What is the difference between a proxy server and a VPN?

At their cores, both a proxy server and a VPN connects you to a remote server, hides your IP address, and allows you to surf the web anonymously. So, are they the same thing? Definitely not. At the end of this article you’ll gain a simple understanding of just how different a proxy and a VPN are. 

In our previous article on VPN’s we went in depth on what a VPN is so let’s take a look at what a proxy server is. 

What is a Proxy Server?

As the name suggests, a proxy server acts as a middle man between you and the Internet retrieving information from content servers or websites on your behalf. In doing so, proxy servers mask your actual IP address allowing you to maintain some sort of anonymity while you browse the web. 

Proxy servers allow you to access geolocked content only available in certain regions on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

How is a Proxy Server different from a VPN?

There are a couple main differences that set a proxy server apart from a VPN that we’ll discuss today.

Encryption. While proxy servers do hide your IP address they do not encrypt your connection through a secure tunnel like a VPN does. This means that any data you send back and forth on the internet while connected to a proxy is completely exposed and open to anyone with access to your connection, i.e. your ISP, the government, or even the guy sitting in the corner at the Starbucks you’re at. 

Difference between a proxy server and a vpn

Price is another big differentiator between a proxy server and a VPN. While VPN prices have come down quite a lot in recent years they’re still relatively more expensive than proxy servers which can even found for free. Although as with anything free, you should exercise extreme caution when pursuing these options. 

Conclusion

We hope this short article helped you gain somewhat of an understanding of what a proxy server is and how it compares and contrasts to a VPN. Thanks for reading!

Want To Know What a VPN Is? Read This Article.

If you want to know what a VPN is you’re in the right place. We’ll help guide you to the understanding you’re looking for.

Chances are, if you’ve watched any videos on YouTube in the last few years you’ve probably seen an advertisement for a VPN service. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. In broad terms, a VPN is an easy and affordable way to secure your privacy online.

To further understand what that means, we need to know what an IP address is. Think of an IP address like the return address on a package. No matter where that package is shipped throughout the world anyone can look at the return address and know where it came from. A VPN masks your IP address which essentially erases that return address, so that your browsing data can’t be traced back to you.

How Does a VPN Work?

To connect to a VPN your device needs to connect to a VPN client, the VPN client then connects to a VPN server through a secure tunnel, and finally to the Internet. The secure tunnel encrypts all of your data and hides your IP address, keeping you safe from prying eyes.

As illustrated below, without a VPN your connection to the Internet through your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is open and unsecure. However, through the use of a VPN your IP Address and browsing data are encrypted and secured.

what is a vpn
How a VPN Works

Why Do I Need to Keep My Browsing Data Private?

There are many entities on the web that create unique profiles specific to your IP address to track everywhere you go online. Some companies then sell this information to other companies that serve you very specific targeted ads. Remember that ad you got on Instagram for those shoes you looked at that one time? That’s just exactly what we’re talking about. There are also malicious actors that use that same data for nefarious purposes, such as identity theft and cyber attacks. 

What is a VPN?

In conclusion, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN works by creating a secure tunnel from your device to their VPN server which encrypts your browsing data and masks your IP address keeping your online privacy secure. 

It’s worth mentioning that everything we’ve talked about is also true for mobile devices, like smart phones and tablets. VPN services are widely available on these devices making Internet security easier than ever. 

Recommended VPN Services

Express VPN

Nord VPN

Private Internet Access

What is Fiber Optic Internet?

What is Fiber Optic Internet? You are a business owner and you have heard of Fiber Optic Communication. But you don’t know exactly what it is or how it compares to your current way of accessing the Internet. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the full article, here is the short description:

Fiber Optic Internet* is a new way of connecting to the Internet via laser light signals. These signals propagate through cables filled with glass filament. This amounts to speeds 100 times faster than the original copper wire Internet. But availability is still limited. You may or may not be able to get it. It’s mainly in big cities on the East Coast. But a few other startup companies also offer it in other places. And even though the overall long-term bill is lower than traditional cable, the upfront costs can be pricey.

*Note: You may have heard of Fiber Optic Internet referred to as Fiber Internet, Fiber Optic Network or Fiber Optic Communication. It’s all the same thing.

