Helping your IT provider to help you – five top tips

It’s good to know that your IT provider is there to help you if things go wrong. But did you also

know that you can help them to solve your problems faster?

Communication is at the heart of IT, and that includes communicating with your IT provider.

According to Delia Gill, Managing Director of Wellington-based IT provider IT Engine, little things

can make a big difference. Here are five ways in which you can help your IT provider to help you.

1. Provide at least two months’ notice of an office move

There’s a lot to do when a business moves to new premises. From cabling to ISP

notification, fibre connection to server configuration, it takes time to do it right. Two weeks is

not enough!

2. Let your IT provider know before your website team makes any changes

According to Delia Gill, this is often overlooked. If your web-dev team makes some

configuration changes behind the scenes, that could affect more than just the website’s

design. It could take your site offline and even prevent email access. Make sure your web-

dev team talks to your IT provider before they start work.

3. Adding new multifunction printers (to photocopiers)

Modern multifunction printers are highly capable devices – but they need network access to

work properly. The time to talk to your IT provider about this is a week or so in advance of a

new printer being installed. Don’t wait until the printer company technician is on-site and

saying, “I need to reconfigure your network…”

4. Changing ISP

The choice of Internet Service Provider for your business is yours to make. But if you

decide to change – say from Spark to Vodafone or vice-versa – check with your IT provider

first. A lot depends on how internet traffic is routed into and out of your company. Keep

downtime to a minimum by talking to your IT provider before you make the switch.

5. Adding and removing staff

Obviously it’s vital that you tell your IT provider well in advance of a new person starting

work. They will need their own email address and other accounts, which can take a little

time to set up.

But according to Delia, removing staff is the big one. “What happens when staff leave?” she

asks. “What happens to their out-of- office messages? Where are their documents stored –

are they on that laptop that you’re about to wipe? Do you have their iTunes password?

Have they removed their account from all Apple devices? If not done properly, that

expensive work iPhone could end up being bricked.”

It’s also wise to ensure their incoming email is being forwarded to someone else – not

going into a black hole. And just in case things turn nasty, be sure to recover all deleted

items in Exchange and elsewhere. It pays to be prepared.

If you don’t already have a policy to deal with all of this, now is a good time to create one. Just ask

your friendly IT provider – they’re here to help.

Whose (domain) name is it anyway?

Before you decide on a name for your new business, do some research. The company name might be available – but what about the matching domain names?

Starting a new business is an exciting time. First comes the idea, then the planning, then the implementation. But somewhere along the line comes the choice of company name. This might seem like a trivial matter, but actually it’s vitally important:

1. A good name helps boost your brand
Depending on your target market, different names can have different impacts. It’s a subtle factor that’s especially important in niche or trendy markets. Think of the names of craft beer firms, for example, or technology companies. They are meaningful or memorable – or both.

2. The name gives your company continuity
Staff may come and go, but your company remains. Over time you will use your skills to build that company and enhance its brand. Your reputation will – hopefully – get better and bigger. Choosing a memorable name will help keep you in your customers’ minds.

3. The name differentiates you from the competition
You want to stand out, so you need a company name that sets you apart from the crowd. Of course, you’re not limited to trading under your company name. You could trade under a different name as long as you follow the legal requirements. But it makes life easier if the business name by which your customers know you is the same as the name of your registered company. It should be unique.

So far, so straightforward. But there’s a problem when it comes to deciding on a name. That name might be free in the government’s companies register – but what about the website? For example, if your chosen company name is “The Company” then good luck finding a matching domain name! The most commonplace and obvious names are likely to be already taken.

Turning the naming process on its head

All of this means you need to think differently. Instead of deciding on a company name first, you should begin by investigating what domain name options you actually have. Your website and email addresses are vital forms of contact with customers, so it pays to get the domain name right. You can increase your chances of success by:

· checking what’s already registered using a ‘whois’ service such as who.is or whois.net
· asking your staff, partners and even family to come up with ideas
· searching around words and phrases that are similar to those that describe your company

Once you have some ideas, check for associated domains. Using our generic “The Company” as an example, you might want to register thecompany.co.nz, thecompany.org, thecompany.kiwi, thecompany.nz and maybe others.

