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Independent Network Consultants: INConcepts

Telephone:  301 789-7975

  • Technology Problem or Business Problem?
  • Cool Tool for Virtual Teams
  • Looking to Cut IT Costs?
  • INC Offers Assistance with QuickBooks

  • Technology Problem or Business Problem?

    When your IT systems hiccup, is it like a small pebble dropping into the water, ripples barely noticed as your IT staff quickly, quietly and effectively repair the problems, or is it like a tsunami that overwhelms your work environment? If closer to the latter than the former, is the problem that there's something wrong with the technology of your network or with how your network is serviced? The first is a technology problem, the second is a business process problem.

    When dealing with IT issues, it's important to separate the problems that derive from having broken, bad, inappropriate, obsolete or poorly-configured hardware and software from problems that derive from bad business processes. Often, the technology itself is fine, but the processes for delivering services to end users is not.

    As an example, many organizations have some form of network-based help desk function set up to assist with IT issues. When there is a network communications failure, the question often arises, how will the IT staff communicate the problem to the affected users, and how can the affected users communicate back to the IT staff? The loss of network resources, by itself, has a significant negative effect on user productivity. But the failure to quickly and accurately communicate to the user community during the resource outage exacerbates productivity loss and frustration, often by an order of magnitude.

    As an example, when critical resources are lost, the first question that arises will be, for how long? This is urgent information. If the network will be down for a few minutes or so, folks can go out and get a cup of coffee. It becomes an extra work break. But if resources will be unavailable for several hours, then workers will know that they need to perform tasks that don't require the lost resources, or go somewhere where they can access replacement resources. The issue for the end user is technology, but foremost, it's communications, it's information, it's knowing the status of the resources of which the worker has need.

    The relevant question in circumstances like this isn't principally about what hardware and software the organization has in place, but in this case, how does the organization communicate internally to minimize the effects of the loss of critical resources. There is no "right" answer that works for every organization. No cookie-cutter solutions for this one.

    It's a business process question. You won't get the answer by asking a network engineer.

    If you do have problems like this, we've solved them for numerous clients.Give us a call.

    Cool Tool for Virtual Teams

    Try this one on for size: www.communiclique.com, or www.talkmeetshare.com.

    CommuniClique is a web-based app that permits users to virtually meet, talk, and share information. You just don't need to be there anymore. One problem for businesses with "going virtual" is that people are more productive when they can meet physically, as opposed to "meeting" via teleconference or through other virtual media. Many people have experienced the frustration of trying to exchange data, files, documents, trying to work together on documents collaboratively over the phone, or via teleconference. It takes more time, is more awkward, and is especially difficult when trying to drill down to the nitty gritty details. It just isn't as productive as being there in person.

    With CommuniClique, you can enjoy the productivity of meeting in person without incurring the expense of being there in person. It provides phone and video conference bridging, allows shared desktops, and permits the sharing of documents. CommuniClique dramatically simplifies setting up telephone and video conference calls. The app also records telephone and video conference calls. All this is available for one low price, for unlimited conferencing, data sharing, storage, etc.

    Looking to Cut IT Costs?

    Here are three cost-saving ideas and technologies for your organization’s computer networks and information technology:

    • Voice over IP (VoIP) Telephony. Voice over IP is having your corporate telephones communicate over your data network along with your PCs, laptops and servers. Significant savings can accrue by reducing the redundancy of your telecommunications infrastructure (cabling, switches and routers, telecommunications lines). But VoIP isn’t for every organization. How do you determine if it’s right for yours?;
    • Virtualization. The “virtual” in virtualization is in emulating entire computers – PCs or servers – within the operating system of a single computer. Savings accrue here through sometimes dramatic reduction of needed hardware. Virtualization is not an easy technology to adopt, but properly planned and executed, the payoff can be very great.;
    • Lifecycle Management. Computer hardware and software has predictable lifecycles. Managing computer hardware resources to optimize their lifecycle while avoiding unpredictable and unnecessary failures saves organizations direct costs in reducing necessary IT services and indirect costs in the form of unscheduled downtime.;

    Each of these technologies and management concepts can generate substantial IT savings for your organization. But each of these ideas requires careful planning and execution to realize savings, and to prevent technology disaster. Here are some of the issues involved with each of these cost-saving paths:

    Voice over IP. Cost savings was one of the original benefits of VoIP. At a bare minimum, VoIP requires half of the CAT5/6 cable investment. However, the greatest benefits can come from reduced telecommunications links, like T-1/PRI connections, as both voice and data systems can use a single link or set of links. Older PBX's and Key systems required their own T-1s to access the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Deploying VoIP, especially in new offices, leverages the data circuit (T-1 or better) to handle voice calls. Other cost benefits can come from using IP softphones (which can turn nearly any computing device into a phone) or VPN phones (the ability to have your office phone ring at your home or other remote location), as these extend communications to remote users.

