Computer Consulting in Connecticut: The IT Direct Difference

Computer Consulting in Connecticut: The IT Direct Difference

“IT Direct makes us feel like we are their only client.”
IT Manager Connecticut Science Center

This statement from a valued computer consulting client was part of the valuable feedback that we received recently after hiring an outside firm to conduct extensive surveying on our customer service. Aside from providing some opportunities to pat ourselves on the back, the beneficial results from the survey of our Connecticut clients allowed us to finely tune the profile of computer consulting clients whom we can best serve. We’ve narrowed these attributes to Seven Characteristics of Our Ideal Computer Consulting Client:

  1. Your organization has ten to 300 computers and wants to focus on its core business, leaving IT Direct to successfully apply, integrate and maintain the technologies that support you.
  2. You have realistic expectations about computer consulting and IT support, and agree with our 5-Point Pledge™.
  3. You value an IT partner who takes a business-minded approach.
  4. You operate your business with defined and reliable business processes.
  5. You believe that smooth-running technology systems are an essential advantage to your Connecticut business, and are willing to invest what you need to make your systems work (but not more than absolutely necessary).
  6. You share IT Direct’s belief in mutual respect among our computer consulting clients, employees and vendors.
  7. You believe that doing serious work doesn’t always mean being serious. We love working with people who are as fun we are!

If these Seven Characteristics sound like some of the qualities of your small or medium business in Connecticut, we would love for you to join our family of computer consulting clients. Here is how we meet our customers’ needs, and what you can expect as well:

  • Communication: Keep our clients and our team informed at all times.
  • Under-Promise, Over-Deliver: Clients know what to expect from IT Direct’s computer consulting services and can rely on our word.
  • The 5Ps: We know that Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, so we equip ourselves thoroughly before every task.
  • Move Quickly, Don’t Rush: While our computer consulting clients receive a fast response times, we’re always careful to deliver the same quality service that defines IT Direct.
  • Value, Value, Value: We deliver this with every client interaction.

Since 2002 IT Direct has served computer consulting clients throughout Connecticut, ensuring smoothly-running systems 24/7, building and maintaining intelligent networks, and implementing necessary updates. We’re also honored to be called upon to design critical data backup plans and perform fast disaster recovery duties to restore our clients’ important business functions as quickly as possible.

That’s The IT Direct Difference, and The way I.T. should be™. We’re ready to help with Connecticut’s best IT and computer consulting services, so let us know how we can start getting you connected.

The Top 3 Issues Affecting Today’s Large Computer Networks

The Top 3 Issues Affecting Today’s Large Computer Networks

IT Security personnel and network support staff tasked with managing large networks are routinely at odds with identifying and solving the most common problems a large network poses. Typical causes that can be identified and treated, however, generally fall within one of the following three categories:

  • Performance Degradation
  • Host Identification
  • Security Issues

Performance Degradation

Performance degradation refers to issues involving loss of speed and data integrity due to poor transmissions. While every network is prone to performance issues, large networks are especially susceptible due to the additional distance, endpoints, and additional equipment at midpoints.

Solutions to performance degradation are not terribly difficult. The very first step is to purchase the best quality computer networking hardware one can afford. All other solutions build upon a solid foundation of good network hardware. After all, network performance is only as good as the components of which it is composed.

Although quality matters, in this case quantity can also be an issue. Networks without enough routers, switches, domain controllers, etc. is comparable to pumping water from a municipal well with a straw. Beginning with adequate, quality hardware is an excellent start, but that still is not enough. Hardware is useless without proper configuration.

It is essential to ensure all computers and network “plumbing” are properly connected (with quality cabling) and configured. This includes verifying network settings in server and desktop network configuration apps and also verifying settings in the firmware of networking components (switches, routers, firewalls, etc.). Every device connected on the network should be initially and routinely checked for problems, as rogue PCs infected with viruses, spyware, botware and so forth can waste bandwidth and, even worse, infect other systems.

Host Identification

Proper configuration is also essential to maintaining proper host identification. Just as the post office cannot deliver messages without some form of addressing, neither can computer networking hardware. While small networks can easily be configured with manual addressing, this becomes completely impractical in large networks. DHCP servers, domain controllers, and their requisite addressing software and protocols are a must when it comes to creating and maintaining a large, scalable network.

Top performance and proper host identification are hardly beneficial on a network that has been breached by hackers. It is for this very reason why securing one’s network is equally important.

Security Issues

Network security issues involve maintaining network integrity, preventing unauthorized users from infiltrating the system (viewing/stealing sensitive data, passwords, etc.), and protecting the network denial of service attacks.

These issues are greatly magnified as a networks increases in size. Larger networks are more susceptible to attack because they offer more vulnerable points at which intruders can gain access. More users, more passwords, and more hardware mean more places a hacker can try to get in.

Defense against these problems include using firewalls and proxies, installing strong antivirus software, deploying strict password policies, making use of network analysis software, physically securing computer networking assets, and invoking procedures that compartmentalize a large network with internal boundaries.

These three issues, as broadly encompassing as they are, can be overwhelming for small- to mid-sized business to handle on their own. Leave it to IT Direct to help you design, deploy, and manage a large networking solution that’s right for your business. IT Direct is the leading authority in Connecticut for computer networking and consulting solutions of any scale. Contact us today to get started.

Network Support: In-House or Outsource?

Network Support: In-House or Outsource?

The following scenario is all too common: a company starts out with a handful of workstations and one modest server, only to find itself a few years down the road with a sprawl of desktops, remote PCs, thin clients, application servers, file servers, web servers, print servers, hubs, routers, switches, NAS devices, wi-fi hotspots and a plethora of other networking equipment that looks nothing like the original basic setup. While company growth is generally considered a good thing, growing a company’s network can be harmful to business success if done improperly. Networks that are properly “engineered” instead of haphazardly “evolved” are preferred for sustainable growth, especially when the growth exceeds that which on-hand networking staff can reasonably support at any given time.

