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5 Must-Do Action Items When Hiring an IT Firm

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August 2016
Jon Pisani, Sales Engineer Manager




I love watching a good action movie. The surprises and twists keep me going. (Plus, I like popcorn drenched in salty butter.) When it comes to IT, though, surprises are never, ever a good thing.

At 3Points, onboarding clients dramatically reduces the pain we all feel when things don’t go as planned. It even makes the work more enjoyable (dare I say “fun”?). Onboarding means everyone knows what to expect when the sticky notes hit the fan.

Since I’m the guy who oftentimes picks up those sticky notes, I can say firsthand that onboarding your IT firm eliminates a lot of back and forth questions down the road. Setting aside an hour or so to lay out every possible scenario saves many headaches and heartaches.

Even if you have a long-standing relationship with an IT firm, you can still adopt these best practices for onboarding an IT company. It’s never too late shore up a good working relationship through communication.

Here are five action items for epic onboarding with an IT firm.

1. Square One: The Basics


When we sign on a new client, the first thing we have is an onboarding meeting at the client location. We sit with the main contact and cover basic expectations and processes. Start here.

- What are my service options?
- When is the help desk available?
- What is the process for opening and closing a case (an issue or project)?
- When is a case classified as standard, urgent or emergency?
- Define your maintenance windows. For example: What’s the best time to install or reboot servers – weekday from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. or on Saturday?
- Discuss the process for regularly scheduled onsite visits. Are you going to give your IT firm a “honey do” list or is there a standard checklist they should follow?
- Who does your IT firm contact after hours and what triggers a call?

2. Ask What-if Questions and Document the Answers.


Onboarding is a departure from traditional IT protocol where knowledge has long been held close to the vest. That’s the old way of thinking. Today, successful small businesses are more fully understanding their network, options and technology roadmap. 

When onboarding, explore scenarios you may run into. What do these look like and how will they be handled? When an issue arises, both sides are looking for answers. And guess what? The answers will be there when you address the what-ifs upfront.

3. Talk About Administrative Details


Invoicing should NEVER be a surprise to anyone. Here are some housekeeping points to address during the onboarding process:

- How you will pay for monthly services and potential overages?
- Will you use check, bank debit or credit card?
- What constitutes an overage?
- Who in your company is qualified to order big-ticket items?
- When is the invoice due?
- What is the firm’s policy for putting an account on warning or on hold for nonpayment?
- Is it hourly billing or project billing?
- Will you be given detailed timesheets?
- Are services billed each month or for each timesheet?

4. Plan a Start-up Project to Get Things Going


At 3Points, onboarding gives way to an initial maintenance project that stabilizes the network. Bonus: This gives a client knowledge about their network and empowers them to grow their business with technology. Example projects include: a Microsoft Office 365 migration, a new server or server consolidation, or a network upgrade. Give your IT firm a day or two for transitional services.

Make sure you know what the closing of a project looks like. When we complete a project, for example, we have a final call to make sure that our client is satisfied. They then sign a certificate of completion. We also give a warranty period of 30 days for every project.

5. Know What Donut Your Account Manager Likes Best


OK, just kidding. The point is: Know who is going to be standing there to take the lead once the epic onboarding process and maintenance project are complete. In truth, onboarding continues long after the honeymoon. At 3Points, we continuously educate clients about new technologies, end-of-life announcements on technology, and checklists of potential replacement dates based on user needs and operational goals.

Let’s face it, sudden twists and turns happen. And while these may be appealing in books and movies, forgo the surprises through epic onboarding when engaging your IT company.

The ending will almost always be a happier one.


Jon Pisani is the sales engineering manager at 3Points where he manages maintenance agreements and contracts with vendors, leads audits for new business sales, and manages the 3Points Tech Team. Email Jon at jpisani@3points.com.


6 Most Important Points When Moving a Company Network

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July 2016
Jon Pisani, Sales Engineer Manager




Kraft Heinz did it. Motorola Solutions is following suit. And McDonald’s has it slated for 2018. What do these companies have in common? Office relocation. And that means moving a company network, something that can easily be left last on the list of priorities.

Businesses, from small to super big, move for a variety of reasons: upsizing, downsizing, relocating for a different tax bracket, expanding warehouse space, opening a secondary location, or even attracting top talent.