Delia Gill, Managing Director of IT Engine, the Wellington-based IT solutions provider, says, “We reviewed of over 200 company names when we renamed our business, we found a bunch of great names but the domain name was always taken. When we finally found a name that worked for us we purchased all the names around it, we have over 25 domains now. It didn’t cost much to register them, and the benefit is that we truly own our brand. Nobody can steal our traffic or our business.”

Bear in mind that if you don’t do this, and if your brand becomes famous, there’s a chance somebody else might register those domains and steal traffic and business from you.

Once you have all the relevant domain names prepared, then you can register your company. But be sure to keep up the domain payments. If they lapse you could lose your website – along with a big chunk of your business.

It’s also important to manage your social media account names – but that’s another blog.

Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference Day 2 – Toronto, Canada

Hello from Toronto – day two.  My poor feet are about to fall off… My step count is counting through the roof (thank you Mr Apple Watch).

This mornings key note was much more detailed.  The Windows Anniversary on the 2nd of August will be bringing some major updates including pen improvement for the Microsoft Surface and Surface Book, I will update you more on this in the next couple of weeks.

There was a huge amount of emphasis on security – with quotes from the FBI director “there are two kinds of companies, those who have been hacked and those that don’t know they have been hacked” …. With end points being the main entry point into a business. MS Windows Hello is starting to address this but we will see more coming out in the next six months.

Microsoft was really excited that Facebook is now an Office 365 customer… VERY excited. Quote from Facebook, “Microsoft is now cool again”. So loads of sessions after the keynote, MS are really great about professional development, so I am learning lots, best session was from Walter Bond on being a better leader.

It was SO hot here today and I think its going to be the same tomorrow.

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Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference Day 1 – Toronto, Canada

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Morning:

Great start to the conference this morning, the usual fanfare of singing and dancing… (ok no dancing this time but great singing).  They do know how to get you in the mood (or as my friend Warrick said “makes you feel good about drinking the Kool Aid”)

 

No major announcements this morning which was a bit disappointing …. Great demonstration on Microsoft HoloLens, this is certainly something that we need to keep an eye on.  They cut the keynote by about a good half hour this morning which was really unusual, however I am not complaining as it has given me more time to a) get to the conference center down the road and b) have a look around all the exhibitors.   Afternoon is going to be full of sessions.

 

Afternoon:

5.30 p.m.   Well that was an afternoon and a half, the conference centre is HUGE…. So getting from one end to the other can be a mission … however with a few pointers from the MS Staff, I managed to get to all my sessions and grab the well needed coffee in between (its not really coffee it just looks like it… really does not taste like it)

 

This afternoon was IOT (internet of things), Productivity in business, and marketing…. Because everyone needs to be reminded to market themselves better.

 

Tomorrow is another fun filled day … I am going to find some dinner 🙂

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Supporting charity when you have a small business

 

I was brought up to be a charitable person, to always consider others and to always remember that I am very lucky and others are not so fortunate. I remember putting money into the church plate as a child and running after the fire engine going down my street to donate my hard-earned pocket money to a telethon.

 

That remembering others has not stopped as an adult but it is a lot harder given the constraints on my time and funds.

 

It’s even harder as a small business. I think as a business you have a duty to support the community that supports you but it is difficult when you have limited cash flow and limited time. And then there are all the phone calls—every day we are called by someone asking us to donate to this charity or that fund-raiser. That does add to the pressure as they are all good causes and groups. So how as a small business can you make a significant contribution without shooting yourself in the foot?

 

Here’s how IT Engine cracked it and in doing so formed a fantastic relationship with some awesome people.

