What are Managed IT Services?

Week June 1, 2020 –

Managed IT Services or Managed IT Solutions is an industry term for us being your IT department. Think of us as a trusted and valuable member of your team.

Fully managed services offer a flat rate monthly fee which covers all IT related issues and incidents. We at Artful IT Services like food, so we will use the all-you-can eat buffet (RIP) analogy for this service. With a predictable monthly cost it allows our clients to operate worry free and to focus on their core business. The IT business model of old generally had an IT provider billing a client for services on an hourly basis. At times they might not have a vested interest in the long term health of the company’s infrastructure. This model did not work very well and certainly was not in the best interest of the client. With IT becoming so much more important in today’s competitive business environment and clients requiring additional services, Managed IT Services became the goto level of service for most of our clients. Managed IT Solutions shifts the risk from the client business to a onsite service provider, such as ourselves. These risks can be anything from a desktop acting up, an end user having difficulty, a virus or much worse.

Our fully managed implementation workflow is as follows,

  • Starting with an on-site assessment of your IT environment, a general health check on all existing infrastructure is completed. Is equipment in good working condition or aged? What type of problems are end users experiencing which is impeding their productivity?
  • Evaluate priorities and risks to the organization. Are there gaping security holes or threats?
  • Then its time for some long term planning. What should your 1-2- 3- 5 year IT plan look like?
  • Evaluate total IT spend (including telephone, internet, licensed software, etc). Quite often clients are paying for services which are not even being used or are duplicate services.
  • On-boarding implementation plan. (We want to avoid disruptions to your business wherever possible.) We will schedule any prescribed work within predetermined a roll out schedule.

We offer Managed IT Services / Managed IT solutions to clients in Winnipeg and throughout Canada.

IT plays a very significant role in your company at the present tim and its importance will only grow over time. Many clients are choosing this as a time to invest in the long term.

Maximize your IT budget and effort effectively.

Artful IT Services Fully Managed IT solutions – It is like having an on-site IT person on your staff but at a fraction of the cost

~ Artful IT Services

Managed IT Service wheel
Managed IT Solutions and IT Services

Email Hosting 101

Week of February 17, 2020 –

Email is the hub for most businesses’ communications. It’s an easy way to communicate and almost every one of your customers utilizes email for their day to day communications. Whether issuing invoices, communicating with clients, booking meeting requests or ensuring a message is cascaded out to stakeholders, email remains the predominate method of communication in business today.

Email is convenient, allowing each user to have their own dedicated storage space and allows them to archive past email; whether for customer service purposes or an audit trail.

In a perfect world email would just appear without any effort from a small business owner. It is our goal to ensure this process is as easy as possible for you and your team, but there is one piece of the puzzle which needs to occur; an email hosting service provider must be selected. (Hopefully that means us)

What is an email host and just what do they do?  Basically email hosting services operate and maintain all the behind the scenes IT stuff which gives you the ability to send and receive emails.  They ensure you have as much system uptime as possible and maintain the infrastructure required to support all emails, any archived information you have saved in your email folders, calendars or any other services you have hired an email host to provide.

There are a variety of options available when setting up small business email hosting services.  Many of which are not very desirable (ie: free email services, gmail, hotmail etc.  But we will get onto that topic in a moment)

Service reliability is key when selecting a business grade email hosting service.

Artful IT Email Hosting Solutions provides our customers with a best-of-breed email hosting solution. Featuring 99.999% up time/reliability. Our email hosting services also gives you more control over the service you’re getting.  Our clients have direct access to our support and help desk team and you’ll be able to contact them if you have any technical questions or security issues.

There are also several ‘add-ons’ available to our clients. From an updated desktop Outlook license, shared calendars and collaboration tools, exchange synchronization across all your team’s devices to some of the many Office 365 product options available.

And all email hosting accounts are equipped with individual webmail accounts.  A nice option which allows users to check email from a desktop browser.  (Ever hear of the roaming charge horror stories some people have been faced with while traveling abroad?)

Create email alias accounts.  For example you could have sales@yourdomain, accounting@, service@ funneling through to specific team members without paying for additional mailboxes and allowing these addresses to be easily monitored. Many clients like this option as it is a more professional approach and easier to manage incoming customer requests.

One item which is becoming more important – where are these hosts located and what level of security and assurance do they provide?  Safety and security of your data should be paramount.  While we are based in Winnipeg all client data is housed outside of Winnipeg and remains in Canada at our secure data centres.

A few words about free email hosting services – Using free email services can be fraught with multiple problems.  You get what you pay for. 

