable Managed IT Services team. What services should you be able to count on this holiday season?

24/7/365

Your technology is not an 8am-5pm job and it never will be. It requires 24 hour monitoring, every single day of the year so that your organization can not only stay protected, but competitive and efficient as well. On-call engineers are also a great resource as they help to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity within your IT environment. If something were to go awry, they are there to respond. According to Ponemon Institute, only a third of organizations believe they have adequate resources to manage security effectively. That statistic is enough to keep a decision maker awake at night. Knowing that an IT team is monitoring your business technology for you will help you and your coworkers to really unplug over a holiday.

CONTROLLED IT COSTS

Your IT team should provide you with 1 - 3 - 5 year budgets so that your organization isn't faced with unexpected costs as you are budgeting for the next year throughout the holiday season. Technology is not going to slow down in the professional world, so it's best to have your IT spending for the next year determined ahead of time before the new year creeps up on you. According to a study conducted by Spiceworks, 89% of companies expect their IT budgets to grow or stay the same over the next 12 months. IT spending is becoming a strategic move by most businesses, and investing in the right technology is something that you must plan ahead for. Long-term budgeting and planning will give you peace of mind towards the end of the year as the direction of your IT environment is more controlled and defined.

Want to learn more about how to make your technology a strategic business asset? Sit back, grab some popcorn, and click below to download the FREE Five Nines webinar, "IT As An Asset".

Click Here To Access The Free Webinar

FOCUS ON YOUR CORE BUSINESS

Time is limited, you don't want to take the extra time to worry about your IT efforts, especially as the end of the year approaches. Leaving it up to the pros has become the common trend when it comes to specialized departments as a study showed in 2017, 57% of organizations increased their use of outsourcing. There was a huge increase because organizations wanted to stay focused on their core business. This can be extremely beneficial when you have an IT team worrying about your business technology for you. No more working late nights or long hours trying to squeeze in time to prioritize the direction of your IT, it will all be handled for you, and you can have a more stress-free holiday season.

The end of the year approaches quickly, as does the craziness of the holiday season. Rather than juggling a million things at once, leave your IT to the professionals and really unplug during your time away from the office. Focus on the things that matter most before the new year.

Are you ready to unplug over the holiday season? Click below to schedule a free technical walk-through, no strings attached!

Click Here For A Free Technical Walk-Through

Topics: Outsourced IT, Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, Strategic Planning

How To Sell Managed IT Services To Your Decision Makers

How To Sell Blog  

A Guide to Help Small-to-Medium-Sized Businesses Start The Conversation About Their IT Needs

We understand - having the responsibility for the management of your business technology is a large task. You are likely interested in this blog because you have been tasked with streamlining the technology that runs your business, or you have been struggling with troubleshooting your business technology on a consistent basis. 

We'd like to take some of the stress off your hands by providing you with the tools you need to learn more about positioning the need for Managed IT Services within your business, and how to communicate what you have researched to your decision makers from talking points to a presentation template. The best part is, it's all in one place. 

Take advantage of this FREE resource, and start educating yourself on how to best sell Managed IT Services to your decision makers. 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE

 

 

 

 

Topics: Outsourced IT, IT, Five Nines, Business Continuity

Don't Be The Next Big Catch: Register For Your .Bank Domain

 BANK

.BANK is not just another way to change up your domain name, it's a proactive and protective measure put in place to give you peace of mind that your customers are protected. Phishing in the financial industry is all too common, as it is the #1 cyberattack and starting point of most breaches. This reason alone is why .BANK domains are so important to implement.

If you'd like to skip straight to a downloadable flier that further explains how .BANK protects your customers, click here.

Not convinced yet or want more information? Here's why you should register for a .BANK domain:

VERIFICATION

Having a .BANK domain provides extra verification for your organization, as only verified members of the global banking community are approved for these domain names. These domain names make it easy for your customers to distinguish authentic emails or communications from your financial organization in comparison to a phishing attempt.

According to Kaspersky Lab, in 2017 the share of financial phishing increased from 47% to 54% of all phishing detections, which is a record-breaking high for financial phishing. You want your customers to confidently recognize and communicate with your organization, and without a .BANK domain nothing is promised. Anyone can register for a generic domain such as .COM or .NET, but only legitimate financial organizations can register for a .BANK domain name.

