Case Study: IT Support for School Districts

A School District’s Report Card

 

When a New Jersey school district started to face a growing deficit, auditors who examined the systemwide expenditures recognized that the time was ideal for a review and restructuring of its IT department.

The school district called in PCS for an assessment, and the project started with a small, initial step and a single technician. “The technician assigned to the project was a highly skilled person who demonstrated an exceptional work ethic and had the social skills to make it easy to work with,” recalls the PCS partner who directed the team.

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After a short trial period of three months, the school system expanded PCS’s project responsibilities, ultimately replacing eight staff members with four technicians.

People ask the inevitable question: How can 50 percent fewer technicians manage and excel compared with a workforce that was twice its size?

“PCS has an entrepreneurial spirit,” says the team leader. “We’re not on staff, which means we are more vulnerable for replacement, and that keeps us on our toes.”

The other qualities that helped PCS obtain and keep the contract were the depth of its team’s skill set and continuous training.

“As an independent IT service, we have a formal and informal screening process before we hire and send someone out to the client,” the team leader said. “Many companies that hire in-house refer to the new person as their ‘IT guru,’ and yet the individual is only average — or in some cases, below average — as an IT technician. But because that tech might know more than the person doing the hiring, the organization hires them. And it all seems good until the problems begin.”

PCS also understands because they’re not on staff, it is mandatory that their teams remain more responsive to trends and to constantly seek greater efficiency in an organization’s IT system. “Unless you’re always looking to improve, your work effort becomes stale,” said the team leader.

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Case Study: Non-Profit IT Support

Stabilizing the Merger of Statewide Non-Profits

 

A statewide non-profit came to PCS with IT problems related to growth and the merger with other like-minded organizations. The merging organizations had a similar goal: helping to stabilize people’s lives, getting them on their feet and then entering society as a “whole” person.

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But in those combined efforts, the IT collided in a mini-crash. How do you meld all the IT components into a unified IT system with a fully integrated network and internal IT support speaking the same language? In short, the mergers were more than growing pains. They had about 17 different units that need integration, and the organization grew from several hundred people to a staff of more than 1,400. And the inability to smoothly integrate all these components threatened a logistics nightmare.

On the surface, most of the units had an IT person available. But the scale of the integration was beyond their skill set. “An IT person who manages a basic network might be fine for everyday problems that arise, but this merger, both complicated and costly, required a team from PCS and a consulting engineer to pull it off,” said one PCS staffer who worked on the project. “It was the proverbial pieces of the puzzle that you had to put together, ensure they stayed together, and you had to do it with the clock running.”

The usual expected time for the integration of all the networks should have been several months. PCS completed it in a month.  It continues as an outside consultant to the non-profit when network-wide issues arise that need that “next level” of expertise. “We always help our clients but resolving issues, in this case, was even more satisfying because of the good these non-profits do on behalf of their clients,” said a PCS executive.

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Case Study: Manufacturer IT Solutions

An IT Meltdown — Literally

We often use the word “meltdown” to indicate a lack of control, but seldom do we witness it in real life, especially in the IT world. But a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of plastic components for the food industry had a “real life” meltdown when IT issues arose, culminating in the mountings to their storage system overheating, crashing their entire network. It was a critical problem that occurred at their corporate headquarters but affected several operating plants in different states.

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The meltdown resulted in a two-day loss of manufacturing for the plants before the company could restore their IT network.

“That was a huge loss of time, money, workers hours and delivery schedule because of the failure,” said Anthony Mongeluzo, PCS CEO and president. “They had a full-time administrator on staff, but the complexity of the problem, the replacement of physical infrastructure and the extra technicians that could have sped up the restoration process was lacking. It’s easy to say, ‘all hands on deck,’ but if no one has the specific skill set necessary, you need more than willingness before you can return to normal operations.”

After that painful episode, the manufacturing company brought in PCS to evaluate their IT environment. PCS implemented an initial upgrade and a complete overhaul of their infrastructure that would result in a large virtualization project.

The manufacturer was so pleased with the results that they called PCS in to help integrate their IT network with a newly acquired printing company.

“Acquisitions of companies that might be using a different platform for their IT can be devilishly difficult,” Mongeluzo said. “Some of the secret lies in the prep work before you go live, but you don’t want a team handling it that’s never done it before. There are dozens of ways to go wrong before you flip that final switch.”

The integration went off smoothly, and the manufacturer decided to add a full-time PCS technician stationed at the corporate offices.

