How to…Reduce Your IT Costs

As IT services providers ourselves we are advocates of the benefits of outsourcing. Technology is vital to the success of any business – IT can help businesses increase efficiency; improve services and ultimately their bottom line. However in the current climate we understand that businesses are under increased pressure to reduce their IT costs.

Cost cutting needs to be handled with care however. Rather than a blanket cost cutting regime, businesses need to look at ways of reducing costs without necessarily reducing operational efficiency and in turn their competitive advantage.
Radical cost-cutting may answer short-term needs but can lead to higher future costs as projects that could improve efficiencies are delayed or cancelled. For businesses, it is vital to measure hardware, software and servicing not on cost alone, but in the context of performance and quality.

Top 6 Tips for effective IT cost cutting

1. Consider IT staffing
How productive is the individual? What staffing levels are needed not just to maintain but to improve service delivery? Are your per-capita cost/performance ratios better, the same or worse than other companies in your market sector and against industry best practice?

2. Outsourcing – get the price right
Analysing outsourcing costs is even more challenging than planning internal cuts. Businesses often feel they are overpaying their IT service providers but can’t pinpoint how much or why because of the lack of pricing transparency in the contract. Costs can increase because the client wants customised services or because their IT environment is highly complex.
In such cases, we would encourage businesses to think about standardising application platforms, eliminate redundant desktops or rationalise service centres to save money.

3. Choose the right service package for your business
Sometimes businesses automatically request a premium-level service where a standard one would suffice. Discuss with your supplier what elements of your package are essential to your business and make redundant all those which are unnecessary or have little or no effect on your business. Then try to negotiate your contract costs on this basis.

4. Plan in advance
Sometimes businesses may need a job done in a rush whatever the cost. To save money, businesses should be encouraged to plan ahead. At Supreme Systems we hold regular IT Audits with our clients to try and ascertain their plans for the future and make recommendations where possible as to how we can help them achieve those goals.
Always check with your providers on the cost implications of doing work under time pressure.

5. Improve Existing Systems
Your PCs may not be running as fast as they should be but this does not necessarily mean you need to purchase new PCs. You may simply require a ram upgrade or checking to see that your systems are not infested with viruses. Compare the costs of buying a new PC (a good PC can cost anything from £300 – £600) to upgrading your RAM (a 2GB memory upgrade can cost as little as £60) that alone is a saving of between £240 and £540!

6. IT Illiterates Cost You Money!
In our experience there are two types of IT Illiterates that cost businesses money.

IT Illiterates Type 1 – Staff who happen to have some knowledge of IT but are not necessarily employed to fix IT problems. A study carried out by City &Guilds found that the majority of small businesses (59%) rely on staff with no official IT role to sort out daily computing problems. Businesses with six to 10 employees were the worst offenders, with 65% relying on non-specialised staff members to put in extra hours to fix IT issues.

More than one-third (35%) of workers have failed to get a job done on time due to lack of IT knowledge and trained support, the study found. More than half of these workers (54%), tried to solve their IT problems themselves, potentially leading to more problems.
“In many companies, IT issues are passed on to existing staff in an attempt to keep costs down,” Ken Gaines, City & Guilds’ product manager for IT user qualifications, said in a statement. “However, without proper training, novices can end up costing companies far more in terms of productivity levels.”

IT Illiterates Type 2 – The Friend of a Friend or the IT Novice. We recently received a frantic call from a business owner. Their email system had stopped functioning and they had been unable to receive emails for three days. As a manufacturing company, their email system was vital to their business as the majority of their business was from international clients. During our initial systems audit, we discovered that their exchange had been set up by a “good friend” who was well experienced in fixing IT issues – unfortunately he was currently on holiday and was unable to fix the current problems. On further investigation of the email set up we were amazed that the company’s email system has managed to survive for so long! Our belief is you get what you pay for and the MDs’ assertions that “he does our IT for a pint” spoke volumes.