Related: What is Phishing?

EXTRA SECURITY MEASURES

Kaspersky Lab also found that more than every 4th attempt to load a phishing page was related to banking phishing. Financial organizations are the "big catches" when it comes to phishing, which is why extra security measures must be taken. These special domains include those extra security measures, from further authentication, to an increased level of encryption, to abuse monitoring and compliance enforcement so that only verified financial organizations can utilize .BANK domains.

Further authentication is just another road block in recognizing and stopping malicious attempts to steal personal information. If your customers see something linked to a .BANK domain, they know they can trust it. An increased level of encryption will help to drastically decrease the chance that customers are redirected to sites disguised as your own that could steal their account information. .BANK domains also come with compliance and requirements to maintain a strong level of security, so financial institutions must allocate a point of contact from their organization to help continue to verify their organization.

Related: Fight Cybercrime With User Awareness Training

.BANK domains play a huge role in preventing cybercrime in the financial industry. Phishing attempts are becoming more and more common, and financial institutions are the big catches. With the security, verification processes, and requirements of obtaining a .BANK domain, you can ensure your customers that anything from your domain name can be trusted and that their data is safe with you.

 

For more information on how .BANK protects your customers through verification, domain name integrity/domain name system security extensions, and strong encryption, click below.

Click here: Protecting Your Customers With .Bank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: Security, Outsourced IT, Phishing, Cybersecurity, Financial

The Many Hats Of Your Internal IT Employee

 

Internal IT Blog

Have you ever heard anyone go up to an IT engineer and say "Hey, just checking in to let you know that everything is running smoothly!"? Probably not. In the IT industry, there are always tech problems that need to be fixed, and once one problem is fixed there is always another.

Put yourself in the shoes of your internal IT employee for example. You are energized and excited about bringing someone in to manage your technology, and they are excited to implement and control an entire IT environment. They will clean up your network and put together new technical processes. Once that's done, they will begin addressing any IT issues that your employees are having as needed until the concerns of running an entire IT environment alone creeps up on them.

"I feel like I'm becoming an internal support desk." The "as needed" issues will escalate as your employees feel more comfortable running to IT with issues they are having. When outsourcing your IT, calling in about any and all IT issues is normal, but for an internal IT individual, they may have other IT projects to work on throughout the day. They become the go-to for everything, and eventually you'll realize you're spending $50k or above on an individual who is being asked to replace keyboards and put band-aids on larger tech problems that would be completely fixed if they weren't distracted with random issues throughout the day. Without a proper ticketing system, which usually isn't implemented for one or two internal IT engineers, things can become lost in the shuffle of emails. The IT professionals are either going to get bored with solving basic tech issues because they are more advanced engineers, or they will quickly become burnt out from having either too much or not enough to do.

"If I go on vacation, who is going to cover for me?" You invest in your technology, which means the expectation that your IT environment should be monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is not unrealistic. It is unrealistic, however, to expect that one individual can constantly monitor an entire technical system all on their own. Not only does this lead to an unhealthy work/life balance for the employee, it leads to mistakes as the employee is trying to do it all at once. Working on an IT environment alone could mean that no one is there to double check anything or pick up the slack. This could also lead to an eventual resignation because the employee won't feel as though their time is being valued, which will leave your IT environment in a state of limbo. If the internal engineer would have been backed by a team of experts, the constant monitoring wouldn't seem like such a large request.

"I don't have time for extra training or certifications." Naturally, any business wants to continue growing and developing its' employees through extra training or certifications. Frankly, that is probably the last thing an internal IT engineer has time for. It's not that they don't want to do it, but with IT requests and projects stacking up, that will become the last thing on their to-do list. That isn't good for business growth or individual growth, which is why having a team that can fill in for each other when someone wants to take time to complete a certification is highly recommended.

"I feel like I'm on the accounting team." Because business technology is viewed as a "cost center" of most organizations, an internal IT engineer must also collaborate constantly with an accounting department to ensure that money being spent is budgeted and accounted for. The engineer must be able to provide proof as to why certain technical pieces must be purchased, as well as keep everything documented and organized on their end. Even if they find time at the day to work on a certification, it's likely they won't be able to because they will need to stay on top of their expenses.

