Outsourcing IT (Information Technology)

When in doubt, source IT out.  It’s a big topic, but there are many ways to save time, effort, and money by outsourcing some of all of your IT functions.

Often, organizations staff IT themselves using one of these techniques:

  • The part-time IT person
  • The full-time IT person
  • The IT team

The part-time IT person

Smaller organizations might assign IT tasks to an existing employee; IT becomes an add-on to that employee’s full-time job.  This arrangement might work well initially, but can creates these issues:

  • Insufficient expertise – Your employee does not have enough expertise and makes mistakes that compromise performance, reliability, and/or security.

Not much needs to be said; basic training and certifications are helpful and should be encouraged.  It might help to have an outside look periodically (an IT audit) to see if your employee is heading in the right direction and doing the right things.

  • IT takeover (makeover?) – Your employee becomes enamored with IT and does not spend enough time on their full-time job.

Often the employee spends too much time chasing IT problems; they find the challenges fascinating and spend hours pursuing issues that might be solved faster by asking for help.  (Pride might also play a part.)  This behavior takes them away from their full-time role, which they might not like as much.

It is a fine line; when should I call for help versus getting it done without engaging anyone else.

  • Skill-set range – IT requires several different skill sets:
    • High-end – Plan strategically, define security requirements, etc.
    • Mid-range – Select and support required applications.
    • Low-end – Change toner in a printer, replace a keyboard, etc.

One employee is required to perform low-level tasks, but is also expected to address high-level functions.  At the mid-level, they own organization-specific applications and provide setup, training, and problem resolution.

It is difficult to find someone who can handle the high-level functions, but is willing to do the mid or low-level tasks; conversely, someone only capable of performing the low-level tasks often cannot support the high-level needs.

Ideally, you would have people for each end of the IT-needs spectrum and all things in-between; realistically, you might consider outsourcing various aspects to supplement the skills of your part-time employee.

  • Management – Who is managing this employee?  How do they know if they are doing things correctly?  How can they be sure that the employee can handle both his/her full-time job and the part-time IT job?

The full-time IT person

Investing in a full-time IT employee is considerably better that counting on a part-time person, but some problems linger:

  • Skill-set range
  • Management

This scenario typically works best if the full-time person is high-end enough to plan strategically, but engages and manages outside assistance to deploy and maintain high-impact items like the network infrastructure.  In this fashion, the skill-set range can be supplemented while direct management is provided.  In addition, this person is always onsite to address critical needs immediately (like showing the CEO how to call-up his/her Facebook page.)

The IT team

An IT team is ideal; you can staff it with individuals who have the appropriate technical skills while providing seasoned management to keep everyone focused and productive.  This manager, who might report to a C-level executive, becomes the interface between the organization’s business requirements and their translation to the technical efforts of the team itself.

An IT team is what you get from most IT-service companies; the good ones know how they fit with their clients and have a long-term relationships with these clients.

Questions to ask an IT-service company

When you engage an IT-service company, you should receive an IT team capable of handling most, if not all, of your IT needs.

Some key questions include:

  • Do you offer features and functions that meet the needs of my organization?
  • Can you state your services and their benefits in business-oriented language?
  • Can you demonstrate dependable service at a reasonable cost?
  • Are you certified and trained in the areas you support?

An IT-service company should be a strategic partner, someone capable of guiding your future while supporting your current infrastructure.

 

For more information, please email Info@Bryley.com or call us at 978.562.6077.

Ergonomics Made Simple – a brief primer from guest writer Marty Reed

Are you sitting down?  Good!

Now ask yourself, how many hours will I be sitting in this chair today??  Wow, that many…

Have you ever asked yourself why you have a backache, or your wrists hurt or why the screen is so blurry?  These are all symptoms that your body is not happy with how you are doing your job.

Ergonomics is the low-tech part of a high-tech job; it is a way to align your body with your job and keep it happy!

So, put your feet flat on the floor (if they don’t reach, we have a problem) so that your thighs are parallel with the floor.  Place your wrists on your desk in front of your keyboard so your forearms are also parallel with the floor.  If you need a wrist rest to keep your wrist in a neutral or flat position, order one. If you need a back support to sit up straight, get an adjustable one (if it’s not already part of your chair).  If you can’t stand keeping your feet flat, get a flexing foot rest.  And keep your monitor an arm’s length away.

Next, with all of those gadgets sitting by your workstation, pick one with the easiest alarm to set.  Then set it for one-hour intervals all day long.  (And if you and/or your children play endless hours of video games, do the same thing at home.)