Using a free mail service does not lend itself to portraying confidence to your customers and prospects. Providing a prospect the contact address, sales@FreeEmail.xxx , doesn’t really scream of a professional organization. By utilizing our professional business email hosting services it will give your small business a good, professional image. What might seem like a minor detail is a major one, a proper email address @yourdomain is the best way to proceed. Keep your business looking professional and remember a good rule of thumb, nothing is truly free.

In addition Free email services can be fraught with potential privacy issues, unexpected downtime and unwanted advertisements. Less cloud storage is also a downside to free email hosting services, they are also more vulnerable to hackers, simply due to their size.

We offer a wide array of Microsoft 365 or Google Drive products on a monthly basis with no annual (or longer) commitments.

Email hosting doesn’t need to be complicated. It is our job to ensure our clients understand this process and to make all options clear and easy to understand, that way an informed decision can be made.

With so many options available, we will tailor an email hosting package which is right sized for your small business.

~ Artful IT Services

Winnipeg email hosting services and email hosting solutions graphic

Setting up a new small business?

We have a great starter marketing package

Week of January 20, 2020 –

Congratulations!  You’ve decided to open a business.  Oh dear.. there seems to be a lot of things to do now.  Government red tape requirements, banking and insurance arrangements, setting up shop, finding customers, the list seems to go on ad infinitum. Where to even start? A solid marketing plan seems logical.

Have no fear – We are here to help with a few key items. 

We have start up marketing plans for small business! 

We understand how daunting this process can be, as we went through it ourselves.  It’s our goal to alleviate some of the worry, stress and hassle out of this process. 

We offer a starter package to get everything in place from a marketing prospective that you will need.

  • Logo design

Logos sound easy but at the same time they can be complex.  What sort of message are you trying to convey?  What will be your brand?  What colours might be most effective?  Your logo is your brand and company vision, a good logo should be selling your business even when you aren’t actively doing so.

  • Business card and letterhead design

Business cards are a visual extension of your business and brand. Many times a business card could be retained by an individual for years. We make choosing the face of your company simple; from card shape, font, space utilization, finishing and overall design. Make your card memorable and harder for someone to simply throw into the recycling bin.

  • Help with selecting a suitable web domain

The web domain needs to be simple yet stay consistent with your brand.  Brevity is also very important – so supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.CA might not be the best web domain option if you are opening up a Mary Poppins themed business. We will help you perform a search of available web names which are available.

  • Setting up company email

Using free email services can be fraught with multiple problems.  You get what you pay for.  Using a free mail service also does not lend itself to portraying confidence to your customers and prospects. Providing a prospect the contact address, sales@FreeEmail.xxx , doesn’t really scream of a professional organization. By utilizing our professional business email hosting services it will give your new small business a good, professional start.

  • Assistance with setting up applicable social media accounts

Which social media avenues might be the best to take?

  • Handout Company brochure

Packages start at $495*

A website starter pack is also available.

Many of our clients have also found this as a good starting point to lay the foundation in setting up IT policies, find necessary IT support and gather all information on how technology can be used to improve your operation. We are your turn key solution for new small businesses in Winnipeg.

To find out more about this economical turn key solution please contact us.  We would love to hear from you to talk about your new business and help your marketing program hit the ground running. 

* (not including any web hosting, on-going email mgmt. or additional graphic design requests)

~ Artful IT Services

Winnipeg business start up marketing package

Disaster Recovery and Secure Data Backup

Week of January 6, 2020

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Per Wikipedia, Data backup is defined as – In Information Technology, a backup, or data backup is a copy of computer data taken and stored elsewhere so that it may be used to restore the original after a data loss event.

Sadly, disaster recovery planning rarely gets the attention it deserves until there is a loss or threat.

Generally most people think about fires, floods or other disasters in conjunction with data loss. A far more likely threat is theft of equipment, viruses, or employee negligence. Losing company data can be disastrous. Quite often stories can be found on TV newscasts or social media about hackers or would-be wrong doers holding company data for ransom or personal data that has been breached. Lets keep your company out of the limelight. Well, at least that type of limelight. These risks can be mitigated with an effective, secure data backup plan.

Id like to report that the backup practice of yesteryear has changed ; the usual workflow for small and medium sized business was the customer backing up data at a frequency of X and the backup device (tape, hard drive, etc) would go off site. Quite often the backup would go home with an employee or manager, a safe deposit box at the bank, or simply go into a drawer and stay on site. For those less prepared, there was no formal backup process in place. These ears have heard countless stories of lost information, heartbreak, lost receivables or mission critical data which have resulted in staggering losses, bankruptcy or losing clientele due to severe business interruptions. While many businesses have become more aware of the importance of a disaster recovery plan, many have not taken the proper steps to properly safeguard their company’s data. These antiquated practices still exist in many businesses, quite often when we are assessing a new client its rare that this isn’t the current practice.

