The Small Business Dilemma: The right outsource

stockxpertcom_id8109922_size4Who do you get to work on your company’s IT infrastructure?  Are you big enough to hire someone full time or not?    If not, what rate do you pay for the services you think you need?  I get asked these questions every week.  It’s amazing how many companies make the same mistake: picking the wrong skill sets, the wrong person for your company.  For this article I will address outsourcing – contracting someone to work on your company’s IT infrastructure.  Hopefully, when I’m done you will be able to make a good, educated decision.

You are a company too small to hire a full time employee as an IT administrator – the person who will keep the network that runs your business working.  You have a server, router, firewall, switch and a bunch of end user machines (desktops, notebooks etc… say ten of these).  You know nothing about IT nor do you want to but you don’t know how much to pay someone.   The problem is that a small business needs to look for someone who can handle a wide range of issues for a network like this.  This means someone who knows how to perform Moves, Adds & Changes (MAC), break/fix and remediation services to all of the equipment not just the end user machines, also known as clients.  If you get someone who only knows the clients then you are setting yourself up for disaster when disaster occurs.  Why?  Because the lower end administrator will have a harder time analyzing the problem, probably won’t know how to solve it and have to hand off to a higher skilled person who needs to schedule time to come see you.  All this equates to hours burned that you have to pay for and downtime.  The higher skilled administrator will figure out problems faster, solve them faster and know how to do this to handle all of the equipment you have.  This means less hours burned (most likely) and less downtime.

So what do you pay?  In the suburbs of Washington DC for on call support meaning that you call when you need help, a lower end administrator will charge from $60.00 to $80.00 per hour for skills that handle the client side and have mid level server skills.  A server expert with knowledge of various operating systems and the applications that go on servers like Exchange, and well skilled at switches, firewalls and routers for a company of this size will charge from $125.00 to $175.00 per hour.  Please keep in mind that long term contracts will affect these rates lower as the person is guaranteed a certain level of time. 

As a last note, on call services or even a routine schedule is areactionary mode (waiting for problems to occur) and will ultimately cost more long term.  Companies of the size described above should look at managed services that monitor and are proactively(monitoring trends to head off disaster or reducing traditional support time spent) supporting you network.  This is complimented by on site visits.  The savings will be realized certainly in the first year and most likely in the first six months.

For further discussions on hosted and managed services contact Robert Lane of ASE, Inc. @ 703-273-8388 ext. 111.; ASE, Inc. is an IT consulting, engineering, hosted and managed services provider in the Washington DC metropolitan area since 2000.

Lawyers – Is Your TABS Backup Working?

If you are like many law firms you use TABS and actually in many cases this is the main product that law firms run on.  We have had great success transitioning companies to our on line off site backup solution (ASE BackupPro) because it reduces the problems of in-house backups such as reducing CapEx by not having to buy the expensive products, it takes the human element out of the equation since no tapes have to be changed or taken off site, and, it works – everyday.  But there are some products that don’t lend themselves kindly to on line off site backups so that is what this article is about.

I received a call from a law firm who had a disaster inquiring about our on line off site backup solution.  I explained that for me to give them the best possible advice they needed to list all of the products on their network.  When I saw TABS I contacted the manufacturer who verified that TABS and all of its modules cannot be backed up using a method that performs differential or incremental backups (we’ll use differentials).  To explain how it works: once installed, the backup solution does a complete backup of your network (what you designate to be backed up) and from that point forward as files are changed, added or deleted, they are backed up every day (simple way of describing it.).  TABS is a product whose data cannot be restored if the backup solution performs differentials.  Please note that many of the external hard drives you buy to use as a backup solution also use this method.

So how do you solve this problem?  Create a second task where only the TABS program and its data are backed up in one complete process.  You can also configure your external hard drive to do the same.  Now you will have a complete backup of all of your data not including the TABS stuff and a second with just the TABS data. 

Timeslips by SAGE is another product for the legal niche and must be handled in the same way.

I would be interested in knowing how many of you knew this.

Robert Lane.

ASE, Inc.

Robert Lane is the owner of ASE, Inc. a provider of IT consulting, engineering, hosted and managed services in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC since 2000.  For more information on ASE’s BackupPro contact Robert at 703-273-8388  ext 111.  You can find more information at and

The IT Dilemma: Who To W2 for IT?

stockxpertcom_id8109922_size4So you can hire someone as an employee to handle your IT support internally.  Great.  Who?  This discussion will focus on who a small to medium sized business should hire to handle the company’s IT support.

You’ve checked the boards and see everyone from kids in high school to retirees who just want to stay busy.  You are a company of 65 people with servers, a core switch, firewall, router and lots of end user machines – clients. (desktops & notebooks.)  The old statement, “you get what you pay for” will certainly apply here so watch out.  Yes, there are lots of people out there but you need someone who can cover all of the bases. (see my previous discussion, “The Right Outsource”)  This person doesn’t have to be a Certified Information Security Specialist Person (CISSP) but certainly one who know how to troubleshoot all of the end user machines and the peripherals like the printers – blindfolded.  The person needs to know how switches work, how routers work, and absolutely needs to know how firewalls work.  Your servers: this person needs to know how to work with the operating system running your server(s) and the applications on them like Exchange,SQL, Terminal services etc… Why?

If you hire someone who only knows the client side of things, the end user equipment, you will find yourself in big problems when, for example, the server has trouble.  The diagnosis will take forever; the resolution will be slow if you don’t call out for another person to visit, and all of this at a tremendous cost to you.  Say your firewall has a problem and you can’t communicate.  An inexperienced person will only foul that up more or at least take a long time to solve the problem.

Make sure the person of choice has strong server skills by asking what operating systems are you proficient with; knows firewalls by asking what firewalls are you skilled at like SonicWall and Cisco; does this person know how to manage switches and if so which ones.  How good is this person with Exchange or whatever you use as a communications server.  Have that person give you references that you can call and then ask them how they found him/her and call them.

For a full time employee with the skills to cover all of these technologies in the Washington DC Metro area, not in the city, you are looking at paying someone an annual salary of ninety thousand per year. ($90,000.00/year)  Why so much? Because it’s a lot to know and if they do know their stuff they will diagnose problems quicker no matter what the technology, remediate faster minimizing down time.  Also, they will know how to set an IT strategy that protects your investment as time goes on.

Don’t be fooled by a great looking resume.  Make sure they have a broad range of skills and are good at them.  They don’t need lots of certifications but do needs lots of experience.  Some of the best engineers have no certs.  They are just really good.

One last note, a company this size may benefit from using hosted and/or managed services.  These services can be used to compliment your IT staff.  If used properly your IT employee will find more time to manage bigger problems while proactively managing the entire network, from firewall to BlackBerry.

For further discussions on hosted and managed services contact Robert Lane of ASE, Inc. @ 703-273-8388 ext. 111.; ASE, Inc. is an IT consulting, engineering, hosted and managed services provider in the Washington DC metropolitan area since 2000.