The IT Novice – (theory trained with no real industry experience) is another IT Illiterate that should come with a health warning. We call them the IT Cowboys – who position themselves as experts in their field. You know the type. He excelled in the Open University IT Systems course and believes this is enough to set up his own IT support business – with no real industry experience, should you really trust this person with your systems? Nothing beats working with a real IT professional that is able to tender solutions quickly and effectively due to their experience. I know of one “IT Support Company” who uses consultants from another established IT provider to fix his clients’ IT issues because he simply does not have the skills himself to carry out a satisfactory fix (yes we are advocates of outsourcing but this is ridiculous!). This means that he is unable to respond to clients queries quickly and he also passes on the cost of recruiting outside consultants to his clients. What began as a cheap IT contract is now costing his clients far more than they imagined. Our advice? Always go for quality – experts over novices. If you can never get an instant fix to your problem and instead you get the “we will get back to you” spiel; if you are leaving messages for your support provider and they are taking their time to get back to you; if your onsite technicians are constantly changing (and they have little or no knowledge of the company they “work for”) beware you may have a novice on your hands!

Contact Supreme Systems now on 0800 001 5942 or email us at vip@www.supremesystems.co.uk to see how we can help you with your IT Support needs. With support packages starting from as little as 26p per PC per Day, cost cutting will soon be a thing of the past.

Think of DR as an insurance policy. Here’s why…

A few months back we received a frantic call from our customer, a small business owner whose business had been involved in a fire that had completely engulfed their offices. Although no one had been hurt in the fire, the business provided critical support services to the NHS, so it was essential that they were back up and running in a short time.

I remember the call from John as if it were yesterday.

“As you know Angela we have our dr site where our users can work from” he said “the only problem is the server. We have backups which is great but we will need to have a new server”

“Yes I said, we can…”

“that’s the thing” he interrupted “we can’t wait more than 48hrs, well 72hr max to have a new server in place” “We really need your help to push ahead with this, 72hrs max is all we can afford to be without the server for”

“Yes but we can…”

“I know you have to rebuild the server and put in all the software things again. Will we need to pay for the software again? I am guessing you store our licence keys so we won’t have to pay again but we need to install them again yes? Do you think we can do it all in 2 days at a push”

“We can do it in 2hrs if you want John”

“Hmm?”

“2hrs – with your DR server if you want John. Everything is there ready to go – all your apps, software, everything. Let us know where you will be working from and the guys can bring the server down and connect your users up”

In his panic our friend John had forgotten that he paid us a monthly fee to use our DR service to ensure that his team could be back up and running in a short space of time following an IT disaster. On a monthly basis we did battle John and I, over DR – he claiming that he saw no value in continuing to pay for a DR Service that he could foresee never using whilst I argued that its existence was essential to the continuity of the business, a sort of insurance policy. Common sense prevailed each time and the DR Service stayed – and thank goodness!

The next morning our client appeared on the BBC to talk about their experiences. This sentence made me smile – “it is business as usual for us. Our robust business continuity plans mean we can continue as normal – within a matter of hours in fact, providing the critical services that our clients rely on us for”

I made a mental note to say “I told you so” at the next client review…

If Disaster Strikes…what would happen to YOUR Business?

Think about it. Imagine you suffer a major system outage. You are unable to access your servers (yes all of them – it can happen!). The Sales Department is at a standstill – no one can send quotes or follow up on leads because the CRM software is on the server. Accounts are unable to send out new invoices or chase outstanding ones because…Sage is on the server. The Manufacturing Team are unable to process orders because the software that tells them what needs making…is on the server and of course no one is able to access those maddening servers! Your entire team all 50 (100, 200, 500?!) of them are having an extended coffee break on you – plus your IT company tells you that they may be able to have things back to normal in about 48hrs…

IT Disasters are a real possibility – don’t leave things to change.