As you can see, your internal IT employee must wear many different hats to balance your IT environment accordingly.

Extensive research has shown that if you compare all of the costs associated with hiring and managing an internal IT engineer vs. a managed IT services organization it's incomparable. The bottom line is, you will gain more for an equal amount of money or less when outsourcing your IT needs. Not to mention, no one involved will have to worry about being affected by any of the statements listed above.

No one ever lets the IT engineer know when their job has paid off, when everything is working, and when nothing else needs to be done. It's time to let business owners focus on their business practices, while letting a fully equipped outsourced IT team handle the rest.

 

You deserve peace of mind.

 

For more information about the specific cost breakdown of Internal vs. Outsourced IT, click below.

Click here: Outsourced vs. Internal IT

 

 

 

Topics: Outsourced IT, Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, Customer Service

3 Signs It's Time Your Company Gets An IT Assessment

 it assessment blog

An IT environment without a clear direction can easily get lost in the constant twists and turns of tech traffic that is constantly evolving and adapting. When it comes to business technology, feeling lost and behind can quickly turn into a loss of productivity, something many businesses can't afford to lose. Avoid getting lost on the tech map and be sure to watch for the warning signs that will tell you when it's time your organization gets an IT assessment.

Here's what to look for:

 

LACK OF EFFICIENCY

Does it sometimes feel as though your IT issues are running your business more than anything else? When IT issues run your business, you may notice that your processes begin to lack, leading to inefficiencies when trying to complete a task or a project. Often, these inefficiencies derive from your organization's IT structure not being well rounded enough to efficiently support all of the technical aspects needed to run a business. Not only does this impact efficiency, but security as well. If you are having any rising doubt about your organization's IT security, it might be time to take a deeper look at it. According to Cybint Solutions, 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses first.

Technology efficiency can be achieved if it is conducted the right way. Make sure your IT efficiency is up to par with the speed of your organization.

 

BUDGETING PROBLEMS

Are your payments constantly going over the projected IT budget for the quarter, or even the year? Not sure when to invest in what types of technology to continue to progress your IT infrastructure? As unforeseen IT issues arise, money is spent in areas that weren't previously budgeted for. A lot of times, these issues come about because of a lack of preparation and resources. When organizations have to spend extra money to solve tech issues, other IT questions, updates, and unfinished projects get put on the back burner because there is no room in the remaining IT budget to fix, update, or replace them.

IT budgeting should only be one piece of your technical wheel, and it shouldn't be something that holds your organization back from improving an IT infrastructure. According to Customer Think, 59% of businesses end up hiring a managed IT services organization because it's a cost cutting tool. If you feel as though you don't know where a majority of your IT budget is going, it may be time to consider assessing your IT environment.

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Can you think of a time where a technical support question simply went unanswered? If you and your team must resort to simply "dealing" with a tech problem because you've found that requesting support is too frustrating, the level of your IT support may need to be reevaluated. Your IT infrastructure must have the ability to operate the technology needed to power your organization. There should be enough knowledge and resources available dedicated to providing staff support, consistently analyzing the success of the environment, and implementing IT projects when necessary. The value of your IT shouldn't be a question.

Don't get lost in the twists and turns of the everchanging tech world. Become a presence on the tech map, and make sure your technology supports your organization in the most efficient way possible.

 

Did one or more of these sections cause you to think twice? Take our free IT assessment quiz to test the strength of your organization's IT environment. Want to skip straight to the proactive approach? Click below to schedule a free IT assessment with the Five Nines team, no strings attached.

Click To Take The IT Quiz

Click To Request A Free IT Assessment

Topics: Outsourced IT, Tech Solutions, Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, Customer Service

7 Questions To Ask When Auditing Your IT Department

Auditing Your IT Department

Business growth does not happen overnight, nor does it happen without addressing what is working well and what isn't working well within an organization. The same goes for the technology that drives your business. The reality is, your technology should consistently give your organization opportunities to be more efficient and successful. In order to improve how your technology operates within your business, you must conduct an audit to ensure your documentation, processes, and overall technical strategy is aligned with your current business needs.

Here are 7 questions you should be asking when auditing your IT department or Managed Services Provider.

Does the IT environment comply with technological standards?