Fiber Optic Internet vs. Broadband vs. DSL Points of Comparison

How Internet Cables Work

We can access the Internet through telephone wires (DSL), through coaxial cables (Broadband or traditional High-Speed Internet), and now through fiber optic cables. DSL and Broadband both use copper wires, through which electricity passes to transmit signals to and from the Internet. But fiber optic cables are filled with glass filaments through which light is propagated to transfer signals to and from the Internet.

DSL uses the same wires that your telephone service uses. Broadband uses separate copper cables with a larger bandwidth. The larger the bandwidth, the larger the capacity to download and upload your favorite websites as well as other valuable data and images. With fiber optic cables, specialized technicians install two concurrent thinner and delicate cables. Your computer sends data out through one and receives it through the other.

Fiber Optic Internet Speed

Fiber Optic Internet speeds can get up to 1 to 2 gigabit per second (1000-2000 Mbps). Broadband speeds are usually between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. And DSL speeds are usually between 25 and 100 Mbps. Higher speeds translate into faster load times, higher-quality streaming, and less time wasted watching the spinning beach ball on your screen.

Reliability

There are a number of variables that affect the strength and consistency of copper-wire Internet signals, which don’t affect the strength and consistency of Fiber Optic Internet signals. Three of those variables are:

  • Distance from your local node and your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
  • Your data download/upload speed
  • Electromagnetic Interference

Distance from your local node and your ISP

The longer the copper-wire cables for DSL and Broadband, the higher the distortion and attenuation of the signal. That means that the further your business is located from your local node and your ISP, the lower your signal strength. Attenuation is the reduction of the force of your Internet signal or electrical current. You want that force to be strong and consistent.

Your data download/upload speed

Additionally, the data download/upload speed affects the quality of your Internet connection. The faster the speed combined with limited bandwidth, the more distortion to the signal.

Electromagnetic Interference

Lastly, anything that carries an electrical current has the potential to interfere with a copper-wire cable Internet signal. Electromagnetic interference can come from power lines, radiation, or even the sun.

None of these variables affect the strength and consistency of Fiber Optic Internet signals, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that do. For example, if imperfections in the glass filament cables receive an overload of light energy, the fibers can fuse together. This is known as fiber fuse. If this happens, it can ruin long strips of cable before the problem is even detected, which will subsequently have to be replaced.

The bottom line is that Broadband and Fiber are both reliable and fast, but Fiber is the most reliable and the fastest.

Upfront vs. Long-term maintenance Costs

The installation of Fiber Optic Internet is more expensive upfront than broadband or DSL. This is because the technology is new and those who service it have to be specially trained on how to set up and maintain the equipment. Furthermore, the equipment itself requires specialized equipment for monitoring and troubleshooting.

However, the long-term maintenance of Fiber Optic Internet is less expensive. The overall costs of maintaining and scaling Fiber are less than those for DSL and Broadband. Additionally, costs are projected to reduce over time as the technology becomes more widely available (Fiber Optic Market by Cable Type).

My family and I live in an area where Fiber Optic Internet is available (UTOPIA – Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) so we opted in for residential service. The upfront cost for us was not bad because our city is part of an 11-city co-op that joined together to build, deploy, and operate the infrastructure. We pay $30/month to rent our portion of the infrastructure and then $39/month to our ISP. We chose this service over Broadband because we were sick of their yearly plans ending and rates going sky high until we noticed and called in to get their next special offer.

Conclusion

If Fiber Optic Internet is already available in your city, the upfront costs are manageable. So that is most likely your company’s best option. Because it is not yet widely available, you may need to choose high-speed Broadband, which still offers premium speeds and services. DSL is outdated. If you have it, know that you have superior options available at reasonable rates.

Read a case study about how we helped one of our clients increase their Internet speeds at three locations: Customized High-Speed Internet For Your Unique Business: Case Study

Customized IT Solutions for Unique Businesses

Every business requires Customized IT Solutions because everybody’s business is different. The way people run their business and the layout of their buildings is different.

Industry Specific Tools

Everybody has different needs and different IT solutions. When you have this uniqueness between clients you can’t just use cut-and-paste solutions. My goal is to help tailor the IT solutions to the client’s needs.

Every business has industry-specific tools that integrate with their network in unique ways. We have clients who run equipment from imaging machines for x-rays to CNC machines (a computer-controlled cutting device). With each business, I have to consider the best, customized solution.