    VoIP projects will often fail without excellent computer network design to accommodate both data and voice applications, a careful pre-installation analysis of the environment and needs of the organization, and particular attention to bringing the user community up to speed on the technology. Poor understanding of the VLANs in an environment, as well as less-than-optimally designed traffic prioritization can significantly degrade performance of both an organization’s phone system and IT system, once they go live.

    Virtualization. It's not just for the datacenter anymore. This technology has been used in large datacenters for years, permitting datacenters to quickly and inexpensively set up resources for clients. However, the technology has matured to the point that many organizations can implement it internally and derive the significant cost savings and flexibility associated with this technology.

    There are numerous applications for virtualization in the office to save money on physical server iron, or even desktop development. Domain Controllers, DNS/DHCP, print servers are the low-hanging fruit. Deploying front-end servers for Sharepoint, Blackberry Enterprise are other ways to cut down on physical servers. IT departments can test new operating systems like Windows 2008 or Windows 7 without dedicating a physical system. Companies can maintain older OSes like Windows 98, NT, 2000 for testing client-facing websites or applications. Mac users can install VMWare Fusion or Parallels to run a Windows VM inside of OS-X, as a simple way to take advantage Windows applications. Schools can deploy VMs for student use, and then replace the VM when it is damaged or virus-infected.

    Microsoft has upped the ante with Direct Access. This virtualization technology permits corporate Windows 7 users (assuming a Windows 2008 sever environment) to access their network resources without creating VPN connections. The greatest benefits are the ability to be connected to your organization as long as the Internet connection is fast enough.

    Not every application is a good candidate for virtualization. Some applications are NOT appropriate for virtualization. Distinguishing between applications that are virtualized well and those that are not is a critical task in developing an overall strategy.

    Even once various applications and functions have been sorted through, virtualization is not an easy thing to implement. If not planned well and executed precisely, it can lead to catastrophic loss of network resources and large amounts of unscheduled downtime.

    Lifecycle management. Optimizing the maintenance of your IT investment is critical task to reduce IT costs and maintain them at lower levels. Tracking hardware and software service contracts, maintenance agreements and replacing systems when they reach end-of-use helps keep an organization running smoothly. In many environments, a 3-year lifespan for a laptop or a desktop is appropriate, while servers, routers and switches can last for 4 - 7 years before being replaced with newer technology.

    This approach may seem counter-intuitive – replacing resources before the absolute end of their functional life. However, organizations that don’t practice lifecycle maintenance incur significantly higher direct costs from unplanned, unbudgeted emergency IT services to repair or fix or replace components at unscheduled times and inefficient use of maintenance resources. Organizations also incur high costs from unplanned downtime, and cannot reap the benefits, both in terms of initial outlays as well as total cost of ownership in standardized hardware and software purchasing.

    Critical to good lifecycle management are the tasks of determining the lifecycles that best suit the needs of your organization, developing a standardization plan that meets your requirements, selecting the proper tools to manage resources and implementing and maintaining the proper procedures for the lifecycle management of a particular organization.

    If you’re looking to save IT costs for your organization, Independent Network Consultants can assist you with these or other technologies and management methods to reduce your IT outlays while enhancing the reliability and performance of your network. Contact us at 301 789-7975 or e-mail at info@inei.com or fill out our Contact Form.

    INC Offers Assistance with QuickBooks

    Many of our clients at Independent Network Consultants use accounting software on their networks. One of the most widely used is QuickBooks. Over the years, we have accumulated significant expertise and knowledge of this application.

    We are expert in the design, implementation and operation of this software on computer networks. We can configure, implement, upgrade and maintain QuickBooks installations, as well as diagnose and resolve computer, network and software problems related to QuickBooks. We have network engineers with significant, long-time experience with the application, including engineers with MBAs or other business or management degrees.

    We also are expert in the use of QuickBooks. We have Certified QuickBook Pro Advisors with many years of experience who can optimize the use of QuickBooks as an accounting tool. We can assist your staff in learning how to best use this application and how to get the most from it.

    Because we are expert at both the computer operation of QuickBooks as well as the application as an accounting tool, we bring a unique set of skills to problem trouble-shooting and resolution. Our expertise with this software both as a network application and as an accounting tool permits us to more readily find the true cause of problems that occur, and then solve them.

    Let our Quick Books Certified Pro Advisors and computer network engineers setup or clean up QuickBooks correctly for you. Our initial consultation is at no cost to you.

    At Independent Network Consultants, we've been working with small- to medium-sized businesses since 1991.

    Call for a free consultation at 301 789-7975 or e-mail at info@inei.com.

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