6 Big Website Mistakes You’ve Probably Made

That Are Costing Your Business Money.

Have you fallen prey to these common website mistakes— Ones that will alienate your customers and deplete your revenue?

Website Issues

If you tried to save money by constructing your own website, or had it built by someone without the latest knowledge in digital marketing, you’re wasting money, and probably losing business. Check out these common mistakes, and find out how you can overcome them.

  • Lack of Credibility

The first thing prospects look for when visiting your website is a professional image that inspires confidence in your brand. When the information on your home page is weak, outdated or inaccurate, the trust you’re trying to develop will never happen.

Here’s a tip: If you’re part of a larger consortium, or have recommendations from organizations like the Better Business Bureau, list these prominently throughout your site. Readers will find these brandings comforting, as they represent a known entity. This is especially important if your brand is new, or you’re reaching beyond your market to bring in new customers.

  • Inconsistent Branding

Branding your business consistently with professional logos, images, and language is just as important online as it is in print materials. If your website is slick and stunning, but looks completely off-brand, you run the risk of confusing potential customers.

The template that your site is built upon is another issue. If you use stock images, it’s a good possibility that viewers will recognize this. Visuals are important. Pay for professional images, or better yet, use photographs that truly represent who you are and what you’ve accomplished.  This will elicit honesty and promote trust.

  • Long Page-Load Times

People are busy. If it takes upwards of 4 to 5 seconds to load a web page, viewers will give up and Google your competitor. Free websites that offer low-cost hosting may seem attractive. However, as you know, you get what you pay for in this regard.

Shared hosting accounts run thousands of websites on the same server, causing latency issues along with significant security concerns. Successful businesses work with local IT Managed Services Providers to create secure, highly-structured websites that provide consistent experiences with quick load times.  This encourages visitors to dig deep into a site, increasing the possibility of sales.

  • Missing a Call to Action

You’ve got a gorgeous website design. You’ve nailed the mobile experience. Your branding is on point. However, you’re still not making any sales! What’s wrong? You’re probably missing an obvious call to action.

After you lead customers down the path to learn about your business and brand, it’s crucial that you ask for them to take an action. This can be as simple as having them sign up for a newsletter, download a PDF document, or create an account and purchase an item.

  • Inadequate Mobile Experience

More than 50 percent of website views are using a mobile device. It’s critical that your website is mobile-optimized. Google, Bing and other large search engines provide preferential treatment to websites with a great mobile experience.  This will raise your search-result rankings without much effort.

If you’re not sure whether your website is mobile-friendly, grab your phone or tablet and start clicking.  If you see images that flow off the page, forms that require you to scroll before you can submit them, and you’re constantly frustrated with the whole thing—chances are you need to work with a professional to create a mobile-first website that uses responsive design.

  • Sub-Standard SEO

One of the best ways you can differentiate your business on the web is to have stellar SEO (search engine optimization) rankings.  This means your business shows up in the first page of search engine results for your product or service.

Online discoverability is of critical importance to growing your business. It will increase traffic to your website. Work with a partner who can create a website structure that’s consistent with SEO best practices. 

Alliance Technology Partners in St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. has digital marketing professionals who can work with you to beat your competitors online. They can quickly and easily walk through your site and identify places where you can effectively gather information, encourage people to sign up for services or make a purchase.

Contact us at (314) 649-8888 or email sales@alliancetechpartners.com to get started.  We’ll help you open your digital front door.

Do These Cybersecurity Myths Hold Up to Scrutiny?

To stay safe in terms of cyber security, you must separate fact from fiction. Hacking and forms of cyber crime are nothing new. However, one recent study reveals the problem is far more severe than any of us thought. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, almost 178 million personal records were stolen during breaches in 2015 alone. The cost of handling these attacks amounted to $400 billion during the same year – a number that’s expected to climb to $2.1 trillion by 2019.

Do These Cybersecurity Myths Hold Up to Scrutiny-

There are many myths surrounding cyber crime. Shattering three of the most prominent ones is the best way to ensure you, your employees and your organization stay safe moving forward.

Myth #1: Size Matters – I’m Far Too Small to Be a Target

Perhaps the most popular cyber security myth is the idea that if you’re not a large enterprise you don’t have to worry about getting hacked. Many believe that hackers tend to go where the money is, and if you’re running a small or medium-sized business, you’re a small fish in a big pond that probably won’t attract their attention.

This is falseThe Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) revealed that 61% of data breach victims in 2016 were companies with under 1,000 employees. Hackers are smart, and their attempts are getting more sophisticated all the time. Phishing, ransomware and other hacking techniques target small businesses in particular, as they’re the most likely to NOT have a cyber security plan in place.

NOBODY is immune from these and other types of attacks. The more you do to educate your employees and defend against cybercrime, the more you’re likely to stay safe.

Myth #2: Cybersecurity Technology Is Infallible and Will Fix Everything.

Many people think that if they invest in a cyber security solution, and keep it updated and configured properly, they have absolutely nothing to worry about. Again, this is false. Even a state-of-the-art antivirus suite can’t guard against something like user error.