In order to maintain a healthy IT environment, technology standards must be completely defined and implemented throughout your organization with full executive support. If there is no immediate drive towards standardization, it may be time to begin developing standards that can drive your IT department towards standardization.

How are IT developments documented?

To increase forward movement when it comes to technology, everything must be documented and accounted for. Are all service requests documented in a database? Are service delivery key performance indicators (KPI's) being reviewed on a consistent basis? It's also important to ensure that all IT projects or technology change requests are being documented and are aligning with strategic growth.

How does the IT department manage and monitor the entire technical environment?

Investing in the right tools to increase integration and performance levels throughout your technology is best managed by consistently monitoring the technical environment. How is performance being reported? Is automation a factor within your technical environment? If basic documentation is being collected on an inconsistent basis, a step in the right direction would be to consult with your department to begin investing in the right technology that can add to an integrated technical tool-set.

How does the IT department maintain momentum and continuously improve operating processes?

Formal documentation will help with building momentum within your IT department. Documentation helps show what is working well and what processes need to be improved. All existing processes should be documented, and compliance to process creation and documentation must be high. If your documentation is lacking, start with a basic documentation of processes, and work towards consistently updating and developing IT documentation efforts.

How does the IT department comply with security standards?

A focus on complying with IT security standards should be a high priority. Similar to the documentation question above, when all IT policies and procedures are documented, they must exactly reflect the documentation, and must be measured and reviewed on a consistent basis to ensure that security standards are being complied with. If there is no drive towards IT security compliance, we recommend developing a formal IT security policy to start.

How is the IT budgeting process being prepared and communicated to the rest of the business?

Does your IT department have a formal IT budget based off of your technological roadmap? Creating an annual budget for all IT hardware, software, and operation expenses that can be budgeted for in advance will help your organization efficiently strategize when it comes to technology.

How does the IT department add value to the organization's overall business strategy?

When it comes to executive-level forward planning, does your IT department have full participation in strategic efforts? Is there a technological road map that is aligned with an overall business plan on a quarterly basis? It's important to maintain a focus on forward planning within your IT department to avoid the day-to-day firefighting that derives from having no formal plan or budget in place. Technology is such a strong piece of any business, therefore it should continuously add value to the strategic pieces of the organization.

 

If any of these questions resonated with you, it's time to take a deeper look at each question and the IT efforts of your organization. Click below to schedule a free IT consultation with Five Nines, or to take a quick IT assessment quiz. 

Click To Take The IT QuizClick To Request A Free IT Assessment

Topics: Outsourced IT, IT, Managed IT Services, Business Continuity

Case Study: Supporting A Rural Nebraska Hospital

Healthcare Case Study Reformatted

Five Nines is partnered with a 22-bed critical access hospital in rural Nebraska that supports up to 125 employees working between a hospital, clinic, and remote clinic. The entire business is operated on computers, and the organization relies on these computers to provide high-quality patient care. 

THE CHALLENGE

1. Before Five Nines there was a lack of efficiency and support from a previous IT provider.
2. Their team was unable to find talented IT engineers in rural Nebraska.
3. The hospital needed assistance with high-level server, storage, and networking needs.

THE RESULTS

Five Nines proposed a partnership to be an escalation point for this organization. This 2.5 year partnership has become a story worth telling, as the solutions provided helped with the management of their IT environment, as well as increased engagement and a stronger work/life balance for employees of the hospital.                                                                                                                                            

Who are we talking about, and why is it important? Click below to learn more about this case, and discover how Five Nines has been able to provide 24-hour support, improve the IT infrastructure of the hospital, and find the right solutions for unforeseen issues that arise for over 2 years.

Click Here To Read The Case Study

 

Topics: Outsourced IT, Managed IT Services, Healthcare, Case Studies

Five Nines Named One of 2018 Tech Elite Solution Providers by CRN

Tech Elite Graphic ReformattedThe entire Five Nines team is excited to announce Five Nines’ consecutive placement on CRN’s 2018 Tech Elite 250 list. This annual list honors elite North American IT organizations who have distinguished themselves in the technology industry by obtaining high-levels of technical certifications scaled to their company size. Five Nines is honored to be recognized as an IT solution provider with deep technical expertise that acquires a high number of certifications.