For small businesses wanting to make a smooth transition, thinking about your infrastructure should come long before the physical move. Why? There are a lot of moving parts in a network move. Once your IT people know about your plans, they can take responsibility for them. The risks for not planning early go from slight to steep. You could delay your entire network move or be working off of cell phones for a week or two instead of land lines. Parts of your business and infrastructure may not be up and running for a period of time. And, the worst, you may feel utterly frustrated that your business technology is stalling business opportunity.

We say: pitch the risks. Here are the five most important points to know when moving a company network.

1. The 60-day rule.

A network move is a project that requires a lot of coordination and time to set up. Optimally, get IT on board 60 days out from the time of the actual move.

2. Internet connectivity.

In a perfect world every Internet service provider (ISP) is available everywhere. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Your options, for example, will most likely decrease if you go from a highly populated area with ready access to Internet providers like Cogent Communications, AT&T Fiber and Comcast Business Class to a more rural area. At 3Points, we work with ISP brokers to get the best service at the best price and prebuild your circuit so you’re off and running on day one. The minute we know you’re moving, we’re there to help make it easy and cost efficient.

3. Phone system.

In many cases, it takes four to six weeks to properly cut over phone numbers. You can lose a lot of business waiting that long to call a client back! Here, we’re talking land lines, voice lines and alternate T1 lines. Your IT partner should connect with your phone vendor. What happens if you’re late to the phone party? Your default, of course, is forwarding calls to mobile – not the first choice but certainly a backup plan.

4. Moving your equipment.

At 3Points, we can box and move servers, switches, firewalls, and things like that. Moving 30 or 40 monitors and computers and printers though? Not in our wheelhouse for the simple reason that most of our technicians don’t drive an 18 wheel truck (thank goodness!). Of course we’ll lend a hand to anybody who asks us, but we recommend delegating the task of
moving hardware and equipment to a moving company that is 100% insured and a bit brawnier than us.

5. Early planning.

If you take nothing else from this post, remember the phrase: Let’s figure it out together. Inviting your IT team in during the planning or build-out phase is one of the best ways to move a company network. The big idea behind this is making sure things are properly set up for the new space. By being part of the process, we can help you determine things like where your wiring should be, and maintaining seamless functionality for both your phone and computers.

6. Move in, then move on.

Let the network move be a project all by itself. It’s challenging from an IT and client perspective. Other projects like implementing a new server or application, or upgrading a network should be viewed separately. Let’s get you moved in and settled first.

Moving your network is like moving your house. When you’re moving your home, there are things you want to take into consideration for your family – home Internet, cable TV, phone, mail. You have to set up new accounts for gas and electric. Early outreach ensures you don’t spend a day without these critical services. I mean who would want to miss a Mets game just because of poor planning? (Hey, I have to put a plug in for my favorite team; it’s summer! Go Mets!).


What a Day in the life of a Fully Connected Small Business Looks Like

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June 2016




Ever want to take your office to go like your favorite latte macchiato? You can.

And you should, if you’re a small business. Because you and your people can get a whole lot more work done that way. Here’s the best part: You probably already have the technology. OneDrive for Business is a file storage and saving application that comes with the Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E1 and E3 plans (the big difference: E3 gives you full access to Microsoft Office applications, including document editing).

With OneDrive for Business, you start off with 1 TB of cloud storage (equal to about 310,000 photos or 500 hours of movies) that syncs with your PC/Mac. Since files are stored in the cloud (and not just on your hard drive), you can share and access documents using any mobile device. Translation: Pull up a file you didn’t know you needed – while you are in a client meeting. Or download a PDF – while sitting across from your next big client. It’s like having your files with you all the time. For small business, using OneDrive for Business could be the difference between stalled projects and sinewy progress.

But what does this really look like? Instead of telling you, we would like to show you a day in the life of a fully connected small business. Meet Joe OnTheGo, a sales manager (fictitious but believable) working at a small business and why his terrible, I-can’t-believe-that-happened day turned out really great …

A Day in the Life of Joe OnTheGo


Joe OnTheGo turned his first dime when he was 11 years old, serving up lemonade from a wooden stand he nailed together himself and a frequent buyer card designed with a forest green crayon. He never looked back. Now he sells for a small business and spends the majority of his time out of the office. Like the lemons that brought him his first roll of quarters, Joe OnTheGo squeezes every drop of productivity out of 24 hours.