The reason why attacks like ransomware are so effective is that they trick users who aren’t informed about the latest hacking techniques. This is one of the many reasons why cyber security education should always be a primary focus for your organization.

Any employee who handles data must undergo security compliance training and understand how to implement security measures. A data-security policy that starts from the top down, and that you strictly enforce company-wide, is essential. Training your staff to identify and mitigate cyber security threats is one of the best ways you can reduce the chance that you’ll be breached.

Myth #3: Cybersecurity Is Just Too Expensive for Me to Deal With.

Unfortunately, even when a business owner acknowledges that their organization could be a target of hacking, they often believe they lack the funds to properly defend against it.

Think about the consequences of a breach.  We’re not just talking about downtime and lost productivity – We’re talking about irreparable damage to your business’ reputation, expensive legal fees, damaging regulatory penalties, lost customers, and so much more—all because you want to save a little money.

Think about the days or weeks following a potential attack and ask yourself which expense will be larger: The cyber security protections you put in place, or the costs of the points noted above? This could l mean the difference between surviving an attack, and being forced to close your doors.

Implementing cyber security measures is a smaller investment than you probably think it is. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that nearly $1 trillion will be spent on cyber security between 2017 and 2022. Getting on this “bandwagon” today could ensure your business is still here tomorrow.

No matter what business you operate, one thing is clear – Getting attacked is no longer a question of “if” but “when.” You must ensure you’re doing everything you can to stay safe.  

If your business is in St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. and you’d like to learn more about this or any IT topic, please don’t delay – Contact Alliance Technology Partners by phone at (314) 649-8888 or by email at: sales@alliancetechpartners.com

DaaS Solves Your Device Management Problems.  

Device management is an age-old headache, and one that IT teams struggle with on a regular basis. However, using DaaS (Device as a Service) can solve this problem, and leverage organizational strengths while reducing overall costs.

Cloud Desktops

Businesses of all sizes look for ways to leverage technology to create an edge over their competitors. However, this can be a challenge for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs). The rapid pace of change, and the deeper pockets of larger organizations often leaves SMBs competing with aging software and hardware, and without the funds to replace them.

Fortunately, cloud-based software is now extending to devices. DaaS is growing in relevance and prominence in the SMB workplace. While procuring devices in a service model isn’t new, the term has been updated. Technology teams are adopting this concept and fully embracing the new opportunities offered by this aged-old model.

The Challenges with Device Management

IT managers are familiar with the difficulties surrounding device management.  Plus, it can cause frustration all the way from the board room to individual workers, for a variety of reasons:

  • Cost: By the time IT managers get the funds needed for device upgrades, the technology is often outdated and needs to be researched again before a purchase can be made.
  • Lack of flexibility: Buying devices in bulk is usually the most cost-effective option. Purchasing a bulk quantity of the same type of computer simplifies everything from purchasing to deployment and support. However, this doesn’t take into consideration the varying needs of workers.
  • Slow upgrades: New employees coming online may have different requirements than those who received their computer only a few years ago. In this case, your IT team is left dealing with multiple releases and platforms.
  • Maintenance: It’s no surprise that older hardware and software require more maintenance to run efficiently and effectively. As you near the end of your device life cycle, this problem will rise to the forefront, and can be a huge productivity drain on your technology team.
  • Device disposal: What do you do with used devices after they’ve been replaced with newer models? Best case scenario, you’re can sell them—However, this still requires the wiping of hard drives, removing passwords, and other precautions.
  • Hardware inventory: Maintaining an accurate inventory of which devices are assigned to specific individuals can be a laborious task. Even the most organized of IT teams need to perform a bi-annual or annual inventory, and there are invariably surprises or missing devices that need to be tracked down. This problem is compounded if you provide your tablets, mobile phones, desktop and laptop computers for each employee.

With all of the challenges associated with device management, it’s no surprise that businesses are looking for other options.  

The DaaS Model

Devices as a Service has been used in the past to lease high-end office equipment such as printers and copiers.  However, it’s now expanding to other devices as IT departments are being overtaxed and understaffed.

Outsourcing devices allows technology teams to focus on ways to bring value to the organization, instead of spending time keeping things running. The hidden costs of poorly supported technology are numerous, and include everything from poor productivity due to slow operations, to lost customer data, and even reduced levels of revenue.

IT teams may not realize their prospects and customers are jumping off their website due to slow connection speeds from their server. And business leaders may not realize that the effectiveness of their customer service representatives is less than 50 percent due to slow computer connections.

Improved Security and Scalability

As cybercrime is on the rise, and ransomware is running rampant throughout the business world, ensuring your network is completely secure is a key. When your team has the latest hardware and software, you’re more likely to be compliant with accepted best practices for security, regulations, business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

Scalability is a critical piece to consider as well. DaaS provides you with an easy way to scale up or down, without incurring massive costs to add or depreciate equipment.

