Displaying articles for: 07-01-2012 - 07-07-2012
How do you choose the best IT consultant or reseller for your business? What should you look for and what service levels should you expect? What other sources of IT help can your business use?
Smaller businesses can’t always afford full-time, in-house IT staff. But to make the most of your IT system, you’ll need help on many different levels from selection and installation through to fixing problems and future growth. Therefore, getting IT support when you need it is essential.
IT support checklist
Choosing the right IT support services can seem hard at first, especially for non-geeks, even if you understand the basics of what you need. With the right support, however, you can use technology to support your business, to achieve your goals and even to create new opportunities in the long term.
- Shortlist. Your first task is to find a shortlist of suitable support specialists. Manufacturers often have lists of recommended partners and this can be a good place to start. Talk to your colleagues, business contacts and suppliers to see if they have any recommendations.
- Credentials. Any supplier that you choose should have a mix of formal qualifications and experience in their field. You may also find it useful to talk to specialists who have worked in your business sector. Check that they understand the requirements of a growing business. Ask for information on their client base, their projects and their support capabilities. Check references. Ask questions about their ability to deliver solutions, proposals and projects on time and on budget.
- Services. Look for a candid response to your questions about services. If the supplier cannot help you with all your potential support needs (such as training), can they bring in a recommended partner? Ask if the supplier only uses internal staff or whether it outsources any project work.
- Organizational capabilities. Avoid companies that are too small to give you the support that you need both now and when your business grows. Check to see how quickly they will respond to support issues and what guarantees or service level agreements (SLAs) they give.
- Relationship. An average support specialist will understand the language of technology. A good support specialist will translate it into a language you understand. A support specialist worth hiring will do all this and will understand how technology can help you achieve your current and future business goals.
- Proposal. Expect a clear proposal outlining each project from brief through to implementation. This should include a total breakdown of costs, deliverables and timescales. It should also include any input that you need to make. Look for regular meetings/updates to keep on track. Commit to both parties signing a formal contract/proposal to protect your interests.
- Costs. Assess costs and charging structure. You may be asked to pay a rolling retainer, a flat cost per project or a set rate per hour or day. Milestone payments can spread the risk and cash flow.
- HP has a network of Preferred Partners who offer a range of support solutions including consulting and advisory options, hardware installation/configuration, infrastructure builders and online services. To find an HP partner near you, visit: hp.com/eur/preferredpartners .
- HP’s Care Pack services allow you to add specific support elements on top of your warranty guarantees. There are various levels of support to choose from and services can be used on all of HP’s standard products including PCs, Notebooks and Handhelds, Servers, Storage, Networking Systems, Software, Printing and Digital Imaging. For further information HP Care Pack Services, please visit: hp.com/go/lookuptool.
- HP Total Care is a range of services, software and support options that will help you manage, protect and grow your business. It includes HP’s award-winning technical support and solutions such as recycling, extended warranties, online access to drivers and other software updates. For additional details on HP Total Care, please visit: hp.eu/totalcare
Were you ever on a phone call wishing you could share a presentation? Do you ever have to travel to meet colleagues and clients in different countries? Do you need to work together with clients to get consensus on plans and proposals? If so, HP Virtual Rooms could be the smart way to improve communications and cut travel costs.
What is HP Virtual Rooms?
HP Virtual Rooms is an internet tool that creates an online conference centre for people to come together and share their Windows desktop (so that colleagues can see what’s on your screen), review documents, give presentations and chat. It’s secure and private – only people you invite can join the meeting. Presenters can use webcams or computer microphones to present to participants or you can use HP Virtual Rooms in conjunction with a conventional phone conference.
What can you use it for?
HP Virtual Rooms can be used for many different business tasks:
- Training. Share your desktop or applications to show invited viewers exactly how to use software and get things done.
- Presentations. Invite customers to your presentation and let them see your slides on their screen while you talk through the issues. Respond to questions and flip through slides instantly.
- Team meetings. Share status reports, graphics, pictures, work-in-progress software or designs with the whole team, wherever they are and get feedback instantly. Use online collaboration and editing tools to mark up changes so that everyone can see them.
In fact, as the name suggests, it’s like a virtual conference room for any type of meeting but, because it’s online, everyone can go there without leaving their desk. It’s compatible with Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS and Linux.
How does it work?
The organiser logs into the HP Virtual Rooms website and generates a one-time key for the room. This lets other participants join the conference. The first time someone uses HP Virtual Rooms, it installs a small piece of software to display the contents of the room but apart from that joining a conference is as easy as logging into any other web-based service.
During the conference, there are one or more leaders and up to 25 participants (depending on the price plan). The conference leaders can share files, applications or their desktop; they appear in a window in real time on everyone else’s screen. Everyone also has access to instant messaging, with the whole group or one-to-one with other people.
It’s available in 11 European languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Czech, Greek) so it works well for colleagues in different countries.
How do I get it?
Watch a video to see it in action. You can also get a free 60-day trial to evaluate it in your own business. If you want to use it regularly, you can buy an annual or monthly subscription that lets you hold an unlimited number of meetings. The price only varies according to the maximum number of participants.
Sustainability can make your brand stand out, it can help your employees feel engaged, and it can help you win contracts. A lot of energy-efficient activities can help you save significant amounts of money and help the business out-last competitors.
But believing isn’t doing – as frustrated Rio+20 visitors quickly recognised. Here are some simple ways for SMEs to ensure they can ‘walk the talk’.
- Nominate someone as sustinability champion. This demonstrates a true commitment to improving your environmental and social impacts. Bedroom furniture business Warren Evans’s Zoe Robinson also underlines the importance of having senior executive endorsement: “If you get buy-in from the people who hold the purse-strings, you’ll find it easier to make things happen.”
- Align your activities to the core business: floor-maker Desso uses ‘closed loop manufacturing’ to reuse its own waste materials; computer recycling business Maxitech provides refurbished computers to charity.
- Let your employees choose your charitable activity – they’ll be much more engaged if the ideas come from them. And recognise their efforts regularly and publicly. The report, “SMEs Set their Sites on Sustainability,” quotes Jean Barbeau of Canadian SME Artopex, an office furniture supplier: “We became more conscious of the impact of the money we invest in the community and that creates momentum. People are very positive about it. The more we share the better we become.”
- Make it everyone’s business – at sustainability pioneers InterfaceFLOR, employees must include sustainability criteria within pitches for new business. Reward sustainable product or service innovations. Use tools such as TravelHub to encourage people to think sustainably.
- Track how sustainability influences engagement – inside the business, among employees, and among customers. Use social media to monitor specific sustainability campaigns.
- Measure savings – and publicise them to employees to demonstrate progress.
- Make the financial case. Consider integrated accounting – so-called SROI is fast becoming a reality in larger companies (most recently Nike and Puma). The ICAEW can advise on accountancy firms that can help and the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Tool is a useful starting point for DIY-ers.
- Make it part of your everyday business processes, perhaps investing in an Environmental Management System or the Carbon Trust standard. Cranfield University’s Sustainable Design-led Innovation programme targets SMEs, while the OECDs toolkit can help manufacturers future-proof their processes.