A disaster recovery solution is an investment against the potential loss that may arise from an IT Disaster – and they do occur. We are offering a FREE DR Consultation in July and August. Give us a call to book yours – we have 15 of these available. Call 0800 001 5942 or send us an email to vip@www.supremesystems.co.uk

How to Avoid a Data Disaster

This Infographic looks at the main causes of data loss and provides helpful information and tips on how to ensure an effective data back-up plan for your business. For example, find out what six questions you should ask when looking for a back-up provider. Also, the graphic offers an insight into what the experts are currently saying on the issue of data loss/data back-up.

How-to-avoid-a-data-disaster-Infographic

10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Can Benefit From Microsoft Office 365

Cloud computing (dubbed as the next generation of IT) is increasingly being adopted by businesses of all sizes, Worldwide. Cloud service providers which specialise within the IT industry are doing their best to ensure that daily business activities are seamlessly integrated into their cloud solution offer, granting employees’ with access to generic applications such as e-mail. The perk is that all the data is stored online, which makes all forms of documentation accessible from any location (Just don’t forget your login details!) with offline capabilities. This seems great for anyone looking to restructure their IT departments and for small businesses in particular, who may not have steep investments for high-end hardware. Furthermore, it is wise to note that cloud computing solutions are quite negotiable in terms of adaptation. For example, if you own a small to medium sized business and wish to expand or reduce your IT resources, for whatever reason, cloud solutions can be easily adjusted to fit your requirements. In other words cloud computing will provide an overall cost effective way for small businesses interested in reconfiguring or implementing a new and effective IT infrastructure. With all this being said here are 10 reasons why small businesses can benefit from a cloud solution such as Microsoft Office 365.

1. Anytime, Anywhere Access – Web enabled access through PC’s, Mac’s and Smartphones

2. Professional Business Face – A custom domain allows you to create public-facing websites

3. Communicate and Collaborate – Keep up to date through e-mails, instant messaging and online meetings

4. Learn and Use Easily – Learn Office 365 easily and reap the benefits of sophisticated IT infrastructures usually found in large scale organisations

5. Email, Collaboration and Online Meetings – High storage capabilities accommodate up 25-gigabyte (GB) mailboxes, useful for synchronizing real time information

6. Safety and Security – Benefit from security systems endorsed by Microsoft 24/7

7. Coordinate seamlessly with Familiar Tools – Fully compatible with Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft Office Professional Plus.

8. No Need For Advanced IT Knowledge – Designed for organisations without IT staff, meaning quick engagement of services

9. 99.9 % Availability and a Money-Back Guarantee

10. Flexibility – Pay as you go price plans allow for cost effective investments

For more information click Cloud Solution or contact Supreme Systems directly on 0800 001 5942 for more advice.

A typical day of a Technical Liaison Manager at Supreme Systems, An IT Company based in Birmingham

I don’t really have a typical day, as my role at Supreme gets me involved in a vast array of technologies, all over the country, but an average day is typically like the following:

9:00. First job of the day, while the morning kettle is boiling, is to check my e-mail. IT Support tickets logged overnight will send me an e-mail automatically, and of course I have to check through my standard e-mail in case a customer has informed me directly about an issue. Meanwhile, the first line engineers will be checking through their e-mail as well, looking at the automatically generated logs from the servers we support, looking for any issues and flagging them up for attention. So if a backup fails for example, this is when we will pick it up. Assuming that there is nothing that requires our urgent attention, the next thing the technical team does is to go through any open support tickets together, and prioritize any outstanding work. At this point I know roughly the work I’m going to be doing that day, and I can plan around it.

10:00. It’s more likely than not that I’ll have some sort of scheduled meeting that day, and I prefer to do this in the morning when I can, in case I get tied up in technical work later in the day. This can be anything that requires a representative of the technical team to talk to an existing or prospective customer. Often I’ll attend sales meetings, to make sure anything discussed is correct from a technical side. Considering how many people don’t like meetings, I have to admit I enjoy these. I rarely lead the meetings, but I’m often called upon to explain various technologies, and the advantages and disadvantages of different ways of doing things. I’m a sociable person who loves talking about technology, so that suits me just fine.