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Case Study: Law Firm IT

A Frantic Phone Call … PCS to the Rescue

A True Story

 

It was a warm, late afternoon in May when the call came in after business hours. “Our entire computer system is down, our tech can’t fix it, and someone said you could handle the job,” said the shaky voice on the phone. “Can you fix it?”

Any time your IT system fails, it’s a major problem, whether you’re a company of one or a thousand. This was a major league problem. The caller was a partner at a national law firm with more than 500 lawyers, who recognized that their billings, impending deadlines and obligations were in jeopardy if they were not online the next morning.

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PCS immediately dispatched two of its best technicians to the law firm in Philadelphia, arriving in less than an hour. Back at PCS headquarters, two other technicians — working remotely — stood by, poised to help.

The infrastructure had a “heart attack” because their virtualized environment crashed, said a PCS technician on the rescue team. “We had to stabilize the system, create some desktop support and completely reconfigure their network,” he said.

One lawyer, who watched the PCS duo working on the system, walked over and said: “Do you have any idea how many billable hours we’re going to lose if you don’t get this up and running?” The technician responded with a shoulder shrug and said: “We’ll fix it.”

“It was a perfect storm, which no one anticipates until you’re in it,” said Anthony Mongeluzo, PCS’s CEO and president. “The law firm had gotten comfortable with the system, and they let a few IT people go. The only person on deck was a junior administrator, who lacked the expertise, experience and the crisis checklist to handle a true IT emergency. They turned to another outside IT vendor for help. The vendor knew the depth of the problem and the need for speed were beyond them. They recommended PCS.”

Before midnight, the PCS team was able to resurrect the network and IT system. Before the lawyers returned to their desks the next day, there was no trace of the problem, and they didn’t lose a billable minute. PCS provided new, detailed recommendations on how to prevent a repeat. Within a few months, the law firm turned over their entire IT function to PCS.

“It was a happy ending for the law firm,” said Mongeluzo. “When I got the call thanking me, I said, ‘It’s what we do.’”

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Tech Trends 2019

The future isn’t easy to predict, especially when it comes to tech. Technology is accelerating at an ever-faster pace and plays an integral role in our work and personal lives.

While predictions are not easy, they are interesting and useful. Being involved in the tech business, the team at PCS has insight into what might be next in tech. We’ve compiled our top four technology trends for 2019. These are the technologies that will make the biggest advancements and have the most significant impacts on our lives in 2019.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has been an important tech trend for the past few years, and we’ll continue to reach more milestones this year. AI will be the driving force behind many of the other technologies that make a significant impact in 2019.

AI refers to the ability of computers to think similarly to humans or use human reasoning to guide how they operate. Using AI, machines can take in information, analyze it and use it to improve how they function or to reach conclusions. AI powers applications such as speech recognition, machine vision, big data analysis and much more. It’s the technology that enables machines to learn how to play games like chess and Go well enough to beat professional human players.

An AI-powered robot has even been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. The robot is named Sophia, and she can:

  • Talk
  • Learn
  • Express emotions
  • Remember people she’s met

Since her creation, Sophia has traveled around the world on a publicity tour, and in 2019, she’ll star in her own reality show. The company that created Sophia, Hanson Robotics, has also launched a Kickstarter campaign for Little Sophia, a 14-inch tall robot designed to help kids learn about coding, AI and other tech topics.

How AI Will Evolve in 2019

In 2019, we’ll continue to see AI develop technologically, politically and culturally. More businesses, including those outside the tech industry, will also start to integrate AI into their operations. According to a recent survey conducted by PwC, 20 percent of organizations intend to roll out AI enterprise-wide in 2019. AI certainly won’t reach its peak in 2019, but more businesses will move from pilot programs to implementing AI into their daily activities on a broader scale.

According to Deloitte Analytics senior adviser Thomas H. Davenport, there are three stages companies will go through as they work toward fully implementing AI:

  1. The first stage he calls assisted intelligence. In this stage, companies make data-driven business decisions using big data, the cloud and science-based approaches to decision making. Most companies using AI are at this stage.
  2. In 2019, we’ll see companies moving to the next stage — augmented intelligence. In this phase, machine learning programs will use an existing data management system to support human analytical capabilities.
  3. Further into the future, we’ll enter the autonomous intelligence stage, in which computer systems can act upon the information they receive.

If you want to get started with AI or expand your use of AI in 2019, it’s important to formalize your approach so you can make the most of this technology. Bring together developers, IT professionals and business leaders to create an AI strategy and assign AI-related responsibilities. It can also be useful to focus on using AI for specific tasks rather than complete processes. You can use many AI algorithms for multiple similar tasks with some slight modifications. This enables you to quickly scale your solutions across your organization and get results faster.