Customized IT Solutions: updating hardware & software is an investment

Another thing we run into a lot is that many of our clients invested a lot of money several years ago into their IT hardware and software when Windows 7 was still around. This makes it a challenge to come in and clean up their network. When a business has old equipment, there are a lot of things that need to be upgraded for it to run smoothly. I know it’s an expense for a company and it seems like it doesn’t directly profit them. It takes a portion of their budget and it’s hard to see the benefit of the investment.

Updating hardware & software is like maintaining the tires on a pickup

Their investment is kind of like the tires on a pickup. You can spend time with flats, downtime, and low traction. You can spend a lot of time and effort constantly fixing flat tires. Or you can invest in some new tires which don’t slow you down and keep your workflow optimized.

The tires on the truck don’t make the truck money but they are a crucial part of the truck that allows it to function optimally. They are vital for the truck to run, whether it’s coming or going.

Wi-Fi stability & connectivity issues at a school with a large campus

Recently, I assisted with restructuring a large network to improve Wi-Fi stability and connectivity speeds across a school’s large campus up in Idaho City. The students at this school constantly rely on assigned laptops. They have to carry them from class to class. And they reported that they were having nothing but headaches with their connectivity. Their speeds were slow. The signal was constantly dropping off.

Customized IT Solutions: the handoff

Because the structures of businesses’ buildings are always different, the way we have to run cable for Wi-Fi connectivity is also different. But, I’m constantly trying to apply the knowledge that I learn from one client to issues that another client has. When I troubleshoot, I’m always looking for something out of place and something that needs to be improved.

I recently worked on optimizing connectivity for another one of our clients who was having similar issues in their large warehouse. I applied the same solutions to the school district in Idaho City. When I went out to look at their campus, I noticed that a lot of their network was not optimized. So, I took a map of the school and mapped out the location of all the access points. I then restructured the way that their controller was set up in order to make the handoff smoother.

Handoff is when students with laptops walk outside of the bubble that the access point (AP) is capable of listening and talking on.

I corrected the handoff issues they were having by adjusting what’s called the RSSI or Received Signal Strength Indication. When the performance level goes down, the laptop knows that it needs to look for another access point.

Tailored IT Solutions: access points and laptops need to communicate

With the RSSI adjusted, the access points and laptops could communicate with each other. Now, when a student walks to the edge of a bubble and the laptop gets to that threshold of performance, the AP says, “Hey you’re out of my limit. You need to start looking for another access point because I’m going to drop.” The device will then respond, “Okay, is there another access point that I can connect to that I’m getting closer to?” The laptop searches for a closer access point and switches over to it with barely even a hiccup.

Monitoring outages mitigates major issues

I also wiped out and rebuilt their controller on the server, so it was easier for us to manage and monitor outages. After setting up remote alerts for their network, I could see their outages ahead of time. We are able to mitigate major issues because I call the school every time a switch or an access point goes down.

The outcome of our Customized IT Solution

Before, the students would avoid using the wireless because it was just too unreliable. After I implemented these solutions, the students are using the Wi-Fi and are more confident that it will work. Now, it’s actually helping students with their education and learning. They can actually complete assignments. The Wi-Fi is being used for what it was intended for.

Read more about Wi-Fi Connectivity: Wi-Fi Extenders for Business

“Thank you so much for your article about David Rucker.  Although, we have gotten to know him fairly well over the time that he has been our technician, it is always nice to know more.  He is very professional in all that he undertakes and is also a wonderful guy!!”

Debbi Mills-Havey
Cathedral Administrator
St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral

Customer Story: Business Communication & Collaboration

Improve your business communication & collaboration

Clifton Coffee Roasters (CCR) was the first specialty coffee roaster to adopt the Teamwork solutions from the Microsoft platform. This means they’re breaking new ground in communications methods for their industry. As the company expands, they depend on Teamwork solutions from Microsoft to:

  • manage their growth
  • drive innovation
  • help their employees connect in the most meaningful and productive ways possible

Want to increase productivity and drive innovation in your business? Check out this video to see how this company leads the way in business communication and collaboration innovation in their industry. And then contact Joe (Utah) or Fred (Idaho) at Integrinet IT to learn more by Scheduling a Free Consultation.

