How a Virtual CIO Can Benefit Your Business
Dan: And welcome back. It's about 8:30, my name is Dan Diamond, but in the studio with me for a Tip of the Wand with Bit-Wizards is, let's start with you, Sam. Good morning. How are you today?
Sam: I'm very well, thank you. How are you?
Dan: Oh, I'm doing pretty good. And Vince.
Vince: Hey, how are you this morning?
Dan: Eh, I'm doing pretty good. You guys have a good Veterans Day?
Vince: We did. It was fantastic.
Dan: I mean, you can't beat the weather, huh? The weather was fantastic.
Vince: It was perfect yesterday.
Dan: Little better than it is today, I'd say.
Vince: And my wife had me out pressure washing the driveway this weekend, so.
Dan: Yeah, " Happy Veterans Day. How you doing?" I got you. Okay, so maybe, it's about time that we...
Announcer: Bit-Wizards Bits and Bytes.
Dan: Yeah. How about that? That's kind of a sultry voice, isn't it?
Vince: Yeah, it sure is. So Bits and Bytes, as you know that at Tip of the Wand here, we're trying to demystify technology that powers business, and this first segment here, Bits and Bytes, we want to give you a little bit of the news, so I'm going to start with my best Rush Limbaugh and rustle some papers here.
Dan: Oh good, do it, I can hear it on the background.
Vince: Research reveals that there's a correlation between the use of technology tools and small business success. And this research was compiled by Deloitte, and for those of you that don't know who Deloitte is, they're one of the big four consulting firms, one of the largest professional services organizations. And they had this study that was commissioned by Google about small businesses, and they, because small businesses and medium-sized business are significant drivers of our economic growth and new innovation here in the United States. But they found that small businesses that are able to use technology and create opportunities to grow, they accelerate about two times as much revenue per employee, and they get four times as much revenue growth over the previous year than they were before. And the three times more likely to create jobs over the previous year, and six times more likely to have an employment growth rate. And then lastly, they were three times as likely to have exported goods internationally than the previous year. And so what's important about that is, is that staying relevant with technology, here at Bit-Wizards, we offer a virtual CIO service, which is part of our managed IT services. And it's to help our customers stay at the Tip of the Wand, not where the smoke and mirrors are, but where the magic comes out, and we want to be that professional service that helps them stay competitive and advanced, and growing our economy.
Dan: Gosh, yeah. Well that sounds, why wouldn't you? I mean, if the statistics are true, and obviously they are, why wouldn't you want to stay, just be more relevant in today's business world?
Vince: Well, some businesses think that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And they're not thinking very strategically. They're thinking tactically, what do they do day to day? And that's exactly why they need somebody like us to come in and help them out and tell them what types of things are relevant, what's important, and what should they invest in?
Dan: Well, oftentimes a business people will say that if you're not moving forward, you're falling behind.
Vince: Well, that's the truth. I say that a lot, that if you're not growing, you're dying, and it's not just staying behind. And the statistics are out there, they really show that the businesses that do invest in technology outpace their competitors, and then it is a very competitive environment.
Dan: Oftentimes a lot of, when you talk to maybe some more elderly folks, they're, " well, we don't get into computers and all of that." But your growing consumer's very, very much involved with all the technology today. And they keep up with everything all the time. And if I don't think of businesses, keep up with your consumers, then you're definitely falling behind.
Vince: Well, I would agree with that. But it's kind of like the doctors don't want you to go out and look on WebMD. I mean it's nice that you educate yourself, but ultimately you go to a professional to help you make these decisions and get them done. And certainly people are more technology savvy. Everybody from the young to the very old, I mean people are getting connected, they're more connected because they have their cell phones, and that's very true of business.
Sam: Yeah, I think you make a good point. It's easy for us to focus on our business and say, well what do I really own? What's the bare minimum I can get away with for my business in terms of technology? But it's not just about you as your business, it's about the customers that you're trying to serve. And those people are used to using technology, and they are looking for an advanced environment. Even at my church, we were talking about this, everybody, it doesn't matter how old they are. Everybody in that room has a smart phone. And so we're now used to having a standard cost of entry and even being able to do businesses is having some sort of a online presence, having an email system that people can communicate with you back and forth, a reliable email system that isn't getting junked up with spam or isn't going to start spamming them just because they were a customer at one point. So all of these systems do tie together and while it's easy to think, " Oh, I only need what I need." The truth is it's actually more about the people you're serving rather than just about your own needs.