Also, pay attention to regulations and standards related to big data and AI, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, which governs commercial use of customer data in the European Union. The evolving AI policy landscape will have an increasingly significant impact on businesses in 2019.

2. Smart Drones

Smart Drones
Drones are another technology we’ve been hearing about for some time that will really take off in 2019. This year, we’ll see smarter drones and increased use of drones in various industries.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), are small aircraft that operate without a human pilot on board and are typically controlled remotely. Drones were originally developed for military applications, but today they have many uses. They are often affixed with a still or video camera but can also carry a range of other sensors.

Consumers fly drones recreationally. Businesses use them in a slew of different ways:

  • News organizations take aerial photos and videos
  • Utility companies and government organizations conduct inspections of infrastructure
  • Scientists attach sensors to UAVs to collect research data
  • Farmers perform soil analysis and shoot pods filled with seeds and nutrients into their fields

The list of applications goes on and on.

One application we’ve heard about for some time is the use of drones to deliver items, such as fast food and small packages, to consumers. Amazon made its first Prime Air delivery in 2016, but drone delivery is not yet widely used. Amazon has been working on drone delivery for some time and says its Prime Air service will one day use drones to deliver packages weighing up to five pounds within 30 minutes.

How Smart Drones Will Evolve in 2019

While there are still some hurdles to overcome, we’re making progress toward drone delivery becoming a reality, and 2019 will be a big year for it. Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration approved 10 companies — not including Amazon — to be part of a pilot program to advance drone deliveries. This month, Airbus started a new trial project in which drones deliver packages to ships located offshore in ports. Using UAVs in this way is expected to make deliveries up to six times faster and reduce costs by as much as 90 percent.

One thing that is helping advance the UAV industry? The rise of autonomous drones. UAVs are increasingly able to operate with humans on the ground beneath them directly controlling them. This will enable operators to launch and fly drones from anywhere in the world, making the use of drones much more efficient and cost-effective.

Regulations are another important topic related to drones. We’ll continue to see the regulatory landscape regarding UAVs evolve in 2019. This year, we will likely see a new requirement from the FAA for the remote identification of drones, which will allow regulators to see which drones are in the air at any given time. This project will lay the groundwork for unmanned aircraft system traffic management, the long-term objective. This system will enable fleets of drones to operate autonomously on a large scale. If you plan on using UAVs for your business, it’s crucial you stay up-to-date on the regulations that apply in your area.

3. Virtual Doctors


Another one of the latest technology trends for 2019 is virtual health, also called telemedicine. This digital approach to health care has been expanding in recent years and will break into the mainstream in 2019. This year, we’ll start seeing newer innovations and greater acceptance of virtual health.

Virtual health refers to the use of information and telecommunication technologies to deliver health care services to patients at a distance. It may also refer to medical professionals using these technologies to confer with others in the health care field.

There are various technologies that doctors may use to treat patients remotely:

  • Synchronous Video Conferencing: One common approach is the use of synchronous video conferencing. This allows patients to video chat with their doctor using their computer, tablet or smartphone during a virtual appointment.
  • Asynchronous Video: Patients may also use asynchronous video to, for example, send a prerecorded health history to a doctor.
  • Remote Patient Monitoring: Another type of telehealth is remote patient monitoring. This refers to the use of smart devices that record medical data, such as blood pressure or heart rate information, and send it to a doctor. This might be a specialized device, but it could also be something like a smartwatch.
  • Mobile Health: Another approach is mobile health, which refers to the use of mobile devices such as smartphones to provide information or send health-related messages. Mobile health may involve the use of mobile applications, targeted texts or mass notifications about a disease outbreak or other health risk.

Telemedicine is most useful for minor, everyday health issues such as colds, the flu and bronchitis. Talking with a doctor over live video can save patients considerable amounts of time as compared to physically going to a doctor’s office. Patients can video chat with their regular doctors or with a doctor they only see virtually. Telemedicine can be especially valuable to people who live in remote places and don’t have quick access to a physical doctor’s office.

According to a recent study by the American Medical Association, around 15 percent of doctors work in a practice that uses virtual health technologies to interact with patients. About 11 percent work in practices that use telehealth to communicate with other medical professionals. The researchers also found that the use of telemedicine varies by specialty. Radiologists, psychiatrists and cardiologists use it the most to interact with patients, while allergists, immunologists, gastroenterologists and OB-GYNs use it the least.

How Virtual Doctors Will Evolve in 2019

This year, we’ll see the use of virtual health increase in part due to changes in reimbursement. In 2018, the CHRONIC Care Act and new billing codes were introduced and helped pave the way for increased adoption of telemedicine. Further changes in these areas will bring telehealth further into the mainstream in 2019.

