What is Managed IT Services & How it Can Help
Dan Diamond: And thanks for joining us, my name is Dan Diamond, and this is Bit-Wizards. Yes, the Tip of the Wand, starring Vince and Sam this morning. Good morning, guys.
Vince: Hey, good morning, Diamond Dan, how are you, sir?
Dan Diamond: I'm ducky. How about yourself?
Vince: I'm doing fantastic.
Dan Diamond: You're not doing five by five anymore?
Vince: I am five by five.
Dan Diamond: Oh, I like that five by... I'd never heard that before, that's a new term. I'm going to have to remember that when I'm doing five by five, man, they'll be like, " What?" " Yeah, that's what Vince said." Very good. So, is anything changed Bit-Wizards? Are you guys floating along pretty well, maybe the opening up of things, having any effect on you or you guys are still probably hard charging it?
Vince: Yeah, we're hard charging it. I just want to give a shout out to my friend, Ron Beeman. Ron and I went to high school together, and Ron's in the ICU with COVID, and everybody's got him and his wife in our prayers. Ron's good guy, a lot of people probably know him, he used to be one of the service managers down there at the BMW and Mercedes dealership back when it was Quality Imports, and he runs a local maintenance shop here. He's just a good guy, and I've got prayers for him and his family.
Dan Diamond: Gosh, I'm very sorry to hear about that, Vince. I sincerely hope he gets better soon.
Vince: Yeah, I do too because I think his wife is now sick, is what I read, there's a Facebook post out there. But this thing, most people are beating it, and I think with a good medical care and prayers and stuff, I think most people are going to be all right. So I'm just going to think positive on it.
Dan Diamond: I do too, I think that's a good, positive outlook. People are tough, and we've learned an awful lot since this started, so I think we're going to have a lot of success rate as well.
Vince: I do too.
Dan Diamond: All right. You guys ready to get into it?
Vince: Absolutely, sir.
Dan Diamond: Let's do it.
Announcer: Bit-Wizards, Bits & Bytes.
Vince: So today, I think we want to talk to some of the small business owners out there about using data to guide your decisions, and so trying to think a little bit about how you can become more data-driven. In an article in the Small Business Trends online magazine, they outline about six ways that a business can become more data-driven. And you may not consider yourself a numbers person, but the word data can be intimidating for most business owners and most people, who are also often collecting a lot of data. But if your decision making process that you have in your business isn't based upon the numbers, then you're making them on something significantly more dangerous, which is your assumption. We all know what we do when we assume, don't we, Dan?
Dan Diamond: Yes, we do.
Vince: But unfortunately, most companies assumptions are how they operate, and if you, according to a survey by Social Listening Tool mention, less than 15% of businesses have data-driven culture, and just 17% of those surveyed said they have a high degree of data literacy, I mean that they feel comfortable with reading, creating, and communicating data as information. And so, one of the things we try to do here at Bit-Wizards is make sure that we do things based upon numbers, we're fanatical about numbers here and making sure that we execute based upon the numbers, or that there's a sound reason for doing things in IT. But that doesn't mean that sometimes we've got to go with our gut and move forward, but in general, we work with numbers.
Sam: In fact, if you look at the big, very successful companies that are out there right now, especially in the technology field, you see the different things they do, there's social media, there's online selling platforms, there's search engines that make up these huge companies. But really what makes them so successful is their data analytics, they are very data-driven to the point that some of them get in trouble for collecting too much data about their customer base, because they understand that harnessing the power of that data, of knowing websites that you might visit or your shopping trends or things like that is really the difference for them to stand out against their competition as well. But we believe that any business, any size, can definitely be empowered by being able to look at core metrics and understand how that applies to their businesses.
Vince: Or worse yet, we see some businesses that collect a ton of data, and they do absolutely nothing to analyze it or use it in their decision making process. So if you're a small business and you're looking at all of the different systems that you have, Sam mentioned the website, which collects a lot of data about hits and people coming there and things like that and conversions, that's where people might come to your website and then either call you on the telephone or fill out a form online. But there are other metrics that you can gauge, like the number of phone calls that you get, or analyzing what type of products are selling well in your store. So there's about six things that this article that we looked at, that they recommend, and it starts with inventorying the types of data that you're collecting. There's all kinds of daily activities and things that you do, interactions with customers, that generate data, and if you don't know what's already available to you, you can't make any use with it.