Dan: Absolutely. Yeah. It's kind of my point, because oftentimes, like I said, a lot of people are very technology-savvy, and if the businesses aren't keeping up with their customers, then the customer most likely will maybe find some other business to work with that is. Because they're, they're probably feeling like, well if they're not very savvy with the technology, then what about the business they perform?
Vince: Well that's interesting that you say that, because recently, I'm a consumer just like Sam is and you are. I fired my pest control service, and the reason why I fired my pest control service, is they had no way for me to online pay my bill and use a credit card. And so they wanted me to come in and fill out a piece of paper, and that's kind of quaint to me. When everybody else is online. So I went and I found me a pest service that was more technology-savvy.
Dan: There you go.
Vince: And the reason why is I don't want to spend a bunch of time writing out a check. I want to be able to go online at my time, my convenience, and I want to put the data in and make sure that I can fire it and forget it.
Dan: Yeah, that's a very good point. That's a very good point, because that would happen with probably a lot of businesses just like you're talking about, " well I don't take checks or I don't, I'm not online with a payment or anything." And so, well let's find somebody who really is. Probably the service is just as good, but it makes it just a convenience for you as a consumer.
Vince: Absolutely. And if you think about it, even something as seemingly simple as, we've got a lot of retail folks here in Fort Walton Beach and in the surrounding area, and something as simple as having WiFi within your area, within your business and providing that for your customers. I think to some extent it's expected.
Dan: I think it is. I think it is. I'm a DJ like you are Sam. And oftentimes,, we go online for music and whatnot, and we set up at a venue and say, okay, what's your WiFi password? Can we use that? " Well, we don't have WiFi here for people like you. We only have it for our business." And I think really, so what about the customers that come in here and you don't have WiFi for them? That means they're kind of stuck to using their own data or their phone, when it's more convenient to be able to use WiFi.
Vince: Absolutely. And then if you think about the other side of that and that's that within your business yourself, you can make better processes and get things done faster or maybe even gain insights about your customer. I know that in the retail space, one of the thing is tracking the activities that customers do. Well, if you track the activities that customers do, using some of the newer technology, AI, RFID, things like that, you can utilize that to gain insights about how your customers shop, what they do, when they buy. Even something as simple as staying connected with them, remembering when their birthday is or their anniversary, something like that can bring them back into your business again. So these are the types of things that we do at Bit-Wizards is try to help you think strategically with our virtual CIO service and let you think about the things that you can do that will help you be competitive, that will make you stand apart from your other competitors.
Dan: And that truly is like the tip of the spear, because a lot of the things that you're talking about, maybe folks aren't thinking about that when unless they consult with you and get some ideas, you know, you don't know what you don't know. And you could give them the information on this is what you can do to make your business run smoother, and also probably enhance the amount of business that you get.
Vince: Absolutely, and I should probably explain, because we want to make sure that we speak in a layman's language, but CIO is Chief Information Officer, and our CIO service is much like a combination of a CIO and a CTO or Chief Technology Officer. And what they do within the business is they conduct IT and IT operations, but they're also forward-looking and looking at the new technologies that are coming out and how you can apply that within the business.
Dan: Yeah. Well thanks for explaining that, because some of us are like " CIO, I'm not exactly sure what that means." So thank you for that one. And...
Announcer: Bit-Wizards, What's Up Our Sleeve?
Dan: Something new and different.
Sam: That's right. So what we've done is try to section this 30 minute slot into a couple of different sections. The Bits and Bytes where we open up and talk about some of the things we've seen this week that are a relative's technology. But then we really wanted to get into the meat of the matter when we get to What's Up Our Sleeve today at Bit-Wizards. And really we're just continuing this topic that technology isn't a nice-to-have in business. It's an absolute necessity now. Technology sort of has to grow as your business grows as well. It's easy to, when you're starting out your business, let's say you're a lawn care business, right? And you started by going and buying a weed wacker and a lawn mower and throwing them in the trunk of your car with the trunk bungeed down to hold it all in there. But at some point-
Dan: We've seen that.