Technological advancements will play a role as well. Virtual medicine innovators have already started using AI to improve diagnoses, recommend treatments and more. As these systems gather more data, they’ll become more valuable and play a more integral role in health care. 5G, the next generation of mobile communications technology, will also support the use of virtual health technologies.

4. Self-Driving Cars


We can expect some major announcements from self-driving car companies in 2019. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said that the company is on track to release a fully self-driving car before the year ends. Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Waymo plans to open an 85,000-square-foot facility in Mesa, Arizona, in the second half of this year, which will help it add to its existing fleet of around 600 self-driving vehicles. These are just two of many companies working on autonomous vehicle technology.

Even if these promises do come true, regulations might still require a human to be behind the wheel. That’s how Waymo currently operates its autonomous car ride-hailing service, and Musk offered this caveat to his promise.

What exactly do Musk and other leaders in the autonomous vehicle space mean when they talk about self-driving vehicles? A fully autonomous car would be one that would not require the driver to take any action to operate the vehicle safely. No such vehicles are currently available for purchase, but there are some partially autonomous cars available.

To better describe autonomous vehicles, researchers define five layers of autonomy.

  • Level One: The car may control individual systems one at a time. Examples include cruise control and automatic braking.
  • Level Two: The car can operate two automated functions at once, such as acceleration and steering. These vehicles still need a human driver for safe operation.
  • Level Three: Under some conditions, the car can operate all safety-critical functions, but the driver must be prepared to take over when alerted.
  • Level Four: The car operates completely autonomously in many driving scenarios but may still occasionally require a human driver to take over.
  • Level Five: The car can operate completely autonomously in every situation.

How Self-Driving Cars Will Evolve in 2019

We won’t see any level-five vehicles in 2019, but there’s a good chance we’ll see some level four cars on the road, at least as part of tests. Level-four vehicles may even be available to the public and may not require a safety operator.

Self-driving vehicles will be introduced in some areas before others. Currently, autonomous car companies operate their vehicles in areas where driving conditions are relatively favorable and predictable. Places with calm weather, simple traffic patterns and slower speed limits are likely to see the first self-driving vehicles.

Several companies are either operating or testing self-driving ride-hailing services in select cities around the country, including:

  • Waymo
  • Uber
  • General Motors

These three and more are at varying stages with these initiatives and may make some major announcements related to them this year.

There are still technical and legal hurdles to overcome before we get to level-five autonomous vehicles. Eventually, we’ll be able to work, hang out and even sleep as autonomous cars drive us around. The broad adoption of self-driving vehicles is expected to result in safer roadways, smoother traffic patterns and less need for infrastructure such as parking lots. While we’re not quite there yet, the automotive and tech industries are expected to make some noteworthy strides this year.

Contact PCS to Learn More About Information Technology in 2019 and the Future


At PCS, we’re technology experts who keep up with the latest IT trends for 2019 and beyond, and we’re here to help you navigate the ever-changing world of tech. Our IT services can help you make the most of your technology while freeing you up to focus on your core business.

We’re dedicated to building relationships with our customers, providing outstanding customer service and making tech easy for the companies we work with. We offer managed, project-based and rapid-response IT services. To learn more, browse our website or contact us today.

Posted in IT

Beginner’s Guide to Using Office 365 for Business

Thanks to modern innovations like mobile devices and cloud computing, business colleagues can collaborate on project files across great distances. You could have a work team spread out across the country or overseas working on the same documents with input from various contributors being made around the clock. When everything is done on a cloud server, the document is safe from loss, damage or theft and is always available to authorized parties from any location with Internet access.

The most advanced set of services in this regard are in the Office 365 series by Microsoft.

What Is Office 365 for Business?

 

Office 365 is a subscription service that combines cloud storage, business-class email and the latest versions of Microsoft Office suite. The latest upgrades to Microsoft programs are integrated into each level of the Office 365 service, which synchronizes to each new generation of Windows. Updates usually occur every six months.

1. Security Features

Office 365 offers safety features that protect data on all fronts, including the following:

  • Encrypted email: This ensures that mail is only read by authorized personnel, namely senders and recipients.
  • Data loss prevention: This blocks the spread of sensitive personal info, such as social security numbers.
  • Mobile device management: A lot of people refrain from doing business on mobile phones out of fear that such activity could result in data leaks. With Office 365, lost or stolen mobile phones can be remotely wiped and locked out of the cloud so no one can gain unauthorized access to your company’s files.
  • Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA): Office 365 prevents viruses before they arrive with ATA, which scans email attachments for possible malware. If something potentially malignant is detected, the attachment is removed from the email. The recipient still receives the email, but with a message stating why the attachment has been removed. ATA is key to the prevention of viruses and data breaches.