Click on the above image to view the video or here: View Video.

The number-one benefit of Microsoft 365 for us has been the improved access. We have access to everything, anywhere we are in the world, as long as we can get online.

Will Hawkins
President,
Allpro Construction

The actual way you can maximize your business productivity

OneDrive for Business enables effortless access to files, including 1 TB of data for each user. As a result, you and your employees can work together and share documents easily, wherever you are.

When you access and edit your documents offline, your updated files sync automatically when you’re back online. This enables you to just pick up where you left off in your document when switching devices.

View or revert to a previous version of your document thanks to automatic saving and file versioning.

In addition to that, you can preview more than 270 common file types right from OneDrive for Business. That means that you won’t have to open a separate app.

Furthermore, you can stream a video on demand without waiting for it to download.

Get more details here:

Crash Course in Office 365: How It Can Help You Grow Your Business

Project Management with Microsoft 365

Project Management with Microsoft 365

Situation 

A large nonprofit company with multiple locations in Treasure Valley, Idaho was struggling with its project management. They had been using notepads, email, and in-person meetings to create and manage projects. It was difficult for them to track and advance a project. As a result, no one knew where they were in the process. Subsequently, it was a challenge for management to complete projects in an ineffective and efficient manner. So, they called us to discuss some technology options that would increase their productivity.

The Problem

Inability to See the Bird’s Eye Perspective

Because they were not able to get an overall perspective of the components of each project, it took a long time to complete them. Consequently, this workflow was terribly slow and often frustrated everyone involved.

Ineffective Communication

Additionally, frontline workers were not being supported throughout the problem resolution stages. It was difficult to maintain effective communication on projects between offices and departments.

Disorganized File Systems

Moreover, mid-level managers were doing more work than needed. Each time they had to put a project down to work on something else, they would often lose their place. Upon returning to it, they wasted a lot of time finding their notes, documents, and where they had left off.

Inability to Make Decisions Quickly & Confidently

The upper management was not able to make executive decisions as quickly as they wanted. As a result, their resolution and implementation processes moved too slowly for their needs.

Our Solution

As their Managed Services Provider, we researched various solutions. We presented them with 3 to 4 options. After hearing about each one, they chose the following Microsoft 365 products:

  1. OneDrive and SharePoint for file storage
  2. Teams for chat, video conferencing, and project management

Impact on Project Management

Manage your Files with Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint

They started using Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint to save project files in one location. And everyone on the project team had access to them. With all the files in one place, each person always had an overview of the project. Team members that had to juggle multiple projects were able to move between projects more easily without wasting a lot of time figuring out where they left off.

Watch this SharePoint Tutorial to learn more: How to Use Microsoft SharePoint

Managing your Communication with Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams gave them the ability to quickly communicate with each other about their projects. No need to compose another email for a short question. A secure conversation could be ongoing from a project’s start to end. Because Teams saves all conversations, they had the ability to easily review previous communications to bring them up to speed when returning to a project.

And with video conferencing available at a click of a button in Teams, face to face meetings were a breeze. Even with employees working remotely or at different office locations, they could easily and efficiently collaborate in video meetings.

Conclusion

Organizing communication and project files increased this company’s productivity. Microsoft 365 gave them the tools and we facilitated the install and management. They now are able to work more effectively and efficiently as teams to complete their projects. This solution has been a great relief for them and continues to save them time and frustration.

If your business is experiencing similar problems, schedule a free consultation. Joe (Utah) and Fred (Idaho) sit down with you to learn about your specific business needs. They are excited to help you find solutions that are right for your business. Give us a call (844) 400-0616.

Learn more about Microsoft Teams: Crash Course in Office 365

Switching from Analog to Digital Solutions

Before switching to a Digital Business, employees at Clifton Coffee Roasters used analog solutions to communicate. They physically printed out all documents, filled them out by hand, and then brought them into the office. In the office, they would get scanned and entered into a computer. Sounds tedious, right?

Making the Switch from Analog to Digital

Powered by Teamwork solutions from Microsoft, Clifton Coffee Roasters team members communicate better than ever. Now, their team members stay connected from wherever they are located. With flexible communication tools like Forms, employees can contribute and work together on shared documents from personal devices. No printing or scanning required.