Sam: At some point as you grow, you're going to get, you're going to actually start, you're going to get a truck and trailer, and you're going to get a couple of people working for you as well. And as your business grows, the same thing happens with technology. And while you started out with that Yahoo email address, or a Hotmail email address, and you were posting on your own personal Facebook page about what you were just getting started. The same way your technology grows as your business grows, and the technology we've discovered actually gives you a significant technical advantage over people in the same field as you, in doing the same thing that you're doing. While you still have to have a good service, you have to be good at what you do, which is just par for the course. But having just a little bit of a technological advantage that gives you a significant edge, because the technology is table stakes. And we've seen that in America there are some 30 million small businesses, and we really believe that small-, medium-sized businesses drive the economy in this country. And but the ones who plan for their technology needs will always hold a distinct advantage over their competitors. And so some of that is knowing when to replace your aging technology so that you can stay up to date. Some of it is knowing when to invest in new hardware and in new software, and also getting the expertise on what's a good value for your investment. Because you can easily spend too much money on technology, and not get anything back for it, or you can hold off, and hold off, and hold off, and then it ends up costing you more, because by the time you have had to upgrade because you're no longer compatible with all of the systems that you need to be compatible with, or any compliance needs that you have in your industry. Then it's one big hit all of a sudden. And so there are certain things that we think that you really have to stay up to date on to stay current.
Dan: I could see where that would be beneficial. Taking the equipment that you already have and updating that as needed, and when the new information comes up, updating and updating until you get to the point where the equipment no longer can be updated for the new equipment is going to have to, because technology seems to be going up so fast all the time, whether than not updating and then waiting and waiting and waiting. Now you got replace everything.
Sam: So something I experience a lot, actually in my line of business where I discovered people who say, " well you know what, it was working back in 2010, and we've had no problems with it ever since." And then turns out well you can't use it anymore, it's no longer compatible with the computers you have, or it's no longer going to be supported by the company that made it. So now you're open for hacks and viruses, and the cost of moving from a 2010 technology that was " working fine," to the new 2020 technology, you're going to have to have to keep going, is an expensive leap. Versus having just kind of kept up to date along the way would be fine. In fact, a lot of enterprise software that you would use to run your business, a lot of those have annual support contracts that you have to maintain. And if you don't keep those support contracts up to date, the software keeps working. But when it comes time to where it is time to upgrade or it is time to get some help, all of a sudden you call them up and they don't want to hear from you, because you haven't been paying. And most of the time they want you to back pay the difference of what you haven't been paying all those years.
Dan: Oh gosh.
Sam: So you don't save anything.
Vince: And then it's like that thing we talked about last week, if you're an aircraft maintainer out at Eglin, you know about phased maintenance, and you got to look at IT the same way. And we talked about that and you've got to do certain things at certain points, and you've got to do those upgrades as you go along. And that's part of what we do at Bit-Wizards is we really try to look at that and figure out when's the right time to do it. It's not technology for technology's sake, it's technology because, it's time to upgrade it to keep you current so it doesn't cost you more in the long run. You're still going to have those periodic major upgrades. They're going to cost you a little bit more money that you've got a budget for. But if you do those incremental things along the way, if you do that proactive maintenance in a phased way, if you keep things current, you're going to come out better along the run. And one other thing I wanted to mention, you know a lot of small businesses think, " Well, I've got to get a piece of software or something like that that is specific to my industry, or what I do." So software specifically for tree service, or software specifically for fire protection business, or something like that. What I would tell businesses is that you really need to seek a consultant like Bit-Wizards to come out and help you look at that, because you need to evaluate it. Because not all of those are created equally. Some of those are designed to lock you in to specific maintenance agreements. They're designed to lock you into them only. And what we do, is we go in and we look at and we say, okay, let's evaluate it. We need to evaluate it for your need first of all.