These and other features keep companies safe from data loss, security leaks and viruses. However, not all of the programs above are available in all versions of Office 365. Take note of the security features most crucial for your company and make sure everyone on your staff has a version of 365 with the necessary features.

2. Administrative Features

B2B versions of Office 365 feature a management dashboard where a company administrator can manage user licenses, security elements and program features across a company network.

3. Azure Active Directory Admin Center

All business subscriptions of Office 365 include an Azure Active Directory account, which administrators can use to manage company teams and establish connections with third parties.

4. OneDrive for Business

All Office 365 accounts include one terabyte of OneDrive storage space, allowing users to store thousands upon thousands of documents and files. On Enterprise levels of Office 365, an administrator can bump users up to limitless storage if data exceeds one terabyte.

Which Office 365 Plan Is Right for Your Business?

Office 365 is available in B2B and personal-use versions. However, individuals who freelance for other companies often get the personal version and use it for private as well as business use. Office 365 fees accumulate on a per-user, per-month basis and can either be paid monthly or annually, though the latter option is generally the more economical in the long run. The three basic Office 365 Business tiers each support up to 300 users. So what does Office 365 Business include?

1. Office 365 Business Essentials

For small businesses and startups, the most practical choice is Office 365 Business Essentials, which costs only $5 per month for each user. With Business Essentials, you get access to various Windows business programs, including Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.

2. Office 365 Business

Office 365 Business is in some ways the next level up from Business Essentials, offering a host of Microsoft business applications not available with the other version of 365, such as Excel, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word. However, 365 Business does not include Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams. Unlike the other levels of 365, Business does not offer custom email domains or the 50GB mailbox. Office 365 Business is $8.25 a month and supports as many as 300 users.

3. Office 365 Business Premium

Office 365 Business Premium is the highest service level, offering all the programs and features of the two other levels, as well as Microsoft Bookings, Microsoft Connections, Microsoft Invoicing, Microsoft Listings, MileIQ and Outlook Customer Manager. Office 365 Business Premium is $12.50 per month for each user and is generally recommended for established businesses with large computing infrastructures. The expanded features of Business Premium are beyond the needs of most smaller companies.

For larger companies, four Enterprise plans offer advanced features for an unlimited number of users:

  1. Office 365 ProPlus is a $12 per month plan that features OneDrive for Business and the Microsoft desktop apps but excludes Exchange Online email.
  2. Office 365 Enterprise E1 includes online Office apps but excludes desktop versions. At $8 per month for each user, this plan is ideal for companies that wish to remain with certain Office versions yet also have cloud storage.
  3. Office 365 Enterprise E3 includes all of the online and desktop apps for $20 per user, per month. This level is popular with major organizations. From a legal standpoint, the advanced email security features of Enterprise E3 are good for companies that deal with sensitive data.
  4. Office 365 Enterprise E5 includes the highest level security and eDiscovery features at $35 per month for each user.

4. Mix and Match Plans

The different levels of Office 365 can be mixed among staff within the same company. If certain people on your team need fewer features than others, those people could use one of the more economical plans and still interact on documents with the rest of the team. Each person can upgrade or downgrade year-to-year, season-to-season, depending on current needs.

Setting up Office 365 for Your Business

The dashboard console requires considerable skill to manage, and some elements can only be controlled with PowerShell commands. Regardless of the size of your business, it is essential to have a qualified Office 365 administrator, either in-house or outsourced, who can handle the management and configuration tasks.

1. Keep up With Changing Features

Office 365 upgrades regularly. As such, users need to keep up with these changes. For some people, this can be confusing if they do not pay attention to these changes. While these upgrades rarely alter the functionality of programs in any major sort of way, they sometimes do, and you could be caught off guard if you are not prepared for a scheduled upgrade and return to find a radically overhauled program.

2. Note Which Features You Actually Use

Not everyone uses Office 365 to its full capacity. Most users only use about a fifth of the overall features offered at a given level. While this is generally a benign issue, it might be useful to do an annual inventory of what you do and do not use on Office 365. Depending on the size and scope of your business, you might find that all the features you do use are also available at a more economical level. Alternately, you might discover that certain people on your team do not need some of the more complex features used by other colleagues and could, therefore, save money by switching to a lower level.