12:00. Lunchtime. Unless there is something causing severe problems for a customer, in which case we’ll likely be working right through. Fortunately, the non-technical staff here our kind enough to go out and fetch us some nutrition (Nothing that can mess up a keyboard!) if we’re working right through. I learnt early in IT support you shouldn’t skip lunch entirely. You need your brain, and you don’t think as well if you’re hungry.

13:00. If it’s a good day, then we should have had any problems reported today sorted out by now, and our decks are clear. Much as I’d love to put my feet up and bask in the glory of an empty help-desk queue, we can’t get away with that. I.T. moves fast, and our customers are always looking for something new. So often this time is used to carry out research on the part of customers, such as choosing a good CRM system, or planning ways of providing extra features that have been requested. Failing that, we’re training. We bank on our engineers being skilled, so learning has to be a continuous process.
If it’s a less good day, on the other hand, then we’ll be working on technical problems, either on going ones or newly reported that afternoon. We want our customers systems to give us as little trouble as possible, so we try to make sure the fixes we make are solid, and problems will not re-occur. But despite that, sometimes we’ll have a run of issues. So everyone pitches in, and if you have to stay late…Well, I knew that when I got into I.T. My wife knew it was coming when she married me!

17:00. Normally this is when I aim to finish. But I could be on a customer site in another city, so it doesn’t bear much relation as to when I get home. And often there’ll be some “homework”. A server reset to do outside of hours, or a user who isn’t available till late this whole week. These tend to be “courtesy” jobs however, occasional work for the convenience of our customers. We’ve set ourselves up to work wherever we have an internet connection, which feels like a mixed blessing sometimes!

I hope this gave you an insight as to how I work – don’t forget if you need any on-going IT support to call the team on 0800 001 5942 or simply email vip@www.supremesystems.co.uk

Also if you liked the article why not follow me on or like us on Facebook?

10 Excellent Cloud Applications for Small Businesses

1. Sales Force – Customer Relationship Management – https://www.salesforce.com

2. Google Analytics – Website Intelligence – http://www.google.com/analytics/

3. Rypple – Workforce Development – http://rypple.com/

4. Base Camp – Project Management – http://basecamp.com/

5. Microsoft 356 – Productivity and Collaboration – http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/office365/free-office365-trial.aspx

6. Google Apps – Productivity and Collaboration – http://www.google.com/apps

7. Freshbooks – Accounting and invoicing – http://www.freshbooks.com

8. Drop Box – File Storage and Sharing – https://www.dropbox.com

9. Zen Desk – Customer Service – http://www.zendesk.com/g

10. Tribe HR – Human Resource Management – http://tribehr.com/

For more information about how the cloud can revolutionise the way you do business go our Cloud Solutions page or call us on Supreme Systems 0800 001 5942 for more advice.

Stabilising Your IT Environment in 6 Weeks! – A view from an IT Company in Birmingham

Not possible I hear you say! Yes it is say the Supreme team….. We believe that IT shouldn’t slow you down, stop you from working or stress you out. In this day and age – your IT environment should allow you to work to the best of your ability and actually increase productivity.

The problem is, many businesses have left their IT unattended or poorly managed for too long and it is now littered with issues, clogged with viruses and burned out. This has led to slow running PCs, broken equipment, unprotected workstations and urgently needed updates or upgrades.

Are you tired of your staff reporting IT issues to you? Maybe there are legacy issues which have never been resolved? Well did you know if your environment is stabilised effectively (to the Supreme standard), then these problems will become a thing of the past. Having a stable IT environment will actually increase staff productivity which in turn leads to better efficiency, increased profitability and, not to forget, a happier team.

At Supreme we aim to completely stabilise your environment IN THE FIRST 6 WEEKS that we take you on board as a client. We work our socks off to ensure that we get to know your business inside out, implement protective software for your data and emails, resolve legacy issues and monitor, audit and evaluate your entire infrastructure so we can recommend and implement tailored solutions. Meaning you can do what you do best – run your business.