Check out this video (or read the transcript below) to learn how this business switched from analog to digital business solutions by connecting their teams and resources with help from Microsoft solutions.

View the video…

Video Transcript

We used to use a lot of paper from invoicing to timesheets to engineering logs for our food accreditation service. In the roastery, we had to physically write a list or sign off check sheets every morning when we opened to show that we were safe for food production. And we’re able to take a lot of those forms and make them paperless.

And then the other big one was when I used to visit coffee farms, I’d be scribbling notes on the back of a notepad or on my phone and then trying to either send the information back or get it back to the office so we could just be able to tell the story. Microsoft has allowed us to record this information through forms and allow anyone in my team to get access to it in real-time.

Contact Us to Learn More

Contact us to learn how you can switch from analog to digital business solutions by connecting your teams and resources with help from Microsoft solutions.

Preparing Schools for Distance Learning

During Covid shutdowns at schools, we* prepared teachers and students for distance learning. Working as a team, we set up 25,000+ devices to send home with students.

Throughout the entire summer, we worked hard to set up the devices and get any damaged ones in working order. We sanitized them and provided extras for them to have on hand in case there were any problems.

It came down to the wire, but on day one, we set up a device for each student in the district to take home.

Additionally, we set up wireless hotspots for kids who did not have reliable internet.

We also trained teachers and staff to support their students. It was one of the toughest feats we had to tackle preparing this school district for distance learning. And it was very successful.

Links to Learn More

Learn more about Covid-19 Solutions

Read more about cloud solutions: Interoffice Communication: Working Remotely a Challenge?

Watch some videos provided by Dell Technologies on Transforming K-12 Education for the Digital Era

Welcome Michael Cohoe

We are excited to welcome Michael Cohoe, our newest Utah Service Engineer. He grew up in Sugarhouse – Salt Lake City area and loves the outdoors. White water rafting has been his passion for the past 20 years. He also loves mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and hiking. Education-wise, he graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. His work experience includes 12 years in the IT industry, specializing in IT for higher education as well as K-12. With a number of technical certifications already under his belt, he is currently working on Microsoft MCSA 70-740 for Windows Server.

*This post is a description of a project Michael worked on with his previous employer.

Crash course in Office 365: How it can help you grow your business

You may be already taking advantage of Office applications like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. But do you know that Office 365 gives you the capability to access content from any device? Do you know that it allows you to leverage the power of AI to create more impactful content? Check out this guide for more on how Microsoft applications can help protect your sensitive data and accomplish more in your workday.

View: Crash course in Office 365: How it can help you grow your business

Schedule your free consultation with Fred (Idaho) or Joe (Utah) for Microsoft Office 365 business support. (844) 400-0616

Customer Story: Clifton Coffee | Connect and Collaborate

Clifton Coffee Roasters was the first specialty coffee roaster to adopt the Teamwork solutions from Microsoft platform. This means they’re breaking new ground in communications methods for their industry. As the company expands, they depend on Teamwork solutions from Microsoft. They use these solutions to manage their growth, drive innovation, and help their employees connect in the most meaningful and productive ways possible.

End of Life (EOL) Server – Server Consolidation

SCENARIO: END OF LIFE (EOL) SERVER

A leading accounting firm in Treasure Valley, Idaho had been relying on six physical servers to run their daily business operations. Because many businesses rely on their services, a high level of productivity is crucial.

But their servers were reaching end-of-life (EOL) status. This meant that slow server performance was decreasing the firm’s productivity. It also meant that upgraded software was no longer compatible with the server hardware. Something needed to change.

THE PROBLEM

When we met with the accounting firm, we discussed the following problems:

  1. Their Servers had in fact reached End of Life (EOL).
  2. The company from which they had originally purchased the servers had not given them a warranty or support.
  3. Running six servers with six applications was very inefficient.
  4. The expense to maintain six servers was not economical.
  5. The servers took up a lot of closet space, consumed a lot of power, and generated a lot of heat.

OUR SOLUTION: SERVER VIRTUALIZATION

After meeting with them, we designed a plan that upgraded them to a more efficient system. Instead of running and maintaining six physical servers, we proposed that they consolidate the six into one. We did that by setting them up with server virtualization — converting five of their physical servers into software servers.

A software server is a virtual machine. Each one acts like a unique physical machine capable of running its own operating system and application.