3. Store Local Copies of Current Projects

With Office 365, files are accessed online and edited remotely from wherever you happen to be connected to the Internet. Consequently, you will not be able to access your files when your connection is down unless you have local copies of the files. Therefore, you will need to have a consistent, reliable Internet connection to make Office 365 work for you regularly.

Benefits of Using Office 365

Cloud computing is one of the best ways for businesses to work on projects and collaborate because of the safety and convenience that remote, secure services offer to all organizations, large and small. With cloud computing, all files are backed up, and system updates are always made on the server’s end. The benefits of Office 365 can be broken down as follows:

 

1. Backed-up Files

With data storage, local backup is never truly safe. Even if you back your data up on multiple redundancy drives, it could still be lost if a fire or flood swept through your place of operation. The only way to guarantee the safety of your data is with a cloud service like Office 365. Users can access their data from anywhere, even if a local emergency has turned your headquarters to rubble.

2. Secure Data

In the past, businesses were wary of cloud storage due to fears of hacking. Those problems are a complete non-issue with Office 365, which keeps data protected from hackers and leaks. With Office 365, only you and other authorized personnel can view your company’s data.

3. Accessible From Any Location at Any Hour

Office 365 makes it possible to access your files virtually from any location, be it the office, home or any other setting. On days when you are snowed in and cannot commute to the office, you could log in to your account and access your files from the comfort of your living room. If you are out of town or on a business trip, you could access your files from a café or hotel room on a smartphone or laptop.

4. Coordination and Organization

Whenever you need to contact work colleagues, it can be difficult to coordinate different means of contact unless you have a program that will synchronize each method of communication. On Office 365, each new contact on your mobile phone will be updated to your other devices and vice versa.

5. Manageable Monthly Costs

For smaller businesses, one of the most crippling aspects of overhead is the inflexible, high-rate contracts that services often impose on their customers. With Office 365, you can scale up or scale down according to your current needs. There is no lock-in contract with Office 365, which lets you pay for the amount of service that you need during any given month. If you are just starting up, you could choose a plan that would best suit a small number of contacts, then add more as your business grows. Depending on seasonal business trends, you could scale back or increase contacts for select periods of time.

6. Near-Limitless Mail Storage

One of the more troubling aspects of virtual space management is the amount of room that email can take up on your company server. If you are like most people, you might not even know that your inbox is full until you receive a popup message stating that it is time to clean out your inbox. You can forget about these popups with Office 365 because it provides 50GB of email storage, an amount you are unlikely to ever fill to capacity.

7. Licensing Made Easy

When you run a company with multiple colleagues, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page in terms of licensing, particularly when up to three different versions of Windows are being used among staff. With Office 365, these issues are put to rest because the service accepts all licensing and can, therefore, be implemented across your company.

8. Efficient Collaboration

When companies engage in collaborative work on the same documents, updates can be confusing and cumbersome if colleagues are making contributions from different locations throughout the day. For example, if you send a document as an attachment to a team of 10 co-workers, you could have a case where 10 modified documents must then be edited into one. With Office 365, all such confusion is eliminated because each document is updated live, in real-time, with each authorized modification. If you need to revert to an older version of the document, you can because each version is saved.

9. Regular Updates and Synchronization

Computer upgrades are often difficult for companies, especially when the machines involved have different capacities, some of which might not be compatible with the latest Windows. With Office 365, the upgrade issues that often plague computer departments are removed from the equation because the latest Windows versions are automatically installed at the server’s end. Regardless of what device you or one of your co-workers uses to access the cloud, the Windows version will be up-to-date.

Contact PCS for Office 365 Set up and Support

Whether you run a small upstart business or a large company, cloud computing could transform the w   ay that your staff collaborates on assignments and completes team projects. With Office 365, your company’s files will always be backed up and accessible among licensed users from any location. To get the most out of Office 365, you should always have IT services, consulting and support at your disposal. Contact PCS for Office 365 set up and support.

How Do Virtual Desktops for Businesses Work?

Getting every project done on time during work hours isn’t always easy for the average employee. The longer you work tediously in the same sitting, the easier it is to find yourself wasting time and getting distracted.

Years ago, there were some options available to access a work computer outside of the office, but those methods usually included a clunky, work-issued laptop or slow, buggy system that proved unreliable.

Although the technology rolled out long ago, it was not until recently the systems have become reliable enough to trust integrating them into your company’s network. Now, an overwhelming number of businesses use virtual desktops as their preferred means of using company technology. While we are light years ahead of what we have been, there are still VDI advantages and disadvantages.