Vince: But then we also have to take a step back and we have to say, okay, well do they have API, so that we can extend it? Do they have a roadmap? How long are they going to be in business? Have they been around for a while? Do they keep their technology up to date? There's a lot of these vertical market software companies that will create this software. They'll put it out there, and they just live off the residuals. They don't actually keep it up to date. So these are some of the things that we look at when we come in and evaluate software like that.
Dan: I can see that, because if you're not updating all the time, like we were talking about earlier, then you're going to have to spend a lot of money. Because you're talking about incremental, when it's time and it's right to do the upgrades or whatever it might be. But if you don't do that, like we said before, at the end of the day when everything starts to crash down around you, now you've got to get all brand new stuff to keep up with. But keeping up with your competitors, I would think would be the most important part of all of that.
Vince: Absolutely. And to that point, when people talk to us about software especially, they'll say something like, well, they come to us to build custom software. That's one of the other things that we do. And I'll explain to them that they'll say, " Well, is it only going to cost me $450 like it cost me to go out and buy a copy of Office?" And I'm " heck no." Microsoft built that and sells it to millions upon millions of people. If I develop custom software, I've got a smaller segment, just you, right?
Vince: However, if on the vertical market software that I was talking about, they have a very small segment. So if they make software specifically for landscaping business, then they've got a very small segment. There's only so many landscaping businesses in the country, and they've got to spread their cost out over time, over that market in order to do that. And then technology on top of that is incredibly complex, so they got to keep it up. When you build software, you don't just build it once, just like all of your other technology items, you've got to maintain that and keep it going forward. So there's patches and standards and things like that that has to be maintained and kept up to date.
Dan: Well something like that, Vince, would it be like, for example, that Windows 7 is going to be gone, and then it won't be upgraded anymore, and Windows 10 will be there. So if you're build software for somebody and you go with, let's say it goes from Windows 7 to Windows 10, is it going to be compatible with Windows 10, and you probably have to put some sort of a patch or upgrade so that it will work as well with Windows 10 that does it work for Windows 7.
Vince: Absolutely. And there's no such thing. When people come and talk to us, they'll say " make it future-proof." Well, you can't make any future-proof, because-
Dan: You don't know what the future is.
Vince: I have no idea what's going to happen. Unless somebody wants to pull out a crystal ball. I mean at Bit-Wizards we're magic, but I don't have any crystal ball to tell you what's going to happen 10 years from now.
Dan: You don't know what Windows or whatever operating system they're using. You don't know what's going to happen with that.
Sam: But that's a great example though of staying up to date with technology, because as of January 4th, I think, Windows 7 will no longer not just be not supported by Microsoft anymore, but it'll be an actual liability to your company. If you have any Windows 7 machines or Alta Vista XP, whatever it is, that are still in the company, you're leaving yourself wide open to attacks, because Microsoft is not going to patch it at all, and that means as soon as one vulnerability comes out about Windows 7, which will take about three minutes after it stops being supported, then every bad actor in the world will know, oh, if I target that specific thing, knowing that there are a lot of people out there who still have not upgraded to Windows 7. And says one our virtual CIO services we've been doing with all of our clients over the last, I don't know, six to nine months is sitting down with them and saying, okay, you've got this many Windows 7 machines. How old are they? Is it time to just upgrade it for a couple of hundred bucks to get it up to Windows 10, or is it time to just go ahead and replace the computer completely, because the new one will ship with windows 10 and this is the time to do that upgrade, refresh. And that's where having some professional help, having some consulting there can help you make those decisions, get the most bang for your buck. Because it's absolutely true on Windows, even on Mac, the newest Mac operating system that just came out, called Catalina, does away with a thing called 32 bit applications. You can only install 64 bit applications now. And without getting into any of the details of what that means, what it really means is a lot of the older programs that I have had sitting on my Mac for years and years and years, haven't been touched by a developer, but they've never worried about it. Well, now that won't even run on my new Mac. And unless they take the time to go in and rewrite the program from the ground up, it's not going to get updated. And so as we work with our clients, we've been looking at is it okay for you to come up to the latest version of the Mac operating system? Because some of these programs you rely on may not even be available anymore. And so then we can come back to that discussion about industry-specific software. What's going to work for you, what is the rest of the industry using? What's the best way to utilize this and get the most for your money while still keeping that competitive edge?