If you would like to find out more please feel free to call the Supreme office on 0800 001 5942

4 Things You Should Definitely Consider Doing This Year

Made your New Year’s Resolutions? Here are 4 more you may want to include in your list:

1. Upgrade We blogged recently about the impending retirement of Windows XP – the grand doyenne of operating systems. What still amazes us is that with just over 12 months before this momentous event occurs many UK businesses are yet to make any plans to upgrade.

So what’s the fuss about upgrading anyway? Surely it is just another money-making scheme by Microsoft to get businesses to spend money on unnecessary OS when XP works fine? Well…not quite. Come April 8 2014, Microsoft will stop supporting XP. This means you will no longer receive important security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, which can steal your personal information. When you consider that the vast the majority of viruses and malware that are designed today are specifically for Windows XP – upgrading may not seem like such a bad idea!

However operating system upgrades require a lot of planning and preparation. You need to decide what version to upgrade to (Windows 7 or 8?); consider the impact of the upgrade on legacy applications which may only run on XP (you can overcome this by running a virtual XP machine on Windows 7); cost implications (spread the cost or consider cloud options); and time limitations

During the next few months, Client Services will be speaking to those of you who are still running XP to get the ball rolling on upgrading. If you want to speak to someone about upgrading before then call Angela Hart on 0800 001 5942.

2. Laptops and Notebooks The old adage “Prevention is Better than Cure” is one which we hold dear to our hearts at Supreme and when it comes to protecting your data and ensuring your business is able to continue functioning after a “disaster” there is nothing better than having a disaster recovery plan in place.

Theft, employee sabotage, fire, flooding, snow or even volcanic ash can impact work massively– so what failsafe’s do you have in place to ensure that your business operates as normal if a disaster occurs? A disaster recovery plan is a documented process to recover and protect a business’ IT infrastructure in the event of a disaster. We give you a free Disaster Recovery Plan Template (worth £299) when you purchase any one of our DR solutions – our Client Services Team can help you complete the plan for free if you are pressed for time.

Greg Markwardt our Technical Liaison Manager will be speaking to those of you who do not yet have a DR solution in place during February and March. You can call him on 0800 001 5942 if you would like to discuss your requirements earlier.

3. Cloud Technology The New Kid on the Blog – but one that will completely revolutionise the way we all work. The main benefit of the Cloud is that it allows you to work from wherever you are. Plus it is very cost effective.

This video by Suzie Evans Business Development Director at Supreme Systems introduces you to “the cloud” and gives you some ideas on how you can use Cloud Technology in your business.

During 2013 we will be holding several workshops that will help you better understand the cloud plus showcase some of the latest cloud technology. Dates will be published in our monthly newsletter and on our blog so look out for those

4. Going Green We are still surprised about how much paper businesses still use – the biggest culprits are accounts departments who still send out paper invoices, statements and remittances. Not only is this bad for the environment but because the cost of postage continues to rise, this practice is also very experience. We have worked with most of the leading accounting packages and all can (or can be customised to) send invoices, quotes and the like via email.

Another area where businesses can earn their “green” stripes is by cutting down on unnecessary travel costs. Applications such as Microsoft Lync or GoToMeeting allow you to conduct and attend meetings from wherever you are. You can share documents, share your computer screen and even have a video conference from the comfort of your office or home (a great failsafe to include in your Disaster Recovery Plan).

In March we will have a “Green Technology” feature that will give you more ideas on how you can use IT to make your business more green so look out for this.

What other IT Resolutions Do You Have? Share yours below or on our Facebook Page

IT Support You Can Trust – A Letter to Business Owners in Birmingham & the West Midlands

Dear Business Owner,

Running and growing your own business can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life….it can also be one of the most frustrating and challenging accomplishments you embark on.

You need solutions that enable you to run your business the way you want without putting a strain on your two most valuable resources – time and money. That’s why we started Supreme Systems.