It is essential to have a knowledgeable IT staff or work with a company who are experts in the industry when setting up and maintaining a VDI server because should anything go wrong or be compromised, there can be more widespread outages. There are select service providers that eliminate potential issues caused by lack of experience with the technology by both hosting and managing the network themselves.

What Is a Virtual Desktop?

 

If you’re unfamiliar with virtual desktops, you might wonder how a virtual desktop works. For the user, it’s essentially the same as any other desktop.

A virtual desktop allows employees access to their work computers remotely. The operating system and personal data are stored on a network which can be located anywhere using unique log-in credentials, instead of locally on the PC itself or other computing devices. A desktop or laptop is standard, but if you are looking for the added convenience of browsing your work desktop with a tablet, smartphone, or another device that can connect to the Internet, that is a possibility as well.

The beauty of this technology is that there are multiple ways to set up a virtual desktop. A standard computer is best run through a Desktops as a Service (DaaS) to host the online server. More portable hardware such as an iOS, Android, or Chromebook can benefit from cloud-based virtual desktops. Using many different operating systems such as Windows, Linus, iOS, and Android can optimize a workstation for a complicated task.

Each system provides different advantages and purpose, but changing between many different operating systems requires jumping through some hoops. Doing so lowers productivity by having to cross these barriers each time an employee wants to switch devices to perform a specific task. With a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), simply choose your favorite device and get down to business.

The virtual desktop behaves just as a traditional desktop would. Your programs, history and personalization settings stay intact and appear just as you left them at the end of the workday. These aspects include wallpapers, widgets and everything that you are familiar with on your work computer. When you are finished working on a project, just save as you normally would, and the files will be kept in a folder within the virtual server and are accessible whether you are in-office or remote.

Remote servers use software called a hypervisor to simulate the user desktop. This technology enables the server to run many instances of the same operating system, so it’s perfect for quickly sharing work between multiple devices or a workplace setting with many different users coming and going from the office. The hypervisor stores the system’s memory, processor and other vital aspects of the operating system, juggling all the different users with ease.

Advantages of Having a Virtual Desktop

So why would a business want to make the switch when their current system is functioning just fine? Why use a virtual desktop at all? There are more virtual desktop advantages that may meet the eye.

Many expenditures come into play when dealing with traditional servers that run on each individual’s device, and many overlooked aspects of the tech that could be strengthened using a VDI. Investing in virtual desktop capability offers many benefits to a business:

1. Easy Access Anywhere

Giving your employees the ability to work remotely allows them to get projects done more conveniently and precisely. Desktop virtualization offers on-demand access to their work resources anywhere, anytime, on any device. Granting your employees the ability to work from anywhere with Internet access solves many problems that most companies face.

Virtual desktops store their data in the cloud. You likely already use a cloud network to save photos and other files on your smartphone or at your network to connect different devices you use frequently. Businesses can harness cloud computing to enable their employees to access collaborative projects remotely instead of only being able to bounce ideas off one another during the workday.

Some situations that use this handy ability include the following:

  1. What if the work day ends, and an employee decides a presentation could use some last-minute tweaks before their meeting the next morning? Logging in and making those changes that evening at their leisure allows them to take the time they need and get the job done right, rather than subjecting themselves to a frantic morning and throwing off their focus.
  2. An employee takes a sick day but is still feeling well enough to get some projects done from the comfort of their own home. Falling ill is no vacation from work, and those employees often are playing catch-up to make up for lost time to stay on schedule. This rush to meet deadlines increases the likelihood an employee is not putting their best foot forward and making careless mistakes that could have otherwise seen prevention.
  3. Online meetings work seamlessly with a virtual desktop. Conducting a meeting with company members from across the globe is extremely easy and ensures a good connection due to all parties using the same network.
  4. Switching to virtual desktops increases your reach for employment. Your company can then hire any qualified candidate from around the world. It’s often hard to find suitable candidates from your local region, but increasing your reach gives you the power to find the perfect candidate for the job no matter where they might be.
  5. What if in the future your business expands by purchasing property to open up at another location? Setting up an entire computer system in a remote office can take weeks. But, if you use virtual desktop technology, that process can be streamlined and done with ease. Another instance the added benefit of simplifying the set-up process includes the event of an acquisition.
  6. A worker who is traveling might have important projects or ideas to share with no means to do so without a virtual desktop. Using one enables individuals in that situation to stay in the loop and get their job done on the go.

Overall, anyone could be out of the office and still accomplish the tasks given to them with the same if not greater efficiency, and management can set-up new devices remotely without any headaches.

2. Increased Cybersecurity

Hackers are coming up with even more inventive and malicious ways to conduct data breaches and compromise companies’ data. Due to cybercriminal’s innovations in the ways they can hack into online networks, more companies are shifting to virtual desktops.