Until one day, he almost lost it all.

It was a typical Friday. Joe got in his car, drove to a busy job site, filled a white Styrofoam cup with black-as-night coffee and pulled out his iPad for the client meeting. Everything was on schedule. Suddenly, Joe’s boss pops up on his screen. Must be important. Joe excuses himself and via Skype for Business, starts a video call with his boss over a 4G connection – all from a mobile device. Turns out the company’s oldest client never got the spreadsheet Joe sent yesterday. NOT A PROBLEM.

Joe goes with the flow. After his first meeting, he uses OneDrive for Business to attach the Excel spreadsheet to an email and hops into his red Sedan. Outlook alerts him that a conference call is coming up right around Cermak and Pulaski. NOT A PROBLEM.

Joe uses the Skype for Business app to connect in through his car for hands-free driving.  Call done, deal made. Time for lunch. He checks his email as a drop of sour cream from a Greek gyros plops on his phone. He wipes it away and reads the email from the CMO who says he needs Joe to make a few edits to a Word file. NOT A PROBLEM.

Pushing aside the fries, Joe opens up his tablet (he likes the bigger screen), makes the changes and saves it to his OneDrive for Business folder. He posts it to Trello, the company’s project management app in the cloud, and copies the leadership team. NOT A PROBLEM.

Being the king of the road, he drives to his next appointment – but then realizes he has another Skype meeting to make. Joe uses the app on his phone to join the meeting - audio only. Meeting successful. Joe walks into the client meeting and shakes hands with the new CEO. She graduated from the same Big 10 school he did! Joe shows her mock designs of a floor plan for a new building using SharePoint. They make a few changes. She is super impressed he sends her the file before he leaves. NOT A PROBLEM.

Meeting done. He asks if he can leave his car in the parking lot while he meets his wife for cocktails (Joe likes to save on parking). The CEO says: Anything for a fellow Hawkeye. Then Joe hails a yellow cab and races to the big city. He sees his wife standing on the sidewalk wearing a red dress, the kind she wore on their first date a decade ago. He exits the car in a rush. As the couple walks down Lake Shore Drive, he reaches for his phone in his pocket. Then his jacket. Then his other pocket. Then he realizes he left his phone in the cab. NOT A PROBLEM.

With Office 365, Joe has two options: lock the device or wipe it clean. One thing for sure, though, is that Joe is not left vulnerable or powerless (although his heart did sink for one little microsecond). After martinis and a plate of calamari, Joe and his wife catch a cab back to his car and go home. Joe calls the cab company and they laugh. He resigns himself to the fact he is not getting his phone back so he remotely wipes the phone clean of all data.

Since all the data is replicated with Office 365, he has lost nothing. He just downloads his applications and files and picks up where he left off on his new phone. On Monday. Because Joe OnTheGo is parked for the weekend. No technology needed.



The Compelling Case for Banking Transparency In Small Business Lending

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June 2016
Steve Banke, CEO 3Points




Lending to small business is critical to the US economy. As stewards of small businesses, how can we make good decisions if we don’t have access to information? Banking transparency in Illinois and elsewhere assures a healthy small business climate because it fully discloses loan options and historical lending information from banks.

You might think this sounds sensible and easy. It is not. The Small Business Advocacy Council supports banking transparency, and we have and will continue to make strides to see that it continues.

A brief glance at history explains why this is important today.

The Glass-Steagall law hails from 1933 on the heels of the Great Depression. Our country’s biggest stock market crash in history changed the stature of financial institutions forever. Glass-Steagall, named after a former U.S. Treasury secretary and then chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, restricted banks from lending and investing. The basic premise: You shouldn’t make risky investments with insured deposits belonging to hardworking people.

In 1999, the Glass-Steagall law was repealed thanks to pressure from the big banks. Some say it laid the groundwork for the ruinous years to follow. Many banks failed during the Great Recession culminating in a huge consolidation among financial institutions. New laws were enacted.