You’ll Receive Timely Updates

With DaaS, security patches, software updates and hardware upgrades are performed on a regular schedule by individuals whose sole responsibility is to ensure they’re up-to-date at all times.

Ease of Management

Working with a DaaS vendor provides you and your IT team peace of mind. Your vendor will constantly review the current device structure for your business, and handle device issues now and into the future.

Plus, your DaaS vendor can provide an analytics platform so you and your IT team can view employee performance and productivity throughout your organization.

When you research DaaS organizations, it’s important to keep in mind that service levels can differ, with a variety of price ranges depending on response times and update schedules.

Working with a DaaS vendor provides you and your team more time to focus on strategic initiatives that will promote your business success. They’ll manage your IT assets, device inventories, upgrade schedules and handle deployments—even the disposal of aging assets.

Want to learn more about DaaS for your organization in the St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. ? Contact Alliance Technology Partners at (314) 649-8888 or sales@alliancetechpartners.com. Our professionals will work with you to find the best device management options for your business.

The Benefits of Structured Cabling for Your Business

 How much do you know about your company’s IT network?

What type of cabling system do you use? 

When was the last time you upgraded your network cabling?

These are questions any business owner should have answers for. However, if you’re like most that consult for, your answers aren’t sufficient.  Your IT network is the backbone of your organization. Without a strong network, your employees are wasting time and losing productivity every day.

Structured Cabling

Are you using old technology and running your business on an out-of-date network?

If so, it’s time for an update.

One of the most useful updates you can make to your network is to switch from that old point-to-point cabling system to a highly functioning structured cabling system.

Point-to-Point Cabling vs. Structured Cabling Systems

These are the only two methods for transporting data through network cables. Many continue to use the old point-to-point cable method for their data infrastructure. A point-to-point cabling system has a tendency to cause problems as your network needs expand is size and complexity. To understand why, you must know how a point-to-point cabling system works:

A point-to-point cabling is set up by connecting one component of a network, a server, switch or a device, directly to another component of the network using a fiber-optic cable. Twenty years ago, this type of wiring was an elegant solution for quickly and easily stringing together a network. At that time, most networks were small, and IT departments were smaller.

Today, as networks grow, and fast transfers of huge amounts of data are more essential, maintaining these older point-to-point cabling system, along with the thousands of cords necessary to operate them, places a big strain on a company’s IT resources.

To avoid dealing with this, many companies have switched to a structured cabling system. Instead of connecting each individual component of a network directly to another, a structured cabling system connects the servers and storage units directly to a communication backbone.

Local cabling panels are installed throughout the office and connected to the communication backbone with a single cable. A user can then connect his device to the entire network by simply plugging a short cable into the closest cabling panel.

The Benefits of Structured Cabling

You may be thinking, “Hey, isn’t adding a communication backbone and redoing all the cable systems in my office going to be expensive?” The answer is yes. Installing a structured cabling system can be costly, but it’s an investment in the future of your business.

Why is it such a good investment? There are many reasons. A structured cabling system:

  • Pays for itself. It’s true that changing from a point-to-point cabling system to a structured cabling system isn’t cheap. The cost of installing a structured cabling system can range from $100 to $500 for each connection. Companies in older buildings with less access to the ceiling and subfloor can expect to pay even more. But the investment will eventually pay for itself by both making your employees more effective and lowering IT costs.
  • Reduces the time necessary to make repairs. Since a structured cabling system is segregated into a group of devices connected to a single local cabling panel, it’s easy for your IT professional to identify problems and solve issues. An additional benefit is that users’ work won’t be disrupted if their devices aren’t connected to the cabling panel being serviced.
  • Helps you plan for the future. A cable has an average useful lifespan of 15 years. That’s two to three times longer than most devices.  The cabling system you install today is going to be around for a long time, and will handle several generations of devices. No one knows how large your business will grow, or what future devices you may require.  However, when you switch to a structured cabling system, you’re helping to future-proof your network.
  • Offers increased flexibility. Adding more devices to the network is much easier when using a structured cabling system. Instead of running a new cable from additional devices to a switch or server using a long cable, your IT professional can simply connect the device to the closest cabling panel. Removing devices is just as easy.  Simply disconnect the device from the cabling panel and the job is done. No more orphaned cables to find and remove, like when using a point-to-point cabling system.

Isn’t it time for you to make the switch from point-to-point cabling? Alliance Technology Partners can install a structured cabling system for your business in St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. . Contact us for a complimentary assessment of your cabling needs.  (314) 649-8888 sales@alliancetechpartners.com

Bring Your Marketing to the Next Level. Some Great Email Tools to Try.

Email marketing is far from dead. In fact, it’s seen increased success in recent years. Both prospects and marketers find it to be one of the most flexible, useful channels for staying in contact.

Email Marketing

Sending emails won’t help you succeed unless you use the right tools. If you want to increase your sales with email marketing, you must create great content and measure results. The Internet offers tools that let you do this. We can help you find the right tools—Here are some of our favorites.