Previously, anti-virus software and firewalls were proven effective enough to trust. These days, they are only supplemental to strong network security. As more businesses are storing nearly all their information online, there is a lot to lose. With a remote desktop, user data is backed up online continuously, so corruption or loss of files is almost impossible. Using a virtual desktop requires the hacker to break into a company device and to get their hands on an employee ID and password to crack into your company’s private servers.

You also do not have employees carrying around personal devices that hold company data just because there is not an alternative. It is not unreasonable to copy a work file to a particular device or flash drive so that the work can continue out of the office. But, personal devices get lost, stolen or compromised all the time. Once a file downloads, it is out of the company’s hands and could go anywhere. Using a VDI enables employees to use their devices and access data anywhere, but the sensitive files themselves do not leave the corporate data center.

3. Lower IT Costs

Centering your company’s network around virtual desktops directly impacts your infrastructure costs. Switching to a virtual desktop allows you to eliminate the costs of servers, complex switching and other hardware.

Your IT team will not have to fret with lengthy provisioning of new desktops and can fix issues remotely rather than having to track down each user experiencing an issue. With traditional desktops, it may take longer to locate the employee than to fix the problem. The initial investment of a device is usually only 30 to 50 percent of the costs that will incur throughout its lifetime. Maintaining and managing PC software and hardware far exceeds the value of buying the device in the long run. Switching to remote servers slash the costs of IT labor which can eat up a lot of resources.

Think about the process it takes when a new update or patch must go through separate installations on each employee’s work computer. This job alone could take an in-house IT tech an entire day going from desktop to desktop, installing necessary applications, backup files and virus scans that must be installed in addition to the update itself. Centrally managing all the computers in one place can reduce a day’s work into a few clicks. This ability also speeds up the reaction time your IT support team can get to issues, which in turn gets your employees back to work and not sitting idle waiting for a response to their problem.

Using a virtual desktop network saves money on hardware costs, software licensing and long-term maintenance and replacement of components. Switching to virtual desktops also allows for a more efficient infrastructure that lowers the cost-per-device and makes it easier to manage your technology.

Why Businesses Should Make the Switch

 

The bottom line for making the switch from independent operating systems to a virtual desktop system is to lower costs while improving the ease of management.

An average work computer worth the investment can cost hundreds of dollars, and a conventional device comes with many extra costs such as anti-virus software, monthly patching, application upgrades and paying your IT team’s salaries to go desk-to-desk fixing employees’ issues. Switching to a VDI can slash these costs and save $2,015 per year for each user on the system.

If your small business has 30 employees, making the change can equate to $60,450 worth of savings on average. Using a virtual desktop means that you could have the convenience of managing the entire system in the back end as though you were making the changes to a single computer, slashing your IT costs. Only one system needs to be updated rather than many individual ones, and that level of efficiency is where independent operating systems cannot compete.

You can cut these costs even more by allowing your employees to bring their own devices into the workplace instead of providing each person with one of their own. In many cases, workers would prefer to use their personal device instead of a work computer that might not be what they are used to or prefer. A virtual desktop with a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy benefits both the business by lowering the cost of acquiring devices and gives employees more freedom.

For employees, the most enticing part of switching to a virtual system is the ability to work from anywhere. When you allow your employees to work remotely, they assume the system will run smoothly without additional headaches. If you have decided that a VDI is the right decision for your business, be sure to do research and find one with excellent performance packages. A poor VDI can cause issues with quickly loading multimedia applications due to accessing them from a network rather than from a dedicated device.

Choose PCS for Virtual Desktop Setup and Support

PCS works with clients to identify their issues and implement permanent virtual desktop solutions to solve them. Setting up companies with the best virtual desktop technology in the industry can save you a great deal of time and maintenance costs of your network. We build relationships with our customers to completely understand their business objectives and provide excellent customer service. Too often are IT companies good at their job, but do things their way and cannot correctly articulate what exactly they are doing to the non-IT professional. At PCS, we speak plain English and break down each process so everyone involved is on the same page.

The cost of our services at PCS directly correlates with each customer’s number of devices and employees. We come up with a support plan based on your unique business that makes the most sense for you and your employees.

If you are looking to make the switch to virtual systems, but are not sure where to begin and are not getting the guidance you need, contact us today. PCS has a team of over 100 IT professionals who are experts in specific industries. We can help you reach the goals you are looking for without the complicated technicalities and confusion that often plagues the IT industry. We tailor our services to the people we serve. Request a free quote today to see how we can revolutionize your business.

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