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Business Practices MSP Technology

Why Getting a Baseline is so Important for Effective IT Managed Services

Part of a managed service provider’s job is to ensure your technology meshes perfectly with the natural flow of business. The best way to do this is by monitoring network activity, watching for trouble spots and examining ways your IT infrastructure can be improved to optimize performance.

The traffic on your website has an expected range based on the day and time, plus statistical variance. Your office computers consume a certain amount of electrical power, and your servers send and receive an average range of daily network packets. Seen from an IT perspective, this status-quo is called a ‘baseline’ because it is the norm from which all abnormal behaviour is detected, and from which improvements can be measured.

The Purpose of Monitoring

Among the vast array of IT monitoring approaches (from simple availability monitoring to comprehensive infrastructure monitoring), the purpose has always been to detect abnormal activity. In the case of availability monitoring, the job is to identify a lack of availability and report any error messages if something goes down. And every monitoring exercise requires one thing to be useful: a baseline. Without it, the programs and admins are unable to translate the information they’re receiving or to identify the unusual from the usual.

Imminent Server Overload

One of the primary applications of network monitoring is the ability to detect when your systems might soon fail. You can set it to watch the entire infrastructure, a single server, or even a single website. The monitoring keeps an eye on the resources used and compares them to the baseline along with any special conditions you’ve programmed the software to look out for. Through constant monitoring and analysis, you can identify when demand, resource, use, or online visitor traffic spikes, potentially putting your website, infrastructure, or business at risk.

In the beginning, the monitoring software doesn’t know what qualifies as overtaxed for your particular network and server configuration, or the patterns of usage that might indicate a risk of overload in the future. The more complete a baseline you create, the sooner your monitoring software can catch potential problems.

Unauthorized Logins

Another useful application of network monitoring is to keep track of who comes and goes on your business and public network. If you have login or key-card authorized systems within your building or accessible on the Web for remote users, every login creates a sign of data movement on your network. Without a baseline, monitoring will quietly make note of each login attempt and success without knowing what is or isn’t normal.

With a solid baseline of normal schedules, login credentials, and connection protocols, network monitoring can tell you if someone has tried to access your network in an unusual way. While there may be a few alerts about employees working late, logins that happen in the small hours of the morning, attempted logins from connection methods not intended by your interface, authorization granted outside of standard procedures can all be used as signals that someone unauthorized may be trying to access your network.

Malware Activity

Barring a few exceptions, malware is built to be sneaky. Most slip unnoticed onto your network and quietly use your resources for malicious intent like distributing spam from your IP address (potentially getting you black-listed) or spreading more malware to your local network. Malware often relies on its lack of UI, hiding its processes, and working only when the computer is idle. But it still requires resources, which monitoring software can reveal – providing you’ve established the all-important baseline.

Let it know exactly which ports you have open and how they’re guarded so that if, for example, a remote-access-toolkit (RAT) equipped malware program opens a ‘secret’ port that avoids your firewall, the monitoring software will know it’s unauthorized and send you a detailed alert.

Infected IoT Devices

Businesses are starting to take advantage of the incredible convenience offered by well-thought-out IoT devices. Smart wifi-enabled security cameras, thermostats, lights, coffee pots, and self-watering plants are all incredibly useful and can save a surprising amount on energy bills through smart off-switching and scheduling protocols. However, as useful as IoT devices are, they are also terribly insecure. From one device-type to the next, you’re hard-pressed to find the same operating system, and many have profound security flaws that cannot be changed. These vulnerabilities expose them to hacking, often adding them to a botnet for DDoS attacks.

Your network manager can help here, too. If one or more of your IoT devices become infected with a botnet program or other IoT malware, this can significantly change their wifi habits. The hacker has to send and receive signals to control your IoT device for whatever purpose, and they have to do it through your wifi network because that’s how the devices contact the rest of the world. With a clear baseline of your IoT device’s normal wifi activity, a sudden change is immediately obvious. The monitoring software will alert your admins who can then wipe the device, improve the security, and if appropriate, return it to service.

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Network monitoring is an essential aspect of any tech-dependent business. However, most lack the internal expertise, choosing instead to outsource the service to an MSP.

That’s where ServiceTree comes in. For MSPs with an eye to revenue growth, consistent service delivery and scalable processes, ServiceTree is a dream to use. Learn why here.

Categories
Business Practices MSP Technology

5 IT Business Growth Tactics for B2B Companies

B2B IT companies face constant pressure to deliver software and hardware services to their clients without interruptions or mistakes. And while their solutions might be excellent, if the support and continuity of service aren’t, their clients will often go elsewhere.

To help mitigate the risks while boosting the appeal of your business, let’s look at five growth tactics you might employ in a B2B environment.