Cortana Scheduling Abilities

If you use both Cortana and Microsoft Outlook, you should try Cortana’s more advanced scheduling abilities. When Cortana scans your emails, she can recognize language that refers to an upcoming meeting or phone call. And she can add this information to the right client contact info, as well as your calendar. This is particularly helpful when you’re managing multiple leads, and you don’t have the time to input every meeting or scheduled call into your calendar. Cortana also works with Outlook and Office 365 to pull information from the web and emails so your contact information is always up to date. This can save you a lot of time.

Google Smart Reply

If you’ve been using Gmail on your mobile device, you may have noticed an important change — When you reply to a client or lead, Google will suggest pre-made emails for you to use. Gmail notes your previous responses to clients and auto-creates a similar one. However, this won’t work for complex emails—Only for brief emails arranging a meeting time, etc. This service provides several options, so you can pick the one that makes the most sense and sounds like it came from you.

MailChimp

MailChimp is a handy email management tool that lets you use automation, advanced A/B testing, analytics, and much more. A/B testing is useful when you aren’t sure what email subject line to use. Plus, you can chart your email success rate, and how to improve it. MailChimp is most famous for creating surveys and polls that you can send to gauge interest in almost anything. For companies that want to use a specific approach, this is a great service to try.  Don’t use it too often, or you may annoy your recipients.

Microsoft Office 365 Group Emails

Office 365 Groups helps you create teams based on your relationship to projects and other employees.  You can add and update team lists as you choose to. One of the best advantages to this flexible setup is the ability to share data. Group provides a shared inbox and calendar in Outlook so you can carry on conversations and send emails to the entire Group automatically. It’s a great way to coordinate team marketing activities, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Mad Mimi for Newsletters

Mad Mimi is a popular email marketing tool to create, send and track newsletters. If you regularly send newsletters, then it’s important to use a system to ensure quality, and track results. Mad Mimi is a great place to go for these capabilities.

Hiver for Brand Emails

If you don’t use Office 365 but still want to coordinate a marketing team, Hiver turns Gmail into a shared email service.  You can coordinate tasks and assign client emails to various team members. It also offers tracking software so you can see conversations and responses over time and locate any weak spots.

Constant Contact for Templates

Today, the appearance of your emails is more important than ever before. An email needs to stand out, but not be too flashy. It should draw attention, but not look like an advertisement. And if you don’t have the coding skills, then building an email from scratch can be a big challenge. Constant Contact provides pre-made email templates for a variety of different messages to ensure that your emails look great on desktop and mobile devices – It’s a great tool if you don’t have email templates of your own.

Hemingway for Sending Concise Emails

People don’t have a lot of time to read emails, especially from brands they aren’t familiar with. This means you must use words effectively.  We’ve covered design, but for help using the right text, you may want to try Hemingway. This simple web app scans your text and provides edits for easier consumption.

Raven URL for Analytics

If you want to track your email ROI, it’s time for analytics. Raven is a good choice because it works with Google Analytics URL Builder to show where visitors come from, when they visit your website, and when they open your email messages. See what impact your emails make when it comes to CTAs (calls to action) and conversion rates.

Let us know if any of these tools worked for you. And, if you have questions about email marketing, reach out to us.  Alliance Technology Partners provides a variety of IT solutions to businesses in St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. . Contact us at (314) 649-8888 or sales@alliancetechpartners.com to learn more.

Should You Consider Hosted VoIP To Replace Your Business’ Current Phone Service?  

Are you tired of the high cost of using a traditional business phone system?

Have You Thought About Hosted VoIP

You can save money while still getting the same quality with a VoIP System for your business.  

Over half of the homes in the U.S. depend solely on cellphones for phone service. The remaining residences use traditional landlines or the newer VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). It’s predicted that by the end of 2018 only 6 percent of Americans will still be using landlines.

This begs the question as to whether it makes sense for a small or medium-sized business to abandon its current telephone system and make the jump to an alternative. I believe the answer is a resounding “yes!” So, why hasn’t your business already made the switch?

I’ve been telling all of my clients for years that they can streamline their businesses and save money each month by simply changing the way they make and receive phone calls. Now that the prices for VoIP business systems have come down while the quality of their connections and other services continue to improve, it’s definitely the right time for your business to make the switch.

The Benefits of Using a VoIP System for Your Business

Your complete office phone system is always with you no matter where you go. Whether you’re on vacation or just stuck in a traffic jam, with VoIP you always have access to your business phone system. You can make and receive phone calls, check messages and even host a conference call using the same system you use when you use in the office. A third of all workers spent at least some time working remotely during the past year, and a VoIP business system is perfect for keeping these off-site workers as productive as in-house employees.

Keep your initial and ongoing costs low. You won’t get hit with a huge setup cost if your company switches from a traditional PBX system to a cloud-based one. The cost of hardware for VoIP systems is more affordable than traditional phone systems.  Plus, there’s a good chance you can continue to use your current telephones, or that your VoIP provider will include the cost of hardware with your monthly fee. And, these monthly fees are low and fixed, so you’ll never have to deal with unexpected telephone service bills.

