2020 was a year of fairly flat growth at SpireTech. We imagine this has a lot to do with economic uncertainty related to Covid. We’re hoping that the floodgates will open for new business as the vaccine becomes available, businesses re-open, and pent-up demand for work that has been put on hold will get things moving again. We feel for all the small business owners that were forced to close or restrict activities during this time.
Review of 2020 Business Activity
We spent a lot of the year focused on improving security, moving to the cloud, and enabling work from home. Some of the areas we worked on include:
- Rollout of new services supporting and installing M365 business voice
- New M365 Security Pack service offering designed to increase client tenant security
- Increased service desk staff to reduce response times
- Increased focus on training – each staff member is encouraged to spend 10% of their time each week on continuing education and skill development
- Implementing EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) business management processes
We’ve also been continuing to attend conferences and quarterly IT business peer group events (virtually) to keep up on current trends and best practices. We learn a lot at these events, and it is an excellent investment of our time.
Client Technology & Systems work
A lot of our work this year was moving on-premises systems to the cloud – mostly around phones and file sharing. We’ve seen several clients remove on-premises servers and move to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, others have moved servers from their office to our datacenter so they can get rid of an office lease. Several have implemented virtual phone systems such as M365 business voice or RingCentral to enable employees to receive business calls at home.
Work-from-home is more work
We spent a lot of time enabling and supporting work from home in 2020 – including issues related to VPN’s, remote desktop, printing, and so on. WFH has definitely increased the load on the service desk to the point that we’ve needed to add staff – twice. We’ve been dealing with a lot of issues related to home internet connectivity, security, and WiFi to enable WFH that are not currently factored into many client’s service plans and rates. While we are here to assist and guide end-users through these challenges and new business-operation complexities, we will be looking for ways to factor this new-norm into service plan renewals in 2021, reasonably limit the time spent on them, or home-network issues and/or guide the user to leverage their ISP’s support channels.
Microsoft 365 is more work too
Getting rid of servers and moving to M365 is not less work for IT – it is more work. A traditional server environment is typically less complex to manage and monitor with current toolsets, skills and training. The M365 eco-system is more complex and more work for IT. You have now got an email server, spam, virus, and phish protection all requiring routine human interaction to maintain. SharePoint related security and maintenance that needs to be managed. You might have teams, calling, and groups that require maintenance and support. Active Directory in the cloud for management of all your connected devices including mobile devices with policies, security logs, and more requiring routine analysis. Add in end-user training and education with an eco-system that has an ever-changing set of capabilities, evolving security policies, and management interfaces that update every few months and hopefully you will understand we’ve got our work cut out for us! The challenges in maintaining M365 security is part of the reason we introduced our M365 security pack in 2020 – we encourage clients to subscribe to it, and we have been including it when appropriate with new contract renewals or service-level discussions.
M365 administration and support requires continued training with a focus on security to keep abreast of the ever-changing IT landscape and ultimately protect and help keep your information secure.
What’s coming in 2021
Some of the plans we are making, and clients are talking about include:
- Clients going virtual and closing offices
- Expansion of our Service Desk in early 2021 with addition of new staff
- Clients continuing to move the cloud and removal of on-premises servers and phone systems.
- Completing implementation of EOS within SpireTech
- Continued focus on M365 security and education
Again, we appreciate your continued support, and look forward to a great 2021! Please keep us in mind for referrals if you know of a business that needs help with IT.