Sam: That's exactly right, and probably just as important as inventorying the types of data that you're collecting, is then also staying focused on that. So once you consider the amount of data that you are able to collect for your business, it's then easy to get bogged down or distracted by the numbers and try to do everything by those numbers. But what you have to do is consider your business goals, what are you trying to achieve, and then think through the figures that you actually need to monitor. So for our managed IT services, one of the things we do is we have a QBR, quarterly business review, where we sit down with the business. And it's less about the IT that happened or is happening, and more about the business goals of the organization, and looking to see how the numbers we're able to pull can assist them. So that might be that we dig up some, some business intelligence charts for them to show how a certain type of technological issue seems to be hindering them at certain locations for their business, there might be networking issues that we can only see as it trends over time.
Vince: Or maybe PCs or servers that they're not using anymore, or aren't using to their fullest potential, they've got a lot of resources and assets that definitely are not being utilized properly. And so we take a wholistic view looking at these things, so that we can give that information back to the business owner and they can make good decisions. Other things like how long have you had certain servers or things like that are also critically important. But for most business owners, I don't know what most of you do, but I have a time, at least once a week, that I block off some time to review the numbers in my business. And that's not just financial, that's looking at the company wholistically with some of the key performance indicators and metrics that I care about, in terms of running my business. And this is something that we do or we take care of for you, as a managed service provider, looking at the IT portions of your business. But also, we can help you take a look and see how can you take some of the data collection sources that you've got, and utilize them to make good decisions in your business.
Dan Diamond: So at Bit-Wizards, when you guys collect all the information, are you kind of coach maybe your clients on what information to collect, it kind of maybe will keep them from being bogged down by information that they don't really need, and concentrating on the information that will make their business go forward better and maybe flourish more, is what it sounds like to me.
Vince: Absolutely, or just something as simple as why do you even need to collect that data or that information and store it and pay for the storage for it, maybe you need to get rid of that data, maybe it's not necessary. Or maybe there's a compliance issue there, or maybe keeping that data opens you up to some sort of potential legal problem, right? And so we look at those things wholistically, and that's why we kind of try to take a big picture look at the individual business, and analyze all those different sources of data and things that have to do with IT. And then maybe plug them into the other parts of the business, and helping review all those findings to get a bigger picture of what's going on in your business.
Dan Diamond: That makes sense. Now, when you're talking about collecting some data that may get you into trouble, that probably would fall along the lines of personal data, wouldn't it?
Vince: Absolutely. So personal and customer data, you hear our commercials on there, we're always talking about protecting your privates, and that's not just your privates but your customer's privates. And it's a little pun on words, but we're saying that your data, there's a lot of data, a lot of information that's out there that can get you in a lot of trouble. There's another thing is, is that if you're storing too much data or too much stuff, it opens you up to somebody to come back and get that information, and then there's always some lawyer that's looking to pick something apart and utilize it to go after you. So, data retention rules and things like that are important to consider, and also, it's not just about the business owner, getting your team involved and letting them have access to some of that data and some of that metrics so that they can make decisions, because as a business owner, you're not going to make all the decisions yourself. I mean, hell if I made Sam come and review every decision with me, I'd be up 24 /7, 365 days a year.
Sam: That's right, and so we do the same thing then. Even just within our own IT department, we're constantly saying how can we Moneyball this? If you've ever seen the movie with, I think it was Brad Pitt in there, where they basically build a baseball team based on the data they were able to collect, rather than people's famous names or their reputations. We do the same thing, we analyze even the ticket queue. So we do help desk support for all of our clients, where they can call in if they have any technical issues in their business, they call in, but they definitely come and go and waves. So we look at that and say, okay, so when do we have peaks of people having IT issues, and when are the valleys in there, so we know how to staff our help desk as efficiently as possible.
Vince: One way to ingrain this in your business is to make it part of your culture. You've heard us talk before about making a culture of innovation, making a culture of change, but making data part of your culture, making you data-driven is also going to help you answer better business questions, and make it so that when you make them that you've actually considered the data. Data obsession is one of the key secrets to Amazon's success. That e-commerce giant keeps tabs on over 500 KPIs, and always has the information it needs for Jeff Bezos to make decisions. And most of the company's initiatives actually start by spotting trends in them, such as the correlation between slower page load times and maybe decreased visitor activity.