Improving Customer Service with PSA Software

For B2B IT companies, improving customer service means improving the help desk. Resolving help desk tickets efficiently and effectively is key to improving customer service. When tickets take too long to resolve or IT companies don’t have the integrated tools to gain a comprehensive view of the issue, help desk customer service will suffer as a result.

Adopting professional service automation (PSA) software is something modern IT companies are doing to solve help desk issues. PSA software streamlines help desk processes by automating the tracking and management of tickets while integrating them with billing, project management, and reporting tools.

PSA solutions are integral for B2B IT companies to grow, as automation and cloud technologies rapidly transform modern businesses. While applications will differ depending on the type of IT company involved, quality PSA software makes it possible for IT companies to serve more clients in less time with increased visibility and functionality.

Leveraging Automation Tools

While having automation tools for different business processes is helpful, IT companies will benefit when their disparate tools have integrated functionality. Adopting PSA, CRM, ERP, and marketing automation tools with robust integration capabilities will help IT companies streamline business process and increase productivity.

For instance, help desk ticket data can be tracked and managed by PSA software, then shared to CRM software to improve future client dealings; or PSA reporting and analytics can integrate with marketing automation tools to refine campaigns with deeper insights.

Essentially, B2B IT companies can leverage their automation tools by integrating their functionality and learning their comprehensive capabilities. This may take updating or replacing existing systems with solutions that have more integration capabilities or that are more comprehensive in scope.

Outsourcing IT Monitoring, Remediation and Security

Replacing or augmenting internal IT teams by outsourcing monitoring, remediation, and security of IT systems is an effective way for B2B IT companies to achieve business growth. Ensuring continuity of services for B2B clients is of utmost importance for IT companies; partnering with an MSP will help IT companies deliver their services with more confidence.

Outsourcing monitoring, remediation, and security of IT systems bring benefits such as:

  • reduced IT labour costs
  • enhanced visibility with IT security
  • timely remediation of IT issues
  • more system uptime
  • increased time and productivity
  • reduced cybersecurity risk
  • enhanced marketability
  • access to expanded IT expertise

Essentially, by outsourcing IT support to a quality MSP service, B2B IT companies will have more time and money to focus on business growth, while gaining confidence in their ability to deliver continuous service to their clients. They’ll also gain a strategic IT partner who can help them select fitting solutions and optimally integrate and leverage existing ones.

Service-Defined Marketing Approach

Another growth tactic for B2B IT companies is to refine their marketing approach to be service defined. B2B IT companies that can describe and define their solutions with the most clarity will have an advantage over their vague competition.

A service defined marketing approach simply means reaching out to prospective B2B clients with tactics that help explain the exact service being provided. With so many similar, yet different, software solutions to choose from, businesses are having a difficult time understanding which one is right for their needs.

IT companies that clearly explain what their product/service does and how it works with other common industry solutions will have an advantage over those that don’t. For example, do prospective B2B clients need both an ERP and a PSA solution? Does a CRM solution have marketing automation capabilities?

Confusion with product/service capabilities is due to the rapid advances in online technology; software capabilities are merging and consolidating into holistic solutions, yet understanding the extent of these capabilities isn’t always so clear. Prospective B2B clients may baulk at adopting certain solutions because of an ineffective marketing approach that doesn’t define the service apart from other similar services.

Basically, not all software solutions are the same, yet understanding the differences isn’t always so easy for prospective B2B clients. IT companies that can clearly define their services and products apart from similar products will provide the clarity clients need to make a confident decision – and be content with it long-term.

Developing and Executing an Effective IT Strategy

Rapid advances in online technology will continue to challenge IT companies to innovate and adapt to future developments in the IT realm. Agile thinking is needed in the development and execution of effective IT strategies for B2B companies.

An article on CIO called: “Anatomy of an IT strategic plan in the era of digital disruptions“, written on Oct. 17th by Stephanie Overby, explains:

“IT’s role in the development and execution of business strategy has grown significantly in the era of digital transformation.

…Developing and executing a business-aligned IT roadmap is more important than ever.

…The best IT plan is no longer simply a rundown of the financial investment required or a list of technologies to implement. Rather, it is an assessment of the changes demanded to achieve business goals.”

IT companies that can develop and execute effective IT strategies will remain agile in an ever-changing technological environment, thus, giving them the ability to adapt and transition with ever-changing best practices and B2B client needs.

Conclusion

Not surprisingly, business growth for IT companies will depend on their effective utilization of online technology, both for themselves and their B2B clients. Adopting PSA solutions to streamline customer service and ticket management, leveraging holistic automation tools, outsourcing vital IT support, defining services clearly with marketing campaigns, and developing and executing an effective IT strategy, are all effective tactics that will help B2B IT companies achieve business growth.

To learn how ServiceTree’s fully integrated PSA solution can help you, go here.