There is a better way.

There are several options for backing up and protecting data. Firstly our clients need to identify which data to backup. Back up all of it or just the mission critical data? Who decides what is deemed mission critical? What might not be considered mission critical data today might be tomorrow. These answers can be found in a company disaster recovery plan. Having a disaster recovery program in place which is regularly updated, off site and has numerous safeguards in place is the way to go.

So just what do we do with this data? Generally go to answer in 2020 is to put ‘backup data into the cloud’. Sounds simple and certainly makes sense but do we know exactly where this data will be housed? Out of country/Overseas? Is this data encrypted while in transmission and while in storage?

Thankfully we are here to assist our clients to make informed decisions. During our assessment process we identify all company data and develop a plan for data backup and recovery. All our company data is housed in our Canadian data centres, is encrypted and has a scheduled transmission plan. These days the cost for secure data backup is relatively inexpensive and many clients view this as a very important form of insurance to safeguard against data loss.

We work with our clients to ensure they are as protected as possible. Secure backup services are available to our clients in the Winnipeg area and across Canada. Please contact us for a full review of your disaster recovery program.

~ Artful IT Services

Secure Data Backup vault door

What are Managed IT Services?

Week of December 2/19 –

Managed IT Services or Managed IT Solutions is an industry term for us being your IT department.

Fully managed services offer a flat rate monthly fee which covers all IT related issues and incidents. We at Artful IT Services like food, therefore we have no problems using the all-you-can eat buffet analogy for this service. With a predictable monthly cost it allows our clients to operate worry free and to focus on their core business. To turn back the clock, the old IT business model generally had an IT provider billing a client for services on an hourly basis. At times they might not have a vested interest in the long term health of the company’s infrastructure. With IT becoming so much more important in today’s competitive business environment and clients requiring additional services, Managed IT Services became the goto level of service for most of our clients. With Managed IT Solutions the risk shifts from the client business to a onsite service provider, such as ourselves. These risks can be anything from a desktop acting up, an end user having difficulty, a virus or much worse.

Our fully managed implementation workflow is as follows,

  • Starting with an on-site assessment of your IT environment, a general health check on all existing infrastructure is completed. Is equipment in good working condition or aged? What type of problems are end users experiencing which is impeding their productivity?
  • Evaluate priorities and risks to the organization. Are there gaping security holes or threats?
  • Then its time for some long term planning. What should your 1-2- 3- 5 year IT plan look like?
  • On-boarding implementation plan. (We want to avoid disruptions to your business wherever possible.) We will schedule any prescribed work within predetermined a roll out schedule.

We offer Managed IT Services / Managed IT solutions to clients in Winnipeg and throughout Canada.

IT plays a very significant role in your company at the present time. Its not going away anytime soon. Many clients choose this as a time to invest in the long term. Maximize your IT budget and effort effectively.

Artful IT Services Fully Managed IT solutions – It is like having an on-site IT person on your staff but at a fraction of the cost.

Managed IT services solutions wheel

Are there differences between consumer grade electronics and professional grade equipment?

Week of November 18/19

We have heard this question countless times. The answer is Yes, 100%.

There are two basic types of computer equipment, consumer goods (think big box retailers) and professional grade office equipment. Often manufacturers offer what appears to be the same computer make and model in both their home and business divisions, but they are actually not the same computer. A good analogy we use, a construction professional generally doesn’t go to a big box retailer to purchase a drill or a commercial kitchen isn’t using an Eaton Viking 4 burner home range. These people, like yourself, are professionals and require professional grade equipment to ensure the most up time as possible.

Business computers are built to last, with higher quality components that are tested more rigorously. Parts used for consumer computers may be more generic or even cheap, while computers designed for professional use more often include higher-grade materials and name-brand parts. This emphasis on durability means that a business class laptop or desktop you buy now should last you several years.

Business-grade computers offer more features for professional work, such as fingerprint readers, remote desktop control software, and encryption tools. The professional operating system version that comes on business PCs is also more suited for workers than the home version. (future blog idea in process..) Bloatware is also a consumer grade electronics favorite. Bloatware, per google, is defined as unwanted software included on a new computer or mobile device by the manufacturer. Basically eating up memory, taking away from the machines performance and designed to further monetize equipment which has already been bought and paid for.