Sam: In fact, you may have noticed something with your Amazon emails lately, in the last few weeks you may have noticed that when you get an email now that says, " Your 800 pack of AA batteries from Amazon has shipped." It no longer says you got an 800 pack of batteries, it just says your item has shipped. And that's because Amazon realized they don't want to give away the information that they have, the data they're able to collect, to the people who own the email. So they don't want to send an email to you if you have a Gmail address, saying your AA batteries have shipped, because then Google owns Gmail, they're able to read that email and they know, " Oh, so this person is shopping for 800 AA batteries at a time," and they're able to help build that profile. So Amazon is saying they value that data highly enough that they don't even want to share that with other people who may own your email system.
Vince: Well, and this is why at Bit-Wizards, we recommend that friends don't let friends use free email systems.
Sam: That's right.
Vince: **crosstalk** have commercially available email like Office 365, and that's because Bit-Wizards is a strategic enabler. And we stay on top of things and IT trends so you don't have to. And if you come and talk to us about our managed services, we're going to provide you that virtual CIO service to help you establish and embrace pivoting, and embrace a data culture, so that you don't have to worry about technology, and you can utilize technology as a strategic enabler for your business.
Dan Diamond: I really liked the idea that you guys can maybe guide your clients into the idea of, " This is the information we need. We don't need this information, this is how you can use it to make your business better." And you can take away all this fluff of using those commercial emails and public emails, and use something that can keep everything private, then you won't be bothered a million times over things you're not even interested in because you can get bombarded with all that stuff.
Sam: Absolutely, because that's just wasted effort if you're looking at the wrong metrics that don't affect your bottom line, or don't achieve the goals that you want to achieve as a business. So we help correlate those metrics to business needs, and we also help surface those metrics to make it nice and easy for our clients to see.
Dan Diamond: All right. Well, Bit-Wizards, Tip of the Wand, you guys are all over. Okay, let's go to the next subject here.
Announcer: Bit-Wizards, What's Up Our Sleeve?
Sam: So today for What's up Our Sleeves, is a topic that is actually kind of near and dear to my heart, as we talk about learning to identify the things that you are good at, and then learning to also embrace partnerships to help you with the areas that are not your strengths, that are somebody else's strength. A report by the analyst firm Forrester, they said the pandemic recession demands digital response, and they recommend the CIOs make the use of cloud, outsourcing contracts in order to focus their business on their core activities. So in the report, principal analyst, Ted Schadler, discussed the need for businesses to become lean and to focus on their core while making use of the resources of other business partners. They describe it as innovation through ecosystems, as the opposite of all of that wasn't invented here. So in this report, we talk about this lean approach that prompts every company to ask, what's the least that we can do ourselves, and what's the most we can get out of our partners? And by tapping the resources and innovation of cloud technologies and orchestrating those resources, this has enabled firms to respond to the crisis in days rather than years. I think we've seen that across the board from churches to veterinary clinics, across the board who've been able to pivot on a dime, working even just this last week with a local school system who are able to pivot because of having some cloud technologies already in place that allowed them to say, " You know what? We don't have to be technology gurus, we are good at education. That's our value back. Or were good at taking care of animals." And so they've been able to then to say, " We'll focus on what we can do best, and allow somebody else to do the rest for us."
Dan Diamond: Oh that makes such good sense.
Vince: Yeah, and I'm sure you know, Dan, most small business owners wear a lot of hats, right? They try to be everything from HR to sales person, to marketing to expert on the specific thing that they do, as well as IT. And so at Bit-Wizards, that's part of what our services is, is helping customers who've already embraced this principle by providing managed IT services. And so when you think about what is managed IT services, or what are managed services in general, it's sort of a practice of outsourcing the responsibility for maintaining or anticipating the need for a range of processes or functions, in order to improve operations or possibly even cutting your expenses. It's an alternative to what we say in the IT world, of break / fix or on-demand outsourcing model, where a service provider like us performs on-demand services, and then bills the work only for what work is done. So in our model, under managed services, it's like a subscription. And so what we do is we do things that are very proactive, right? We're actually on the job 24 /7, 365, making sure that your IT systems are honed and tuned and moving forward. And the benefit is, is that we are bound by a contractual level, we have a service level agreement that states what performance and quality metrics that we're going to meet in terms of our relationship with you. And it's intended to be an efficient way of staying up to date on technology, and having a team of people that have the skills to address the issues related to technology, be able to weigh things like cost, and the quality of different IT services, and what the risk is. Because that's our business, it's what we know.