Dan: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense, because, well in the way of Mac, as long as they're still being supported, maybe they don't have to upgrade quite as quickly, but in the case of Windows 10 you may be in a world of hurt.
Vince: Well, and that's important, especially the auxiliary software that goes along, as Sam was talking about. So it's not just the Windows 10 it's all the software that runs on Windows 7 at that particular time, because some of those, most of those vendors will turn around and they will start targeting Windows 10 and they won't target the stuff behind. They'll also won't do patches and upgrades. And one of the places where we see this a lot is in financial software, like QuickBooks. People will talk to us and say, " Well, hey, I've been running my QuickBooks since 2006," and we're saying, well guys, now at this point you have to upgrade. And it's a major thing to go from '06 all the way to '20.
Dan: Yeah, I would think so. Well guys, let's switch gears for a minute.
Announcer: Bit-Wizards, From The Spell Book.
Dan: Oh **crosstalk** sounds like some from Halloween.
Vince: Yeah. This is the segment where we try to demystify some technological geek speak or give you some technological factoid, and today's term that we want to talk about. Everybody's talking these days about XXX as a " service," or something as a " service." And, and when we talk about technology and we say, sir, technology as a service in some way, shape, or form, what we're talking about is where you pay on a metered or by use type of technology, almost like leasing it or you're in a continual update. Now, the advantage to you as a consumer is that you're going to get updates quicklier, or because they typically are being handled at a centralized location rather than typical box software. And some of the ones that we might throw out here are SAS, Software as a Service, where you have a piece of software. So as we talked about about QuickBooks just a second ago...
Vince: You have QuickBooks that is on premise, or at your location that is a box software, right? And then you have QuickBooks as a service. Well it exists in the cloud, you access it through your browser, and you pay a monthly fee on a subscription to be able to use it. There's some others in here like infrastructure as a service, where you pay for hardware. That's the cloud, that exists up in a cloud where you're using hardware, servers, firewalls, things like that, networks, that actually physically exist in the cloud. And then platform as a service, where folks like some of our Bit-Wizards development team, we may develop software built on a particular platform that allows you to utilize it in the cloud. And then maybe another one that you might hear is DRAS, or disaster recovery as a service. So those are four ones that I think small business owners should be aware of : software as a service or SAS, IAS, infrastructure as a service, PAAS, platform as a service or DRAS, disaster recovery as a service.
Sam: Probably the most common way I see this happening day-to-day in businesses is now a lot of people don't bother to even have to go buy printers for their company, because you can do hardware as a service, HAS they call it where you just, there are several companies even locally that they will lease you the printers, they'll put the toner in it. They'll do everything that you need, so you just don't have to worry about it anymore. You just pay them a monthly fee, and you just don't worry about printers. If anything breaks, they replace it. If anything runs out of ink, they come in and replace it. And it's the same with software. It's something that's happening a lot now. Like Vince was saying with QuickBooks, you can spend a couple of hundred bucks to buy QuickBooks every couple of years. The same with Adobe Photoshop, and all of those you pay, with Adobe you used to pay off well over a thousand dollars to buy the suite of tools, and every time they came out with a new suite, you needed to buy the new Photoshop and Illustrator and InDesign, all those. Now what they've done is they've gone to this as a service model, this software as a service model where you pay them a monthly subscription of under 50 bucks, and for that money you get the whole suite of tools, and as soon as a new update comes out, you already have it. You always have the latest version. And instead of it being on a three-year cycle or two-year cycle of new software, it's on a every other week cycle, where there's a new feature or a new improvement that came up or a new security thing. And I think it's good for everybody, especially in business because you have predictable costs, you know how much it's going to cost you month-to-month to maintain your hardware or your software. But it's also good for the development company making this software, because they know they have a revenue stream they can rely on and keep their developers busy, keeping things up to date.
Dan: Oh, that's good to know, because I would imagine for a lot of services, if you're using that on a regular basis to keep your business going, you're always going to be updated instead of, like you said, every three years, and then changing it, because you'll have to learn all those at one time when you get the new software. This way you're learning it as you go. It makes much more sense to do it that way.