A VoIP phone system is easily scalable. Is your business growing, or do you have seasonal surges and lulls? When you use a traditional PBX, it’s difficult and expensive to add hardware during those busy times of the year. And when business slows down, you can forget about returning the hardware you no longer need. A business VoIP phone service lets your business pay for only what you need, when you need it.

Give your IT guys a break with a VoIP phone system and cloud-based PBX. Setting up and maintaining a VoIP business system and a PBX in the cloud is much more manageable than with your current telephone system. Everything is handled online, and it’s simple enough for even a non-technical person to figure out. If business owners do run into trouble, a simple call to the VoIP provider usually gets everything working again in minutes.

Access all the features you love about your current telephone system, and alternatives for those you hate. You can find the same features on a VoIP phone system that are on your current PBX. VoIP has features like caller ID, call forwarding, a hold function with music, call logs and three-way calling. However, there’s so much more you can choose from. How about adding an auto-receptionist who can greet callers and forward them to the appropriate personnel? Or, opt for multilevel IVR to give callers the ability to find information without speaking directly with an employee. When it comes to options on a cloud-based PBX system, the sky truly is the limit.

What Are You Waiting For?

Don’t sit on the sidelines. There’s no need to spend any more time weighing whether or not it makes sense to upgrade your business phone system. A VoIP system is simply the best option available today. Remember, a VoIP business system or cloud-based PBX provides:

  • Convenience: When you use a VoIP system for your business, you can always get work done whenever and wherever you roam.
  • Cost:You can save money and better track ongoing expenses when you switch to a VoIP business phone service.
  • Scalable:A VoIP phone service is just right, no matter how many people your company employees.
  • Simplicity: It doesn’t take a degree in IT to set up and administer a VoIP system.
  • Features: Get the exact features your business demands when you select a VoIP business system.

For advice, or information on up-to-date IT strategies and solutions to manage your business, Alliance Technology Partners can help! We serve businesses in St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. with a variety of services designed for their unique needs. Contact us at (314) 649-8888 or sales@alliancetechpartners.com to learn more.

Your Modern Company Needs These Timesheet Advances for Managing Schedules

Today’s timesheets are adaptable digital tools: Here are the features that can make them truly useful.

Are your timecards still languishing in the last century? Do you have troubles with timesheet consistency or accuracy? Companies that want more out of their timesheets and tracking solutions have a lot of options to choose from, but many don’t know what they are missing. Today’s timesheet services have advanced compatibility and a host of new features that allow them to function in nearly any scenario. When the time comes to update your software, here are the top capabilities to watch for – and how they can help.

TimeSheets

Multidevice Compatibility

Today’s time data solutions need to be compatible with mobile devices: End of story. Find a tool that works just as well as an app on a phone as it does on a desktop computer. Modern employees are on the go and tend to have more flexible schedules than ever. Fewer and fewer are actually sitting down at their desks, especially when it’s time to clock out. More often, they may even be working from home or at the café. It’s important to make time data entry easy for them.

Also note that “mobile compatibility” isn’t the end-all of this tip. It’s important to test out the mobile capabilities of the software before making a decision. Some “lite” versions can’t really perform many complex tasks, and it’s important that mobile timesheets offer full capabilities.

Multiple Sign-In/Sign-Out Methods

Newer time data solutions are very good at offering multiple ways to update the system, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of this. Like including mobile compatibility, this ensures that employees have ways to add timecard information no matter where they are or what they are doing. Some systems let you sign in or out with a tweet; others let you send a text or an email to the system. These methods are useful for those who are short on time, busy on other projects, or are off-site where Wi-Fi connections may not be available or dependable.

Entry Via Project and Task

Logging hours in a closed system can be very limiting. A better solution is the ability to log time or expenses and customize the report based on projects and tasks that employees worked on. Since many organizations are focusing more on projects and team efforts, this is a great way to keep track of exactly where resources are going. It may also be helpful to allow employees to change their employment type (hourly vs. contract, etc.) as needed to accurately show their involvement in particular efforts. More flexibility is usually a good idea!

Room for Calculating Other Types of Data

Chances are good that employees aren’t just getting paid by the hour. They are also accruing bonuses, commissions, time off and more (sometimes all at once). And that’s just the start: If you’re working with equipment, that equipment is also accruing work hours that can affect its maintenance schedule. Is there a software option to record this information or automate it so that it corresponds with hours listed? Take a look at your HR system and make sure everything works together.

Data Sharing With Scheduling and Team Software

Speaking of working together, timesheets should also allow data sharing with several other business operation segments. Scheduling is an important inclusion in flatter, more flexible companies, because it allows managers and employees to quickly match their hours or rearrange their schedules based on where others are working, personal goals and time needed on particular projects. Of course, this works much better if timesheets can be connected to more advanced team data or communication so that everyone can stay on the same page. When possible, timesheets shouldn’t be siloed off from other business systems, as that tends to do more harm than good.