Sam: And we are good at the parts that we know. And I work with accounting firms and HR firms, and I'll tell you, those people are heroes because I don't know how they go into work every day and do what they do working with spreadsheets and numbers. However, I know they look at us the same way, sometimes they think, " How do you do that? Why would you choose voluntarily to go into a life of computer frustration?" But that's actually what enlivens us, we're excited about technology. And so because that's something that we're good at, we have a team of technology enthusiasts, people that know what they're talking about, to help our clients so they don't have to worry about IT anymore. I think there's a little bit of a fallacy, a belief there that, you know what? If I can do it myself, it'll be cheaper. And there's always a little bit of truth to that. Yes, you could cut down the tree in your yard, it would be much cheaper than hiring a certified arborist, but it's also a lot more expensive to get the roof replaced when the tree topples the wrong direction. So that's kind of how we feel about IT, for us it's actually more expensive when you're trying to figure it out on your own. There are so many moving parts, there are so many changes on a daily basis in the technology world that you need a partner that can help you and help transform your business through this constant improvement, through having partners that you can trust and who know what they're doing, that allow you to do what you do well.
Dan Diamond: I agree with that, because there's a lot of people that might be able to figure that out in two days, three days, or a week, but do you really want to spend that much time on it when somebody else, like a professional like Bit-Wizards could come in, or do it remote and fix it in 15 minutes? I mean, depends on how valuable your time is to you, I suppose.
Sam: Absolutely. I can't tell you the amount of times we pick up the phone and say, " Oh yeah, I've seen this plenty of times." Whereas for the person who's calling with whatever their computer issue is, whatever the technology issue is, this is a mountain they have to climb whereas for our team, it's something they're already familiar.
Vince: The interesting thing is, is that people ask me all the time, " What does it take for our team to stay up to date with technology?" And I say, " Well, picture this, go get a wrench for a fire hydrant, put your mouth on the opening of the fire hydrant and then turn it on and then try to catch all the water." Because literally, that is what it is like trying to stay up with technology. But my guys live, eat, and breathe it here. My ladies live, eat, and breathe it here, and they work hard to stay at the bleeding edge, at the very tip of the spear so that you don't end at the butt of the shaft.
Sam: In fact, Vince, we used to have a podcast here at Bit-Wizards, Vince and I, it was called Full Frontal Nerdity, where we would talk about all the latest changes happening in the technology world, because it was something that we genuinely are passionate about.
Vince: That's because we're nerds.
Dan Diamond: I could never figure out why they always talk about you guys, that are professional computer folks, IT or whatever, as nerds, because we love nerds if that's the case, because our stuff breaks all the time, we like to have it fixed to have it running. You should be called the experts. Period.
Sam: That's awesome.
Dan Diamond: Yes. All right, you guys ready to go to the next segment?
Sam: Yes, absolutely.
Dan Diamond: Let's do it.
Announcer: Bit-Wizards, From The Spell Book.
Sam: So today's term is a little bit of industry jargon from our neck of the woods, and RMM. We have lots of acronyms in IT, and I'm not even sure what IT stands for, but RMM stands for remote monitoring and management. So those are the tools where you monitor the entire network, but all of the devices on that network as well. So this is RMM tools, our platform's designed to help companies like Bit-Wizards, MSPs, managed service providers, so that we can remotely and proactively monitor all of the workstations, all of the servers, all of the networks. All of the different IT components that we have for all of our clients across the board, we can monitor them in one spot and keep an eye on viruses popping up, or hard drives running out of space, or computers having that blue screen. It allows us to install software remotely if we need to, make sure that everything's patched and up to date. And we can even detect new devices that come onto the network, and enroll them under the same RMM tool, the remote management and monitoring tools, so that we can make sure that they are also compliant with the system.
Vince: Well, yeah. And that's another key point is this, all the time now we have people that, they have customers, so they have visitors that come in and they connect to their network, because everybody has wireless these days. And one of the things we do is segment that wireless, but there are still some customers that have a local area network where they need customers or vendors or people to come in and connect in. And one of the things we can do with our RMM software is to make sure that they have antivirus, and that they are patched and up to date so they don't expose your network to some sort of virus or vulnerability or things like that. Because all it takes is one weak link and it can get a hacker the opportunity to get in and attack your network. So, one of the things that RMMs do is they make it possible for us to service that customer infrastructure from a remote site location, and it also allows us to provide the service to more customers across a broader geographical area than would be otherwise possible. A great example of that, and we've talked about them before, is Heartland Steel, they have offices in Lodi, California, and in Ohio, and Michigan, and so we monitor all their sites and all their PCs, all their servers. Whether they'd be in the cloud or on-prem, as well as their wireless access points and things like that, as well as some of their manufacturing equipment. We can monitor all that in real time, make sure everything's humming along and doing what it's supposed to be doing.