Sam: I understand that there's a little bit of hesitation with people," because if I buy it, I want to own it, right? And so there's this, there's this thought of, " I don't want to lease this on a month-to-month basis. I want to own this." But in the new way that we do technology, it makes a lot more sense to keep those developers developing that software, keeping it up to date, and to give yourself those predictable expenses.
Dan: And when they find bugs in it and they repair that, then you're getting those repairs every month or every couple of weeks or whatever it might be.
Vince: And I think, yeah, that's exactly correct. And I think right now we're doing that with software, but where we're going now, and I know that Microsoft is going in this direction long-term, as your operating system, Windows itself will become as a service or hardware as a service. And I think what's really great is if you think about this from a business owner's perspective, when you look at how you might evaluate these costs, you look at things in two ways. You've got capital expenditures or capex, which you have to do a one time buy like you know, once every three, or five, or two years, right? And then you have operational expenditures, or O and M, operations and maintenance. And so it's much easier for a business and software as a service, and as a service model works better for that because it's predictable. I know exactly how much I'm going to spend each month. I'm going to be able to budget for that.
Dan: That makes a lot of sense too, rather than when you go out and buy that software, like you're talking to $1, 000 for the software. Well, I can absorb $50 a month and stay current. Rather than think about, well, what am I going to spend that thousand dollars? When is it worth it to me to spend an extra thousand dollars for some software that isn't going to be that much different than what I'm using right now? And can I just use this? But now you're always being updated.
Sam: And for us, we really do IT as a service. We just made up a new term there, ITAS. We do where you get an entire IT department for your company on a monthly basis where you know what it's going to cost you. You know already how many employees you have, which is really where that price is based, and you know that you have a top-notch IT department that larger enterprise organizations would be jealous of to be able to have at your disposal when you need it, for small-, medium-sized businesses.
Dan: Sure, and how many times do we have problems with our computers or our software on, I wouldn't say on a regular basis, but when you do, be nice to know that you have insurance, basically, an insurance policy in the background that says, hey, this is broken. Can you guys fix it?
Vince: Absolutely. I think it's important to do it that way. It goes back to that phase way of doing things and doing it on a regular basis, which is why we designed the service this way. And if you really think about it, it's how large businesses operate, which is part of our services, bringing what large businesses do, their best practices, to small businesses.
Dan: Yep, I like that idea, because how many times, I was in the Air Force for a number of years, and we had our IT guys there as well. So anytime anything would go wrong, it's not like we had to call somebody, to locate somebody that could fix the problem. We had already had contract with our IT guys, and all we had to do is contact them and they would take care of the problem. And that was very convenient, because when you're at your house and something breaks, it's " Oh gosh, what am I going to do now?" But you guys could fix all that.
Vince: Well and I think you have to think about it from a business perspective, as well, as if how long does it take my HR director to go figure out why her network's not working or why a particular piece of software isn't working or something, or she can't get something done in Excel. When you can call one of the professionals at our help desk, and they can get it done in a minute or two rather than her spending 30 minutes trying to figure out, how that gets done.
Sam: Or even better, we would call to say we saw that your HR director is having issues connecting from our systems. Is there something we can do to help? Because we tried to be proactive on that.
Dan: Because you guys monitor all of that.
Dan: And you take care of it for them. Well guys, we're about the two minute warning here. Let's wrap up the show.
Vince: Well absolutely. Well, one of the things that we wanted to do, is we wanted to give a big shout out and a thank you to the folks, Dana and the team at Advanced Fire Protection on Tupelo Avenue at Fort Walton Beach. They've been saving lives since 1989 with fire protection, fire prevention, and security services. And we want to thank them for allowing Bit-Wizards to serve them with our managed IT services. Dana, we enjoy working with you and the team, and we enjoy helping AFPS stay competitive and successful.
Dan: Very cool. Anything last words for you, Sam?
Sam: No, I love being here and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about technology.
Dan: Oh, of course. And there's so many people that like to hear about technology, because a lot of us are kind of in the dark, to be honest with you, about technology and you got to bring things to light. It's great that you were able to maybe explain some of the terminology and kind of give people an idea on how can we keep our stuff straight.