Immediately, small business lending turned into a cumbersome, complicated transaction. Remember the tablecloth trick where all the plates stay put after the cloth is pulled? Yes, well, banks started calling in loans by small businesses with many of them closing posthaste. Believe me, the consequences of this reverberated to all businesses – whether they were directly affected or not. Twenty percent of our clients experienced the fallout.

In the 2011 spring legislative session, the SBAC scored a big win by encouraging the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to publish Illinois bank small business lending statistics on their website. Our group was young at that point, but felt like we could tackle even more.

The SBAC supported legislation sponsored by State Representatives Jehan Gordon and Dan Biss to require the agency to post small business lending information by individual bank, which led to several discussions with the IDFPR about the initiative. As a result of open communication and collaboration (and a healthy dose of determination), IDFPR volunteered to post the information without a legal requirement.

Why dredge up all this now? Again we find ourselves at an economic turning point: a slowing economy in the European Union, falling earnings in China and market volatility in the U.S. earlier this year. Not to mention the upcoming election welcoming wide speculation as to its impact on our economy.

But we’re all a bit smarter now. Based on experience, risk will rise, business will slow and loans will be scrutinized once again. The stock market activity in Q1 is indicative of the fear that is out there, a roller coaster ride and huge swings fueled by speculation and problems in our underlying economy.

Just when you think it’s behind you … 

So once again it’s time to push for transparency. Learn about the lending history to small businesses by Illinois banks. The information, updated quarterly and listed by county and bank, is posted at the IDFPR website. And know that the SBAC will continue shining a bright light on banking transparency so small business lending doesn’t ever get lost in the shadows.


Thank you to Blanca Campos, COO, Advocacy for the SBAC, for contributing information to this post.

Steve Banke is founder and CEO of 3Points, LLC. Stay tuned for future articles on small business topics in both the 3Points newsletter and blog posts. If you want to know more about the SBAC, email Steve or call him at (708) 491-0300.



3Points to Offer Security as a Service

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June 2016
Jon Pisani, Sales Engineer Manager



You may have heard of trending technology like infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or software as a service (SaaS). These are low-cost, subscription-based service models that reduce the total cost of ownership for technology. Like their name indicates, the technology is in the cloud (remote servers residing in large data centers elsewhere) so a small business avoids upfront capital investments. Great news: Starting next quarter, 3Points will be offering security as a service (SECaaS).

What does this mean? Expect a bundled service offering that includes a firewall and additional security features for a low-cost monthly service subscription. This will eliminate the need to purchase a firewall, which typically costs between $1,500 and $2,000, depending on the model. We predict most new clients will adopt security as a service. For existing clients, we’ll be providing education and updates as we roll the program out and as individual licenses expire.

The three major benefits of security as a service is sort of like a triple play from my beloved Yankees (OK, we’re not doing so great this season, but we still hold the title of winning the most World Series). Here they are:

1. No License Renewals.

With most firewalls, on top of the hardware purchase, you need to have a support license in order to take advantage of additional security features and 24-hour support through the manufacturer. This license is typically renewed every one to three years depending on the length of the license. With security as a service, there are no licensing fees or renewals to worry about – everything is bundled together for one low monthly fee.

2. The Most Updated Security.

For firewalls, we typically recommend Dell SonicWALL TZ500 for main offices and TZ400 for smaller, satellite offices. Like the unpredictability of a baseball season, these models may be changing over the next two to three years. Security as a service allows you the flexibility to upgrade to the current generation firewall and continue with the existing subscription method.

3. Less Total Cost of Ownership.

Older Cisco ASAs and Dell SonicWALLs in the 100 Series will be experiencing end-of-life issues. Security as a service avoids the expensive, upfront capital cost of purchasing a firewall and includes additional security services all bundled together – just like a subscription to Office 365.

The great thing is that we can reap the rewards off employing the latest technology with a low cost of entry. This model can even be extended to infrastructure (IaaS), and we already have clients that do so. The only capital purchases they make are for PCs. This model is not for everyone, but it makes sense for a lot of small businesses that want enterprise-level computing for less. Stay tuned for more information on security as a service in the next few weeks.

Go Yankees!


Jon Pisani is the sales engineering manager at 3Points where he manages maintenance agreements and contracts with vendors, leads audits for new business sales, and manages the 3Points Tech Team. Email Jon at jpisani@3points.com.




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