What I.T. Wellness Is and Isn’t

I’m a big fan of taking care of small tech problems before they become big problems and of preventing problems from occurring in the first place. I believe this is what sets a good I.T. firm apart from a mediocre one.

Some unscrupulous I.T. firms claim that “We come in and take care of all the issues on your computers at the beginning so that there won’t be any problems going forward.”

Really? Wow, that’s amazing support! Somehow, they can anticipate and fix every problem before it occurs.

In reality, true I.T. Wellness support sets up systems that ensure that issues are taken care of early.

Proactive I.T. Wellness support includes the following concepts and activities:

  • Perform remote monitoring of all servers and workstations.
  • Do automated updates and patching of Windows and third-party software.
  • Conduct regular maintenance of servers and workstations.
  • Keep a view of the whole network and computer infrastructure.
  • Have meetings and planning sessions for the future of the whole system.

The older “Break/Fix” model for I.T. support—where the I.T. firm waits for a support call and then goes out to fix the problem—doesn’t really work anymore. I do get calls from time to time from companies looking for someone to come in and do a quick fix for something that isn’t working. If I take these calls at all, I use the situation as an opportunity to present them our I.T. Wellness support plan.

Getting back to that idea of fixing everything before the problems occur, I have some thoughts on that.

There’s a difference between an I.T. firm whose philosophy is reactive and a firm who is proactive but responds to customer requests. The goal of Nonlinear Tech—and any firm that’s trying to stay ahead of issues—is that we set up proactive support systems to minimize technical issues that may arise down the road.

I find that some I.T. firms confuse the idea of proactive support with managed services. Essentially, “managed services” is a billing arrangement in which the client pays a flat rate per PC or server and the firm agrees to maintain the computers and network on that same rate. They may be doing proactive support, or they may be very reactive.

Although it may seem that the I.T. firm is doing more work for less money, just know that managed services isn’t always the best choice for a small business and that it doesn’t always save money. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it is more expensive.

For all businesses, having an I.T. Wellness mindset is the right way to care for your infrastructure.

For my clients, we offer the proactive support that I call I.T. Wellness. In fact, we don’t do any other kind. We’re proactively taking good care of them.

Does Your I.T. Firm Check Your Backups Religiously?

So, your I.T. firm is doing backups. Of course they are. Everyone says they do backups, but no one really checks them. The “set it and forget it” promise only works if someone is watching the backup results. Who is watching yours?

Monitoring your backups is the one thing your I.T. firm can do that can make the biggest improvement in your technology situation for the least amount of money and hassle.

Most modern backup programs will send you an email on success or failure. Make sure your I.T. firm sets that up and tests it. Send the backup results to yourself or the I.T. administrator—better yet, both.

It is important to ensure that your I.T. firm uses top-of-the-line backup programs that are monitored on a console. For the clients we work with, I can see the results of hundreds of backup jobs in just a few seconds: success shows up in green, failure in red, and warnings in yellow.

Are your backups kept on site or off site? If your backups are not being sent to cloud storage, make sure you have a recent backup set off site. Otherwise, you will have no way to recover from a disaster.

Knowing what to back up is critical. Imagine spending thousands of dollars on the right backup program, data storage, and I.T. expertise to set it up, but when the day comes to recover a corrupted file, your I.T. firm tells you, “Well, we thought we were backing up that data, but it’s not there.” Recovery from this is painful—hours of looking through reports, re-entering data, calling banks, digging through boxes of invoices. All because backups were not checked and verified.

A backup check consists of doing a restore of a critical business file to confirm the backups are working. Scheduled backup checks are a simple thing to do, but only firms that practice Wellness I.T. implement them.

It should be obvious how critical good backups are, right? Your company is your data. You lose that, and you are out of business or have to pay thousands to try to recover from your losses.

 

“Where was our I.T. guy when we needed help?”

This is one of the most frustrating things a company can go through regarding I.T.

I have a friend who owns a restaurant. When his email got hacked, all he had to do was change the password for his email account, and the immediate problem would be resolved. It took him 8 hours to find his I.T. person. Wow.

If you can’t find your I.T. person, you need to spend some time to find a new I.T. person. In the cases of an I.T. emergency, being able to reach your I.T. team and know that the prob­lem is being worked on is critical.

When your clinic or small business is having a technical emergency, every second counts. If a virus or other malware is corrupting your data, an hour can be the difference between saving your data and having everything destroyed. Getting immediate support for a server crash on a day booked full of patients or clients can be the difference between making a profit and showing a loss—between helping patients and being unable to help them. If some of those pa­tients are new patients, they might never come back.

During a technical emergency, you must be able to reach your I.T. service quickly.

Most good I.T. firms have three or four ways to get a hold of them—phone, email, web portal, and/or text messages.

Let me also say that it’s the I.T. company’s respon­sibility to clearly communicate the best way to get a hold of them.

At Nonlinear Tech, we have a company phone number, a support email address, and a support web portal. We have clear specific procedures for handling I.T. emergencies, and our customers are clear on what to do when they need to reach us immediately. The phone, email, and web methods all create a support ticket automatically. That way, either I or one of my technicians can act on it immediately.

As a business or clinic owner, you need to have clearly spelled out methods from your I.T. firm for contacting them. When you do, you should also receive some feedback from the I.T. firm that the message was received and that they will attend to an emergency quickly.

Remote Monitoring

Your IT firm is monitoring your servers and workstations, right? Only a few years ago, this was clunky and costly, but now there are so many good tools for computer monitoring. Now it’s a no-brainer. This is a core concept of the Wellness IT philosophy.

Why monitor the computers? Your IT firm can know very quickly when a computer is about to fail, the server C: drive is almost full, or a PC is consuming ten times the normal bandwidth. With good monitoring comes good IT support. Wouldn’t you rather have your IT service call and tell you that they’ve found a problem on your server, and they are fixing it right now? Or would you prefer to have the server crash first, and then try to get a hold of someone to come fix it? Again, it’s the cost of prevention versus the cost of cleanup.

Most monitoring software also allows for remote support; that means you can have an IT firm resolve an issue remotely without ever making an on-site service call. Almost every IT service firm charges less for remote support than they do for on-site support.

Even if you have an IT person on staff, you can make him or her so much more efficient and effective by having your computers monitored by a monitoring service.

This is such an easy decision—a few dollars per month for monitoring that will prevent a major server crash disaster.

And when your people are more efficient with time and resources, you save money.

Do You Have Personal Contact with Your IT Firm?

While an IT firm focused on Wellness seeks to automate things and create efficient systems for IT, we also know that the best support we can offer our clients is personal. That is, we know every customer, we meet with each one regularly, and they know each of our technicians.

Personal support eliminates frustration and makes things more efficient for the business owner. Efficiency means less wasted time and effort.

Early on in my business, one of my biggest clients switched to a larger IT firm because they needed 24×7 coverage (or, they thought they did, but that’s a long story). I visited them a few months later, and I asked how things were going. The office manager was really frustrated with this larger firm because each time they sent over a technician, he was someone different who didn’t know the history of their systems. She would have to explain the problem again to the technician, and the technician would invariably try something that had been tried before, and the problem wouldn’t get solved, and the situation would repeat itself.

IT Wellness also means Personal IT. We don’t treat our customers like a number; we spend the time to build the relationship.