Team-Based and Freelance Entry

There are a couple of other scenarios where time data needs to be flexible. The first is team records or crew-based recording: In some industries, the time worked by a crew needs to be recorded as a whole, so it’s important that there are options for more than just individual employees. Second, if your company uses temp workers or freelancers, make sure the system can handle them. There’s no reason to use a secondary tracking tool just for gig jobs when one solution can handle both.

Resource Analysis Tools

Look for a system that supports spot reporting and allows managers to track projects, budgets and resources spent based on current time data. A good solution will be able to give an at-a-glance view of how time data compares to a variety of goals. This option can also be employee-facing: Many employees appreciate the ability to watch their vacation accrual or progress to a bonus in real time – and it’s not bad for productivity, either.

Alerts for Time Off, Schedule Clashes and More

Irregularities are the bane of timesheet management, but today’s software can do a lot to help out. Look for automation features that send alerts in case of schedule clashes, inconsistencies, or any request for shift changes and time off. Systems shouldn’t force managers to do the brunt of the work when it comes to these scenarios. Instead, data should be analyzed, packaged up, and sent in for a quick response or resolution that doesn’t require any head scratching. The ability for managers to create their own alerts is also useful for goal creation and managing strict scheduling parameters.

Compliance Compatibility

Here’s another area where automation can prove invaluable: If your company faces significant hiring and HR regulation, compliance issues can be a headache when managing different employee categories and hours worked. Get a solution that understands these needs and manages compliance for you, preventing any illegal scheduling or improper recording before it becomes a problem.

So, how does your time data system measure up? If you believe you need new features for managing your St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. employees, let us know! Alliance Technology Partners can help you find the data solutions that work. Contact us for more information at (314) 649-8888 or sales@alliancetechpartners.com.

Are You Calling Tech Support on Behalf of Your Company?

Here Are a Few Smart Communication Tips. 

Talking to vendor tech support doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here are the top things to keep in mind. 

Tech Support

Organizations’ relationships with their vendors and service providers aren’t always perfect. Whether it’s a bug in the software, a slowdown with no apparent cause, or a difficult financial issue, you’ll probably have a day when you’ll need to pick up the phone and call (or email, etc.) vendor customer support. When this happens, it’s important to communicate correctly the first time. All the usual customer support rules about keeping your temper and understanding their point of view apply, but when talking to vendor support, here are several additional tips to consider.

Gather Documentation and Details.

A vague explanation doesn’t do support much good, and a single instance of something going wrong isn’t exactly convincing. If you really want tech support to look into a problem your service is having, you need to document it thoroughly. Have a list of the bug instances and when they have happened. Provide server logs if necessary. Your goal is to have a full view of the issue with evidence that it’s not: 1.) your imagination or 2.) an entirely different problem than you believe. Vendor support deals with those two cases so often they tend to expect them. Save everyone time by providing documentation to back up your concerns. (If the problem is less technical, do the same but with records of conversations, bills, etc.)

If You Are Worried About Costs, Have a Plan.

What’s your end goal for this conversation with support? Do you want a discount, or refund, or new fee arrangement? Do you want to somehow be compensated for downtime? Then you’ll need to know exactly what you want. Have a specific monetary goal for remuneration and a clear idea of how you want that to happen. You don’t always have to state this goal, especially when first discussing a problem, but it should be noted and clear in your mind during the discussion.

Note: Some organizations can get obsessed over such a bottom-line figure. Remember, dealing with the problem should have the highest priority; try not to treat it like a negotiation or sales call, and everyone will be happier.

Repeat Detailed Instructions for Accuracy.

For more technical issues connected with services, conversations quickly turn to careful steps that tech support wants you to take. This can take some time, but devote part of that time to an “echo” of everything support is saying. If support tells you, “Log in to the administrator profile, and go to settings and security,” then you should always repeat back, “Okay, I’ve logged into the administrator profile, and now I am in settings and security.”

Some vendors prefer to use screen sharing and other techniques that make echoing less necessary, but it’s still an important thing to remember when trying out a detailed solution.

Make Changes and Benchmark.

Let’s say your problem is more complexlike an ongoing issue with web hosting. In these cases, it’s hard to immediately tell if a fix is effective. So, make changes or note the vendor’s explanation, then benchmark the process again (a couple or even a single week’s worth of data is good to have at this point). This allows you to go back to the vendor and say, “Here’s our recent data, this is where we are seeing the problem, and these are the effects your changes have had.” Then, if necessary, you can talk about continuing solutions.

This isn’t intended to be a “gotcha” move, but rather a way to hold your vendor accountable while also supplying them with as much information as you can about the problem. Complex, ongoing issues often take a lot of back and forth to finally figure out what’s going on, and that works best when you are politely providing the vendor with the data you have on the problem.

Keep it Private—For Now.

Even if your experience has been an unpleasant one or a problem has made you angry, your first move should be to call support and have a civil conversation. Do not make the mistake of going online and complaining in forums or posting on social media, until you figure out what’s going on. First, poor reviews can have a lasting effect on the vendor’s business and should be considered very carefully. Second, you probably won’t find your answers by complaining online: Solutions come from first talking through the problem with support and figuring out what’s happening.