When it goes off, that means you have to get up off your chair. Yes, GET UP, NOW!  Walk to get some water or walk around the office – do something to wake up your muscles.  (Do not go for a smoke and you may have already had more than enough coffee; try water.)  You might even come up with a solution to the problem you were working on.

Visit the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/office-ergonomics/art-20046169 for more information on Office Ergonomics. 

Marty Reed is an Ergonomics expert providing training and consultation to local organizations.  Feel free to e-mail her at reed167@verizon.net.

Bryley Basics: More of Anna’s Windows 8 tips

Those of you running Windows 8 have probably experienced the new Photosapp, which opens the image in the full-screen, hiding everything else on the screen. It is really inconvenient for me, and I am guessing I am not the only one.  Here’s how to change from the default photo-views application in Windows 8, Photos, back to the Windows 7 version, Photo Viewer:

  1. Once in Desktop Mode go to the Windows Icon winIcon, right-click, and then select Search.
  1. A search bar will open; type Default Programs and then select.

 

  1. Select Set your default programs.

scnShot_1

  1. Select Windows Photo Viewer, select Set this program as default, and then click OK.

scnShot_2

You can use the same procedure to change other default programs.  If there is some type of Windows 8 default application that you are not happy with, this is the place to make those changes.

Did you miss my earlier post on how to boot Windows 8 straight to desktop mode?  If so, check it out here.

Livingstone interviewed by CEOCFO Magazine

Gavin Livingstone, President at Bryley Systems, was interviewed by Lynne Fosse of CEOCFO Magazine, which was published in the 4/28/2014 web-edition.

Registered subscribers can see this in-depth overview of Bryley Systems by logging into the Subscriber Exclusives section at www.CEOCFOMagazine.com.  (The article resides at http://ceocfointerviews.com/CEOCFO-Members/BryleySystems14-CEOCFO-Article4.pdf.)  Or, click the button below to read the article on our website.

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The problem with Heartbleed

Heartbleed is a much-publicized security flaw in the OpenSSL cryptography library; an update to this OpenSSL flaw was published on April 7th, 2014, which was (coincidentally?) the same day that the flaw was disclosed.

OpenSSL runs on secure web servers certified by trusted authorities; it is estimated that about 17% of secure web servers may be vulnerable to an attack based on the Heartbleed flaw, which could compromise the server’s private keys and end-user passwords and cookies.

Fortunately, most organizations with secure web servers have taken steps to identify and fix this flaw.  And, to date, no known exploitations of this flaw have taken place.

Unfortunately, this flaw has been around for over two years and leaves no traces; if exploited, there would be no ready evidence that anything was wrong.

At the moment, there is not much any end-user can do except to logout of any secure web server that has not been patched.  (See http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/, a site created by Italian cryptographer Filippo Valsorda, which claims that it can identify unpatched servers.)

Http://money.cnn.com/2014/04/09/technology/security/heartbleed-bug/index.html contains an informative article and video by Jose Pagliery at CNN Money.

Living with Windows XP

Microsoft has officially ended general support of Windows XP, but many have not updated or replaced their Windows XP PCs.  Although we recommend against continuing to use Windows XP, particularly in any Internet-facing role, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of remaining on this platform.

The easiest, but least practical solution would be to disconnect all Windows XP PCs from the Internet or to limit their access to the Internet.  This step could exclude exposure to outside sources, but reduces the effectiveness of these PCs.

The second-most effective strategy would be to replace older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) with a supported Internet browser; replacing IE with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of using a Windows XP PC to browse the Internet.  (Windows XP originally released with IE 6, but most Windows XP systems are now running version 7 or 8.  The current version of IE is 11.)

Updating to Mozilla’s Firefox is easy:

Please see http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-ends-survival-tips-to-stay-safe-7000028188/ for more information from Charlie Osborn of ZDNet.  Or, visit http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9246877/US_CERT_urges_XP_users_to_dump_IE?source=CTWNLE_nlt_pm_2014-03-11 for a similar message from Gregg Keizer of ComputerWorld.

Additional steps to reduce Windows XP risk include:

  • Disable the ability to add new applications to a Windows XP PC
  • Remove administrative rights of all Windows XP users
  • Disable ports and drives on Windows XP PCs

See the article from Toby Wolpe of ZDNet at http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-end-10-steps-to-cut-security-risks-7000028193/.