IMPACT

After implementing this solution, we were able to improve our client’s position by:

Saving our client money.

In simplifying their infrastructure, we freed up resources they could use for other business projects.

Conserving physical space and energy.

Because they now have only one server generating heat, the firm disconnected one of their two air conditioners in their server room. They no longer need it. They are now saving on their energy bill and decreasing their carbon footprint on the earth.

Decreasing server maintenance costs dramatically.

In the end, they only had one physical server to maintain. They no longer had to pay for replacing old server hardware on the other five. And battery backup was greatly simplified, which will save them thousands of dollars when it comes time to replace it.

Increasing the performance of their system.

With upgraded processors and more memory, their new system is superior to the old, which has significantly improved their productivity

Completing the project during off-hours.

Our service engineer worked over a weekend so that he did not disrupt this company’s service and workflow. Because of this, their transition was seamless. When they returned to work Monday morning, they were able to hit the ground running.

Higher Performance & Lower Costs – Can’t Beat That!

Learn more about Cloud Solutions & Data Backup

Learn more about how Server Virtualization works

Comments from the Principal of the Firm

We are happy with the service we receive from you all, and our network upgrade was seamless. We appreciate our working relationship with you.

Business Communication Increases Net Profit

Most businesses want to build a solid organization that provides quality products and services for their customers. They hope to increase net profit over time. One major player in achieving this goal is efficient and consistent business communication. Here’s how that works:

Business Communication affects Healthy Business Relationships, which affect Productivity & Quality, which affect Net Profit - mobile version

Efficient and consistent communication builds healthy business relationships. With healthy business relationships productivity and quality increase. As productivity and quality improve, net profit increases.

Efficient Business Communication

First, in business, we are exchanging information, ideas, news, and feelings with our coworkers, customers, partners, and vendors. Efficiency is communicating as quickly as possible without compromising meaning, quality, or value.

Consistent Business Communication

It is also important to keep communication consistent. Consistent communication is about fulfilling the expected frequency of interactions and exchanges. It is also about maintaining frequency over time. The longer we can hold isometric in this one skill, the healthier our business relationships will be. Even when conflicts arise, we strive to maintain our communication to let others know that things need to change for a time.

What Disrupts Business Communication?

Disasters, illness, changes, growth, and life in general disrupt business communication. Even so, most businesses can establish patterns in their communication processes and stick with them. Well established processes increase our communication speed. When our teams learn a company-wide process, workflow is improved.

But when technology advances, so do the tools we use to communicate. If we don’t update our older communication methods with the rest of the business world, we lose our competitive edge. Other companies who choose to update their methods will increase their communication speed while ours remain the same.

Updating our processes slows workflow down because everyone has to take time to learn a new way of doing things. This is similar to Steven Covey’s seventh habit: Sharpening the Saw. It seems counterproductive at the moment because of the time it takes to develop the higher-level processes. But over time it increases efficiency. Yet it is also true that too much change is counterproductive. Finding the progressive balance is the key to success.

An explosion of Business Communication Tools

In today’s world, technology is changing, updating, and advancing at a faster rate than we have ever known before. With this growth has come an explosion of choices. Trying to maintain that progressive balance is harder than ever.

We now have a number of options to choose how we will communicate and store communication data:

  • Mail
  • Email
  • Social Media, Instant Message
  • Web Page Chat
  • Company Phone System & Voicemail
  • Cell Phone, Text, Chat
  • Video Chat & Conferencing
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) – Contacts/Calendars/Appointments/Billing
  • File & Data Storage

When we want to communicate, we have a plethora of choices: Should we email or call? Use basic chat or a video chat? Invest in a CRM or manage our contacts, calendars, appointments, and billing in spreadsheets or individual applications? Should we bill through the mail or go paperless? Where should we store our files — In a file cabinet, on our computer, server, or the cloud?

Business Communication Plan

If we do not slow down long enough to make these choices, the result is slower communication. If we do not consciously make a communication plan of how we will use the technology at our fingertips, we will waste time trying to make those decisions anew over and over again. This scatters our minds, files, and data, which leaves us less productive in our workflow.