Our entire focus is on helping businesses get ahead by using technology effectively to help make their businesses more productive and in turn more profitable. We believe that IT should be the least of your worries which is why we promise that if you choose Supreme as your trusted IT partner your team will have fewer IT issues and when they do we will strive to resolve them as fast as we can.

I would like to highlight three things that set us apart from other technical support companies:

  • We guarantee a 1 hour response time to your network emergencies to minimize downtime
  • We don’t work 9-5, we work 9-fixed! Our highly qualified engineers will always strive to resolve your issues as quickly as possible and we will continue working on your problem until it is fixed.
  • Our stock answer is YES! Even if your query falls outside our remit, we will always do our best to help so just ask.

Every company is different and faces different challenges. Before recommending our services it’s important we listen to the unique requirements of each individual client, find out what the legacy issues and current challenges are and discuss goals for the future. I would welcome the opportunity to have a discussion like this with you.

If you are looking for an IT company to come alongside your business as a trusted IT partner and would like to discuss this further please call the Supreme office on 0800 001 5942 and speak to myself or a member of the technical team. Or you can email me suzie@www.supremesystems.co.uk

I look forward to hearing from you!

Kind regards,

Suzannah Evans
Business Development Director
Supreme Systems

Microsoft, Google, RIM, Apple, Twitter , Facebook – We Thank You!

This post is really a letter of gratitude to the movers and shakers of the technology world – to say thank you for how they have truly revolutionised the way we live and work.

Last week my colleague Suzie hit a brick wall when trying to find some information on behalf of our client. “Why don’t you try Google” said Sim – Client Services Manager. Within 10 minutes of conducting a search on Google she had found the information she required. “Where would we be without Google!” she shrieked and clapped her hands in glee!

Where exactly! And not just Google, in fact – where would we be without the technological advances of brought to us by Microsoft, Apple, RIM, Facebook and Twitter. Most PCs and Laptops that we use both at home and at work are powered by software developed by Microsoft; Smartphones such as RIM’s BlackBerry are a business person’s best friend and Apple’s iPad has revolutionised the way we use computers. Where will Facebook and Twitter users be without their daily updates, retweets and the like?

The effect these tech giants now have on our day to day lives became more evident to me on a recent holiday trip.

After strong arming “workaholic hubby” to take some time off we agreed on a 12 night cruise to the Mediterranean taking in ports such as Madeira, Lisbon, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. Although I was glad for the time off there was a sense of dread that I would be unreachable in case of emergencies especially as we had just kicked off a new marketing drive. What if I was urgently needed to redraft a piece of literature? What about new leads that came in? Would I be able to respond accordingly or at least instruct the team on how to respond? What if I was unreachable? I noticed there were two sea days on the itinerary (when you are on the sea far from land and far from any form of communication). This meant that I would be completely out of reach during those days!

I needn’t have worried.

My trusted Blackberry ensured that I received every email message sent to me even during sea days because although we were stuck at sea the ship was fully equipped with its own telecommunication mast that allowed us to receive email messages. Because we were on an American ship, our mobile phones assumed we were in America and adapted its frequencies accordingly. Communicating with the team back in England was also simple and using Blackberry’s Messenger service all messages sent to the team was free. Bonus!

I had planned to finish an article which formed part of the marketing campaign but on reaching the ship I discovered that I had left the usb stick with the article at home – along with some material which I had planned to use as a resource. I remembered that I had emailed the document to myself prior to leaving for the holiday so I knew I could simply download the document from my email account which could be easily accessed using OWA (Outlook Web Access). Once the document was downloaded, I quickly located the missing resources using Google and I was able to complete my article as planned.
Imagine what would have happened if I did not have the tools mentioned above to hand? The cynical amongst you may well say “you would have had more of a holiday” but I disagree. In all honesty, I was able to enjoy my holiday more because my mind was at rest knowing that a) I could be contactable in case of any emergency and b) if I needed to do any urgent work it could be done without hassle.

I am sure you all have your own stories about how Technology saved the day. I for one will never stop singing the praises of the technology giants that have made my life easier. So once again thank you!