“Investing in the training and development of our staff is a top priority at Five Nines so our team is equipped with the cutting-edge knowledge needed to support our clients,” said Marshall Ford, Training and Development Manager at Five Nines. “It is an honor to see our focus on development pay off through consecutive placements on this list, and it would not have been possible without the dedication of our entire team.”

Founded on an intense desire to solve problems and build long-term relationships with clients, Five Nines leverages technology to drive business success. With offices in Lincoln, Omaha & Kearney, Five Nines advises the best IT solutions for Nebraska based businesses, offering Managed IT Services. Through its unique service model, Five Nines’ clients experience reduced costs, accelerated growth, and increased productivity. Learn more at: www.gonines.com

Coverage of the Tech Elite 250 will be featured in the April issue of CRN, and online at www.crn.com/techelite250.

To learn more about the service model that sets Five Nines apart, click below.

What's the Five Nines Difference?

Topics: Outsourced IT, Five Nines, Managed IT Services

Be Prepared To Fight Cybercrime With User Training

Cyber Crime Blog Reformatted

In the tech industry today, even the most reliable tools can be used against you. Five Nines has recently discovered phishing attempts that are in the form of an Office 365 verification email. Wouldn’t you be enticed to click on the links in this email?

Phishing Example.png

Unfortunately, just because it is Office 365, and just because many Office 365 tools are hosted online, does not mean it is any safer. When it comes to cybercrime, you must have a healthy paranoia about everything. Anything is open game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

A lot of these phishing attempts happen through email, mobile messages, or unprotected webpages. Here are a few quick tips we recommend:

  • Double check the sender’s email address, is it from a suspicious domain? Are there any tiny grammatical errors? (EX. micorsoft-support.com)
  • Why is the sender asking you to click on a link? Is it to avoid negative consequence or to gain something of value? Think twice about whether it’s a link you should be clicking on.
  • Did you receive the email at an unusual time that is not during business hours?
  • Are there misspellings in hyperlinks?
  • Does the attachment in the email relate to the content of the message?

Download The Social Engineering Red Flags FlierWe have put together a complete flier full of even more red flags to look for when it comes to phishing attempts. Download the flier, read it over, and share it with your team. P.S. it’s free.

Keep in mind, phishing attempts may be in the form of reputable organizations and programs, such as Microsoft and their Office 365 software. For consistent FBI updates on current cybercrime schemes, click here. 

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

There are a couple of important components that must be put into place to keep your organization protected from clever cybercrime tactics. First, the antivirus you use is very crucial in protecting your business. Five Nines utilizes Cylance, if you don’t know a lot about this antivirus Five Nines just hosted a Cylance webinar, download it here.

Cylance Power Hour

Antivirus aside, one of the more impactful solutions to prepare for potential cybercrime attempts like the one above is user training and awareness implementation. Five Nines believes giving users the confidence to navigate their devices with the knowledge to identify real threats plays a huge role in fighting against cybercrime. It only takes one wrong click to cause a breach in your IT environment.

Situational training is very helpful, as it provides real scenarios of actual phishing attempts and puts your employees to the test to see if they can identify these attempts themselves. Giving your teams the right tools they need to not only be efficient and productive, but also aware and alert will give your IT environment a significant advantage.

If you’d like to see examples of how Five Nines implements user training, click here for our free Gone Phishing webinar recording.

AN ONGOING PHENOMENON

Cyber crime and phishing attempts will not be going away anytime soon, in fact this phenomenon is predicted to get worse each year. It’s a threat everyone needs to be aware of and prepared for.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime is currently the greatest threat to every company in the world. By 2021, cybercrime is predicted to cost the world up to $6 trillion on an annual basis. These costs derive from destruction of data to productivity loss to the restoration of hacked data systems.

The statistics are scary and intimidating, but you don’t have to fight cybercrime alone. Avoid having someone on your team click on something like the email above by implementing user training within your organization.

Five Nines offers user awareness training to make sure all teams are prepared for the possibilities of phishing attacks and other cybercrime initiatives. If this is of interest to you, click the button below and we will start the conversation about how to train your team.

Cybercrime is growing, but so are protective measures. Take action and prioritize cybercrime prevention to avoid being part of the statistics.

Preparing Your Team With User Awareness Training

Topics: Outsourced IT, Managed IT Services, Phishing, Threat Landscape, Cybersecurity