Sam: And bringing that even full circle to how we opened up the show today, talking about those data that we're able to pull and the metrics we're able to analyze, for us, that comes from our RMM, our remote monitoring management tools. We're able to see charts, we're able to see graphs. We're able to see if somebody is targeting all of our clients at once, if they are trying to penetrate their websites and get in there. We're able to monitor all of these things so that we can see immediately if a one of our clients goes off the internet, because they had a cable outage in the area or somebody cut through some fiber, we're able to see that right away through the tooling we have. Because we understand technology is a tool to help your business be more efficient and to serve your customers, so we're here to help you know how to effectively apply technology in your business, and we use those tools to keep track of all of your compute environment.
Dan Diamond: Does that mean that if Cox was to go down, that's your internet service, that you guys would get some information, and how would you use that? Would you go ahead and take care of it before the customer even woke up that morning, let's say it was overnight, and they would come in and it's already done and fixed?
Vince: That's a great point, Dan, because we often fix things before our customers ever know it affected... We got a phone call from a customer about two months ago, actually wrote me an email and said, " Hey, I just want to tell you how awesome your guys are, but they called me on my way into work, let me know that my network connection had gone down. They'd already proactively called Cox, and by the time I got into the office it was back up and running and everything was going well." So I mean, those are the types of things that we try to do to be proactive. We monitor what's going on in real time, as it's happening.
Sam: 24 /7. We have alerts set up for things we identify as critical, business work stoppage events, we have those things set up to notify us so we can jump on it ahead.
Dan Diamond: Oh gosh, those guys that'd be sending you flowers and candy. All right-
Sam: I'd be thankful for all the ISP giving us some business, all of the people providing internet.
Dan Diamond: Oh yes, you guys take care of your customers so much, I don't know, they got to really appreciate what you do, because I can't tell you how many times I went into work in my work life, and got in there and found out that my computer was not working or was offline or had an issue or whatever the case may be. It would be so wonderful to have that already happened and fixed, and got into work and just start working. I like that idea.
Vince: Or maybe at least they had Microsoft Office on there so that you'd have Word and could open up documents to keep you busy **crosstalk** them. Hypothetically speaking.
Dan Diamond: I got you, we're not quite there yet guys. Oh, would you like to say something nice about one of your customers now?
Sam: Yes, I would love to. I want to give a big thank you and a shout out to our new customer, Paradise Liquors. They have nine locations here in the area, and Greg over there, the owner, been working with him in the last week or two, helped them with a few different IT things that we can help to shore up their environment and to make sure they've got some resiliency and some connectivity going on. And so it's been a good opportunity for us to work with Paradise Liquors, they have multiple locations all over the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area. And so it is our privilege to be able to provide some IT services to them, to help make sure that they stay, again, also on that cutting edge, and that we're able to help them stay connected and do what they do best. And we talked about it a little earlier, but on the phone with Greg this week, he even said to me, " Guys, if you put me in a restaurant or like a liquor store, I know exactly what to do and I know how to run a business like that. But talk to me about technology, my eyes glaze over." And I said, " You just summed up what we do for me, and I appreciate that because this is what we do. I don't know anything about running a restaurant, but I know how to keep the IT for the restaurant running and make sure that they don't have any of these outages."
Vince: And I know when I need a bottle of Basil Hayden, so I know where I go to, to get me a bottle.
Dan Diamond: Yeah, I was just kind of thinking about that, do they deliver?
Sam: They're doing a drive through, I believe, it will be fine.
Dan Diamond: Nine o'clock in the morning, do you guys deliver? Not that I have a problem or anything. Guys, it's been wonderful this morning. So Paradise Liquors, I often frequent that place. Well, okay, I shouldn't say... I go there occasionally to buy some spirits, it's a good place to go. I like that place a lot, we're good friends. But thank you guys for joining us this morning. It's always a pleasure to have Bit-Wizards, Tip of the Wand here. Vince and Sam, we always appreciate you guys, and we'll see you... Well, I won't see you for a while, probably, but I'll talk to you again next Tuesday.
Vince: Yes, sir, thank you.
Dan Diamond: Okay, have a great week guys.