Finally, business computer systems come with better support options and might be more easily supported by your employer’s Information Technology department as well. The default warranty on business computers is usually longer than those on consumer models. On-site computer technical support is widely available. An added bonus is that professional grade equipment is generally easier to provide more rapid I.T. support to your end users.

We offer several manufacturer options for our clients to choose from. We have the ability to custom build for a client if it is warranted.

The good news is , the price differential isn’t usually that dramatic.

What is dramatic is the value for money spent and the total cost of ownership.

~ Artful IT Services

with files from Melanie Pinola, Life wire

Professional grade computer equipment

How to select an I.T. Consultant

Week of November 11/19 –

Wow. Great question. With a quick search on the internet or old school phone book one can find dozens of I.T. Consultants willing to help your organization. Every one of them has a specialty. Its always best to inquire to see if they fit in with your organization. Example: Our specialty is small business I.T. support and graphics services, serving Winnipeg, Manitoba and Western Canada.

A major part of our approach is to discuss (in confidence) and understand your business goals and objectives. A full assessment of your I.T. environment usually follows. From there we can start to build a comprehensive I.T. strategy for your company. This can be as simple or complex as you see fit.

Understanding customers goals and their business plan is key for a successful business relationship. Having the gift to articulate this back to the client regardless of their tech savviness is also a very important component.

I found this article from PC World from a few years back. Still rings true today. Here are a few excerpts,

From the files of PC World – Seek a professional who observes your operations and asks questions about how your business works overall, not just the technologies it uses.

Your IT Contact should feel the pulse of your network and pay special attention to data security and backup. Where is your business’s e-mail hosted? What operating systems, software, antivirus tools, desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones do your employees use?

Ideally, the professional you select should help beyond your immediate needs with a 3- or 5 year plan that takes your budgeting and forecasting into account. A monthly or quarterly check-in isn’t a bad idea.

An IT pro should translate geek-speak into user-friendly language you understand. This task may be tough for a helplessly left-brained technician, but they should at least try.

Someone who provides choices and a range of price levels has done research to keep you informed. The most expensive products aren’t always the best option.

Make sure the consultant looks for tools that fit the size and type of your business. If your family runs an antique shop, for example, your accounting data may fit neatly on a secure USB key that you take home each night. If you’re in charge of an investment firm or medical office, on the other hand, your data must have extra layers of protection to comply with privacy regulations and other laws.

A savvy IT technician keeps up with tech-industry news to know how and when products are updated and evolve. The pro doesn’t have to be a news fiend, but you should assess their knowledge by asking them about something cool you spotted in a tech magazine or news site…

~ Artful IT Services


The 5 Most Dangerous Email attachments

Week of November 4/19 –

Spam Email is still a very real threat to most organizations. These eyes have seen countless end users open suspicious email attachments which have led to complete and utter chaos. A key component to prevention is employee awareness and training. That being said, this should also work hand in hand with proper business class anti virus software and a formal disaster recovery program.

Be on guard as the perpetrators are generally quite savvy and cunning in their approach. This is a big business.

Per Forbes writer Lee Mathews, 85% of all malicious emails have a .DOC, .XLS, .PDF, .ZIP, or .7Z attached.

Quite often, new clients come to us while using a free email service and their information has been compromised or they have an uneasy feeling about the service. We offer several options from our own Exchange email to Microsoft 365 options.

Informative article link attached below.

~ Artful I.T. Services

https://www.forbes.com/sites/leemathews/2018/08/01/these-are-the-five-most-dangerous-email-attachments/#6859db342d1b

IP telephony for business

Week of October 28/19 –

Communication options have drastically changed over the past several years. Some of us will remember people waiting until after 6 PM to make a long distance call on a residential landline telephone. (Just me? OK then)

There are now dozens of communications options open to small businesses in Winnipeg and Manitoba.

Business telephone communications involve a significant amount more than just a landline telephone. Some of the benefits of IP Telephony are,

  • Internal Communications
  • Automation
  • Flexible Call Routing (calls forwarded to cell phones, etc)
  • Company Image Enhancement (Professional image)
  • Internet Integration
  • Easy cost tracking

Why is #iptelephony a top phone service choice for Canadian and US businesses? Check out this handy blog. Let Artful IT Services explore your #CloudPBX options.

http://stuf.in/b148is The State of Business VoIP and Where It’s Headed in 2018

  • This blog from Business 2 Community, a popular blog community where business leaders come to learn about trends and share their insight, experience and expertise in an open forum, addresses why advanced IP telephony is becoming the default communications medium for modern businesses.

~ Artful I.T. Services

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