If you haven’t yet designed a communication plan for you and your team, take the time to do it. Go through each of the tools and determine how and when you will use them. Of course, there can be flexibility when it comes down to your personal workflow, but for the work that involves other team members, it’s best to stick with a communication plan in order to establish good habits, tried and true procedures, and best practices. When you establish these, communication quality, speed, and agility increase. Business relationships improve. And with that improvement, productivity and quality of products and services increase. More people purchase from you, opt in, follow you, subscribe, and sign up. Subsequently, your net profit increases.

But Which Brand Is Best?

To complicate things even more, we also have to choose from several different brands of hardware and software applications that offer the same tools. Which brand should we use? Which one is best?

Computers

  • Dell
  • Apple – Mac
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Toshiba
  • Lenovo

Email Clients

  • G-Suite
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Apple Mail
  • Mozilla
  • Thunderbird

Internet & Phone

  • Landlines
  • AT&T
  • CenturyLink
  • Comcast

VoIP

  • Carrier SI
  • Zoom
  • RingCentral
  • Nextiva
  • Vonage

Wireless Carriers

  • AT&T
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

Chat

  • Microsoft Teams
  • iMessage
  • Facebook Messenger
  • WhatsApp

Video Chat & Conferencing

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • RingCentral
  • Google Duo
  • Apple FaceTime

Calendar

  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Calendly
  • Apple Calendar
  • Google Calendar
  • Fantastical
  • Lightning

CRM – Contacts, Appointments, Billing

  • Salesforce
  • Zoho
  • Monday.com
  • Hubspot
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • QuickBooks
  • FreshBooks
  • Many Industry Specific Options

Cloud Storage

  • OneDrive
  • Google Drive/Cloud
  • DropBox
  • iCloud
  • Creative Cloud
  • Amazon AWS
  • Microsoft Azure

Should we test each of these choices out to assess the best choice? Even if they offer a free trial, every time we make company-wide changes, it costs time and money.

Learning from Other Businesses

Most businesses make these choices by communicating with other businesses similar to their own. They read reviews and go to conferences or online workshops. Many join peer groups and talk to other mentors to find out what has worked for them. They research these sources to identify the best practices for their industry. This step saves time and money. Yet, we still need to decide who to listen to out of all the advice we receive from our trusted sources.

Many of the choices businesses have in regard to technology and communication tools depend on their specific industry and business. Making the right choices is crucial to a company’s success. There are entire fields of study on this topic, i.e., Systems development life cycle (SDLC).

Involving stakeholders in the planning phase is very important, especially if it is a transformational change like adding Microsoft Teams verses changing your Internet Circuit. At minimum, each department head should be interviewed so their point of view and needs are heard, and nothing is missed. When all are involved in making decisions, stakeholder buy-in increases and there is greater motivation to incorporate the strategies into their workflow.

Individual Preference Vs. Best Practices

Additionally, there is plenty of room for individual preference. This means that some choices are similar in quality. The differences between them are negligible. Once the choice has been made and everyone is in agreement, efficient communication is predominantly achieved by sticking with the same brand and communication procedures.

But there are also many choices that are more universal – there are best practices for all businesses. For example, using a notepad, rolodex, ledger, file cabinet, and snail mail is usually not the most efficient way to communicate in today’s business world. Storing files and data on your desktop or laptop that you need to share and collaborate on with other members of your team is less efficient (and usually less safe) than storing them on the cloud and providing your co-workers with a link.

Managed IT Services – Experienced Mentors

Because Managed IT Service companies work with hundreds of small to medium-sized businesses, they know how to get your business set up with the most up to date communication tools. Many trusted IT service companies have worked with businesses in healthcare, logistics, construction, engineering, financial services, hospitality, community organizations, and more. As a result, they have the mentor experience to guide your business to quality tools that are most relevant to your organization. They can help you navigate the profusion of choices you have to make, which saves you money and time. It also gives you peace of mind

To recap, we know you want to build a solid business that provides quality products and services for your customers. We know the way to do that is to:

  1. Increase the efficiency and consistency of your communication
  2. Which helps build healthy business relationships
  3. Which in turn positively influences productivity and quality.

When all of these pieces are aligned, you will achieve real satisfaction in your business, have happy customers, and increased net profit.

Finally, if you need help in navigating the plethora of choices you have to make for your business, give us a call. Schedule a free consultation with either Joe (Utah) or Fred (Idaho) – (844) 400-0616.

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