 

As a company we have always donated money where we can, mostly to schools and events like the Special Children’s Christmas Party. We also have a lower hourly rate for charities and not-for-profit organizations. Examples include the New Zealand Citizens Advice Bureau and the NZ Stroke Foundation and UNICEF, all of whom are clients.

 

But I would like to tell you about our Charity of Choice: the Wellington After-Care Association (WACA). Their mission statement is:

To improve the lives of people with disabilities by supporting their choices of where they live, learn, work and play. www.wgtnaftercare.org.nz

 

They are a Wellington-based charity founded in 1926 and incorporated in 1928. Wellington After-Care works with people who have intellectual disabilities to help them realize their full potential as members of our community. They do this by running a day programme at their base, Ace House. This aims to help people to learn life skills and social skills and to experience many of things that we take for granted, like enjoying a cup of coffee at a café with friends. Wellington After-Care also have a supported employment service, ACEmployment. This assists people with disabilities or people who have recovered from mental health issues back into employment. They work with the person using the service as well as the employer by assisting with training and ongoing support. The aim is to make the placement as positive and as successful as possible.

 

WACA came to us a number of years ago­—they were stuck. Their server was not working as it should and their IT provider was not very helpful. Things seemed to be taking a lot longer than they should. So we went in and had a look. What we found nearly made me cry! I felt ashamed that there were people like this in the IT industry who were clearly just taking a vulnerable company for a ride, in this case a charity with very limited funds. We had to fix their PC (that was supposed to be a server) that had illegal server software installed on it. It wasn’t server grade hardware and it wasn’t even new. It had secondhand hard drives and we know they were secondhand because they still had the name of the pub on them that they had come from! Because the software was illegal it kept rebooting and/or shutting down.

 

This all happened during the height of the recession when our time and funds were quite limited. But we could not in all conscience leave them like that and they could not afford to get it fixed (having spent all their funds on the original shonky system). So we ripped the hardware out and set it all up again. We also donated a secondhand server and moved the PC to a more suitable position in the office. We did all this at no cost.

 

WACA now had a working IT system, but they still required on going IT support. So we made an agreement with them. Any new hardware they needed to purchase would be at our cost, and every month they could have 5 hours of tech time at no cost. For anything larger than that, such as projects, we would negotiate. This has worked well now for four years.

 

So in terms of costs to the business—we might miss out on $500 or $600 worth of billing every month. But there are always down times where you are not as busy and you can always squeeze a bit more in and fit stuff between clients and that is how we have managed it. We always work the WACA projects around our quiet times and because WACA know they are getting a good deal they work in with us.

 

This arrangement means they now have a stable IT system with a team of people who can support it for them at a minimal cost. This allows them to spend the funds where they are needed most, on their family of clients.

 

Another way we have been able to support them is to gift them any freebies that we get from our suppliers. On occasion we are given secondhand good quality PCs that we clean up and pass on to them. This allows them to have good solid IT gear for their clients to use with their programs.

 

Also we love what WACA do and this has made the relationship between our staff and theirs a real team engagement. We are as a business committed to supporting them in their efforts within our community—what they do is FANTASTIC.

 

So how can you use this example to help a charity that you care about?

First and, most importantly, ensure that you care about the charity you are engaged with and that your team backs you

 

Make sure what you are trying to do actually fits in with the charity. It’s great you are trying to help but make sure you are helping and not hindering!

 

Start with baby steps—a little here and a little there. This helps both parties develop the relationship and you both get a feel for each other’s capabilities.

 

Make sure you communicate what you can manage clearly. Right from the outset we let WACA know what we could manage financially and what we couldn’t. You are not any good to them if you go out of business—and your business is your number one priority.

 

Last but not least, you may be giving them something for free but this does not mean they should be at the bottom of your priority pile. Make time for a catch-up coffee every few months and make sure they are doing OK. Then you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your business is helping the charity to be successful.