If the time does come for you to end a contract and move to a different service because of a problem, then you can consider leaving a review for the service. And always remember, tech support is only human (unless you’re talking to an advanced A.I.). They may not always understand your perspective, and they don’t deserve rude talk, especially in a professional environment.

Try Opening Additional Lines of Communication.

If you have a serious problem to tackle, consider talking to more than just the support your vendor offers. Drop a line to your account manager (if you have one) or sales contact to let them know what’s going on as well. Sometimes where one avenue of communication won’t work for whatever reason, another route will be more successful. Contacts you have known in the past may also be more likely to understand your particular problem. Consult the SLA for specifics on what vendor contacts can or can’t do if you aren’t sure.

Ask, Why?

When talking with support, make sure you understand the root causes of a problem, asking for more information if you don’t. This way you will be better positioned to respond if something similar happens in the future. Additionally, keeping focused on the “why” gives your communication purpose and may help reach a solution more quickly than staying too passive.

Send a Final Update.

After your support experience, send a note or email about the issue (a ticket or order number was probably opened for your issue and makes a good contact point for this message). Summarize the problem, your communication, and the end result. This is great for vendors tracking the efficacy of their support efforts and allows your organization to have a record of the experience for future use.

Do you have questions about specific vendor services or responsibilities? Alliance Technology Partners can help out! We provide data services for St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. businesses and have extensive experience finding solutions that work. Contact us at (314) 649-8888 or sales@alliancetechpartners.com to learn more.

How Nonprofits Can Use a Managed Services Provider to Meet Their Goals

Data solutions can bring needed change to NPOs: Here’s why a managed services provider is the answer.

Nonprofit IT services

One of the most annoying things for nonprofit organizations is finding that their real goals – their mission statements – keep getting obstructed by the small mountains of day-to-day work. For the NPOs that were particularly anxious to make a difference, this is continually frustrating, and anything that can reduce time spent on shuffling data is a godsend. Good news! Using managed services (partnering with an external company for application and data management) is just such a solution. It can save time, get you back to the basics, and – well, just take a look at the all the advantages an NPO can realize when partnering with a data services provider.

Expertise in Solutions and Security

Strong IT and data security require experts. There’s no alternative here. Either you take advantage of available expertise, or you have a weak system. Today’s complex data systems don’t allow for much middle ground. The great thing about managed service providers is that they are filled with experts: It is their job to offer expertise that other organizations, like non-profits, don’t have direct access to. So if your IT departments don’t exactly match your ambitions, fill in the gap with managed services.

This is particularly useful when it comes to security: Even non-profits have their share of sensitive data (payment information, customer contacts, etc.) that must be protected using the latest data organization, encryption, and threat detection methods. It’s bad enough when a for profit company gets hacked and loses the trust of its customers. Few nonprofits can survive that loss of trust following hacked data, making security a priority.

True Scalability

Scalability technically refers to the ability of a company to scale operations up or down depending on the orders they receive. But when most organization leaders talk about scalability, what they mean is overall ability regarding not only orders but responses to all kinds of changes. This quality is particularly important for NPOs that may deal with very cyclical work or a variety of different projects throughout the year. Managed service providers can offer this type of true scalability – the ability to shift data to meet new demands no matter what the cause, and recommend new services that properly scale with the current workload.

Making the Jump to New Flexibility

Organizations that have been around for some years often prove hesitant to adopt new cloud services, data sharing features, or security precautions – not because they don’t want to, but because it would be a significant change. Hardware needs to be switched out for software; decisions need to be made about new mobile devices, the right services and vendors have to be chosen…it’s asking a lot of an NPO already swamped with demands on the front end. But this is actually why managed services have gained support – they offer a bridge to make all the big changes in an easier, more effective way. By removing the uncertainty behind a workplace transformation, providers help NPOs pick the organizational structure they want, then choose the right nonprofit managed services to support it.

Reliable Patching and Support

Don’t worry about creating a patching schedule and finding answers all on your own: With managed services, patches for critical applications are applied as necessary, and you always have someone to ask when you need software support for new apps or unforeseen problems. This may seem like a minor advantage compared to some of our other points, but remember that patches are often essential in preventing hacking attempts on older software. Even traditional support can be more valuable than it seems at first glance if it includes additional training and education.

Budget Planning

How much should you be spending on IT? What software packages offer a good deal, and which ask too much? Will your next project require a software upgrade, or are your current tools enough? It’s no surprise that nonprofits sometimes struggle to answer all these questions promptly, especially when budgets are tight (which is typically always). IT services for nonprofits include consultations and planning sessions to help create budgets that meet organizational goals while also providing the necessary data solutions and security. It’s not a balancing act that NPOs have to do alone, so why not get some help from the experts?