Although there is no clearly defined point when it should occur, at some point or another owners of small to mid-sized businesses eventually come to the conclusion that their networking strategy needs to be reevaluated. Although the time when this occurs may not be exact, signs that indicate the need for this include the following:

  • noticeable increase in network support tickets
  • significant decrease in network performance
  • visible indicators of networking equipment failure
  • obvious networking software failures

When one or more of the above start to occur, it is most likely time to start thinking about defining or redefining a clear, concise network support strategy. One of the most essential questions to answer at this time is whether network support should be conducted in-house or performed by an outside company. Although initial instincts may encourage business owners and IT management staff to go the in-house route, this can be a perilous move for small to mid-sized firms that are not prepared to handle such responsibilities internally.

Just as most small to mid-sized firms don’t take on the responsibility of milling their own printer paper or manufacturing their own staples, the decision to handle one’s own network support affairs often centers around whether it is efficient to go the “DIY” route. Many successful companies choose to focus on their core competencies rather than handle every logistical matter themselves. This focus is what often leads to success in their own particular industry, as outsourcing network support affords them more time to specialize on whatever products and services they offer in order to succeed and become profitable. When cash flow is diverted to staff who focus on fixing network printers and troubleshooting Internet outages, that is money that cannot be used to improve one’s primary focus on income-generating activities.

Another benefit to using an outside vendor for network support is in-line with the idea of preserving cash flow for profitable activities, namely the ability to reduce operational costs. Outside firms providing network support are experts in what they do, thus being able to perform their duties faster, better and cheaper than in-house staff lacking the skills and experience in specific networking support duties.

Consider our previous discussion in the article titled “Network Security – The Cold Hard Facts” which explained the various duties and expertise in network design, protocols, device configuration and more required to maintain a secure network. Another article titled “The Top 3 Issues Affecting Today’s Large Computer Networks” details the various issues experts must tackle on a daily basis in order to maintain an effective network. These topics are full-time affairs requiring every care and attention to detail a full-time professional would put into his or her own line of work. Allowing one’s staff to handle these issues “on the side” or as a secondary thought to be addressed after business hours would be detrimental to productivity. Saving these tasks for outsourced networking professionals allows a company’s staff to focus time and energy on what they do best.

Outsourcing your network support may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Leave it to IT Direct to help you get started with a network support outsourcing solution that’s right for your business. IT Direct is the leading authority in Connecticut for computer networking and consulting solutions of any scale. Contact us today to get started.

5 Things To Consider When Setting Up a Small Business Computer Network

5 Things To Consider When Setting Up a Small Business Computer Network

In the old days, a famous automobile advertisement once said, “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” We’re not talking about cars now, but in a sense the same mentality holds true for computer technology, as this is not your father’s networking environment. In times gone by, a small business network setup consisted of a few desktop PCs connected to a modest file server. Nowadays, small business is actually big business; a single PC can now contain gigabytes of mission-critical information. Gone are the days of 56kbps dial-up Internet access, too, as even the smallest ‘Small Office Home Office’ operations most likely have high-speed connections now.

While all of this new computing and networking firepower brings great benefits to one’s small business, it can also bring great disasters if proper care isn’t taken from the very beginning when one’s computer network is first established. The following five suggestions should be on the top of your priority list when setting up a new computer network for your business:

1. Determine your network’s purpose

While this may seem obvious, many small business owners don’t actually take time in the beginning to determine the purpose of their network. Is the network intended to link up computers locally or provide remote access as well? Will there be applications and data shared from a central repository or distributed amongst various desktop and laptop PCs in a peer-to-peer fashion? Understanding the purpose of your network will put you in a better position for procuring the right components and setting up the proper connections necessary to meet your networking needs.

2. Establish a budget

Failing to establish a budget for your network can lead to a multitude of problems in the future. Not knowing just how much you are able to spend on networking hardware such as routers, switches, wi-fi hot spots, cabling and firewalls could lead to purchasing the wrong hardware or hardware that may not be best suited to work with pre-existing infrastructure. Without knowing how much a small business has to spend on networking from day one could lead to money shortages before all of the right hardware is purchased and installed. Buying the greatest backup system on the market, for example, isn’t going to be very useful if there isn’t enough money to install, operate and maintain it.

3. Security

People don’t really recognize the need for security until it is too late. When it comes to small business computer networking, security needs to be established from the very beginning. Have software to block spam, advertisements and malware from entering your network. Keep all operating system software and user applications fully patched and updated. Insist on the use of strong passwords for all accounts, file-shares and encrypted data. Keep important systems physically secured in lockable server rooms as well.

4. Training

Training is closely related to security, as a lot of staff training should be devoted towards understanding proper use of the network so as to prevent it from becoming compromised. Employees need to be instructed on what constitutes proper use of company networking resources so as to prevent malware and viruses from ruining the system.

5. Maintenance

Computer networks need to be maintained to continue operating effectively. Unfortunately, network maintenance can often turn into a full-time job, something that small business owners just don’t have the time, money and know-how to do properly We discussed this topic in great detail within our previous article titled “Network Support: In-House or Outsource?” Often times it makes better sense for small businesses to obtain network support from a professional Technology Consultant, but who are you going to trust?

Leave it to IT Direct to help get your network up and running. IT Direct is the leading authority in Connecticut for designing, installing and maintaining small business network setups. Contact us today to see what we can do to get your small business network up and running.