Specific Compliance Solutions for Your Unique Situation

Nonprofits tend to have specific compliance requirements that have to meet when running operating and managing data. A provider with experience helping NPOs can offer valuable advice on how to respond to these regulations. This is particularly important if a nonprofit deal with any health information (typically protected by HIPAA) or wants to accept payment cards (governed by PCI compliance). Other NPOs may have even more unique issues if they work with overseas data or currency. These aren’t areas where there’s any room for a misstep, so it’s important to get the right help with technology services for nonprofits.

Cost Control

A common claim about managed services is that they will save you money: This may be true, especially if that’s one of your goals, but it’s more accurate to say that managed services allow for better cost control. Prices move from hardware and internal data management to carefully constructed fees that are easier to rely on. Adding or removing services will change these fees in clear, immediate ways. Organizations that switch to a trusted provider find that they have a better handle on their data spending, and less chance of spending money on something that they don’t need.

Do you have any specific questions about services for your St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. NPO that didn’t make our list (there are a lot of them)? Ask us about it! You can contact Alliance Technology Partners at (314) 649-8888 or sales@alliancetechpartners.com to learn more and arrange a meeting.

The Biggest Technology Challenges Faced by the Accounting Industry

Technology is changing nearly every industry, but few as significantly as the accounting field.

Here’s what you need to know about staying in business.

Accounting firms have always had a bit fo a rocky relationship with technology… and that has only been exacerbated by the developments in the last few years. The accounting industry has seen many radical changes in technology over the past decade, and many companies are trying to find ways to continue to catch up without having to repeatedly invest in the “new tech” every few years. Here are some of the biggest technology changes that are currently faced by the accounting industry — and what you can do about it.

Accountants and Technology

Technology is Automating Much of the Accounting Sector

Bookkeepers are practically obsolete, and that’s not something that’s making everyone happy. On one end, accounting companies are now able to vastly reduce the amount of staff they take on. On the other hand, that also means fewer people in the accounting industry in general… it means careers that are shrinking. Long-term, there are going to be fewer accountants and financial advisors, because there simply isn’t the need for any “busy work.”

It’s not only that transactions are being automatically recorded, but it’s also that they are automatically analyzed. Tools are now being used for many of the things that accountants used to do, such as provide quick depreciation schedules. And because the technology is so simple and easy to use, they often don’t even need an accountant to explain the results to them.

In short-term this means industry disruption — but in the long-term this is is a positive thing. Accounting firms need fewer people and more technology, and they will be able to invest far less money into maintaining their overhead. Accounting firms will also be able to demand the best talent because the industry is going to be even more competitive.

Technology Means You Always Need to be Available

In the old days, it wasn’t uncommon for partners to get the middle of the night calls from their panicked clients. But this is even worse now that email, text messaging, and other avenues are open. Accountants can now expect to be “on call” to their clients almost constantly, and it’s not as simple as having business hours — the competition is answering their calls, so you need to too.

This means that there may be fewer accountants working in the data analysis areas (where technology is taking up the slack), but more accountants working directly with customers. Accounting is likely shifting to a more human-centric approach, helping individuals reach their business and personal financial goals rather than dealing with raw numbers. But this also means that people skills are going to become paramount, and accountants are going to have to get used to office hours that potentially don’t end.

Technology Is Changing the Way Accountants Think

Accountants who are graduating now have never dealt with paper tax forms, nor have they had to deal with sending in paper documents to the IRS or manually compiling payroll. In fact, many accountants are not used to setting up their own algorithms or doing their own accounting at all; all of the software now handles it for them.

For larger firms and older firms, this can be a bit difficult to work with. Accountants are no longer being taught many of the more basic fundamentals; instead, software solutions are doing the heavy lifting. For the most part, this really doesn’t make a difference.. the work still gets done. But for more complex cases, this can lead to mistakes or things being overlooked, simply because the accountants have no experience in it.

Accounting firms may need to adjust to this through training sessions and through on-the-job learning. Internships may need to be more intensive, and new hires may need to be introduced to some basic accounting principles. On the other hand, they will often already know how to use the leading software solutions.

Technology Is Making Accounting Accessible to Everyone

Finally, accountants are going to see their roles shift and possibly shrink a bit. Many people are now doing everything from their taxes to their investing on their own and they are rarely looking for an accountant unless they need something special done — such as opening a business. Accountants are going to see fewer casual clients and walk-ins. Those who rely on individual tax returns or individual advising for the bulk of their business are going to be the hardest hit.

This is going to be mitigated somewhat by the fact that accountants are now able to reduce their workforce, but accountants who want to remain healthy and competitive are going to need to be more aggressive with procuring clientele — and they may need to start offering more accurate services, such as portfolio analysis and business management.

Technology is changing the accounting industry not only quickly but also permanently. These are not trends: these are things that accounting firms are going to need to deal with for the foreseeable future. Accounting firms need to understand that many of the services that they provide are going to be rendered all but obsolete in the next decade. The role of the traditional accounting firm is going to need to advance to a technology-focused, customer-centric business model to survive.

If your St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. accounting firm wants to learn more about modern technology, its benefits, and its challenges, contact the experts at Alliance Technology Partners. Call us at (314) 649-8888 or email us at sales@alliancetechpartners.com to get started!