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Given the recent spate of storm events, and the weather experts saying we’re going to get more in the future, now is the time to check your IT equipment is protected from weather events. 

New research from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) has shown that extreme events have occurred four to five times more frequently in the last decade.

Many IT technicians had call-outs from clients after the recent storms. Thunderstorms can literally fry electronics, and this causes not just replacement cost, but also work disruption and even possibly data loss. 

Our technicians carry surge protectors in their cars, so that whenever they are working, they can ensure that sensitive IT equipment is at least surge protected. But for clients we see less often, or who are not on a managed service agreement, it’s easy for IT devices to not be surge protected. Your staff, cleaners or others will sometimes move plugs about. Be aware that this does matter.

Now is a good time to have a look at your computer equipment. Feel free to ask us next time we are on site.

Here are our top tips to protect your IT – how do you stack up?

Surge protectors

A surge protector guards against the damage that sudden power surges can cause.

  • It’s recommended for almost any piece of IT hardware plugged into a power outlet.
  • It will help protect against power spikes which can sometimes happen, especially if the power suddenly goes off. This happens more often than you might think; for example, your local lines company may be doing maintenance or upgrades to their system and will turn the power off for a period overnight.
  • The surge protectors can protect against more distant lightning strikes but will not provide protection from a close or direct strike.
  • Surge protectors can be built into power boards, so several devices can be plugged into them.
  • Do NOT plug anything other than IT equipment into surge protectors / surge protected power boards. We have seen heaters plugged in to surge protectors! These types of devices can fry your electronics. Make sure non-IT gear uses a separate power point.

Things that people often forget to surge protect

  • The Optical Network Terminal (ONT) that brings your fibre internet into your premises. The ONT is the little box that your provider installs. If the ONT blows up, you will have no fibre Internet until they replace it.
  • Network gear in the cupboard, or wherever it is located at your place – routers, powered network switches, etc. If the network gear blows up, you will lose the network around your premises.
  • Phones – while they are not as mission-critical as your ONT and network gear, it’s still annoying when they get fried.

UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power when the mains power fails.

  • Critical pieces of IT hardware, such as servers, key computers and network storage devices, should normally have a UPS between them and the wall power supply
  • The UPS does more than a simple surge protector, but they do also provide some surge protection.
  • This article does not cover UPS devices, but do make sure that they are regularly checked and batteries replaced.

Unplug IT from the wall

  • This can be difficult to achieve as computer equipment is often in use. If you are concerned enough about an approaching storm, then consider properly turning it off and then physically removing the plug from the wall.
  • If in any doubt – ALWAYS check with us first, as some IT equipment should not be unplugged.

Last thoughts

  • If the surge protector has experienced a significant power surge, or a lightning strike, it may have done its job and no longer work. Replace it. Often they will have a little light which indicates they are working, so if the light goes out – probably time to replace.
  • Don’t use the very cheapest devices and expect them to protect you.

In summary

Thunderstorms and lightning are real threats to IT and can cause not just cost, but also disruptions to your business. Surge protectors can last for years and all your IT equipment should use them. 

While surge protectors can last for years, it pays to keep a close eye on them and replace them if needed. Please feel free to reach out to our team at IT Centre to help you with this.  

Nothing is more true than the fact that IT moves quickly these days! 

Part of keeping up with IT, and the rapid changes is making sure that your business has the right equipment to do the task. 

In this article we will be providing a few ideas for how to make a plan/budget for new or replacement equipment, as well as offering you some information on leasing.  

Firstly budgeting for IT hardware

Most businesses will have a budget for IT hardware and other goods and services that they need to operate. 

Our advice is that if you have more than a handful of computers, you will benefit from forecasting and budgeting for IT expenditure. 

Once your business is established, there is a very good chance that you will need to replace your IT equipment every few years. Such a good chance, in fact, that you can plan on it! 

Drawing up an IT replacement schedule helps you plan well in advance, and helps ensure you have the funds when you need them.

This can be done in conjunction with our team here at IT Centre. If you don’t have a list already, we can assist you to do an audit of the IT equipment that you have, the date it was installed, and therefore when it is likely to need replacing based on its expected life. 

This asset management plan needs to be revised every year for budgeting purposes.

We strongly suggest that you do this years in advance of when you actually require upgrades. It’s not hard to do. 

This list can help you have a clear and actionable plan on existing equipment, when warranties expire, and the requirements for a staggered plan for new hardware. 

A look at leasing

Whilst many of our clients purchase outright as the overall cost is lower, leasing can be a good option for when you are starting out, if your business is expanding rapidly, or if cash flow is wrapped up in other parts of the business. 

Leasing turns capital expenditure which has to be depreciated, into a monthly payment that is immediately expensed. It can also be an advantage in keeping assets off your balance sheet – speak with your accountant or advisor about this.

Obviously the disadvantage of leasing is that you are using someone else’s money and so they will need to charge you for that, as well as for their efforts! You could arrange your own finance and purchase, instead of leasing, in which case it pays to do your research on interest rates. 

Upgrading your technology for modernisation and expansion and to get more reliable up-to-date technology is very important, as using outdated technology can cost money and time. Sometimes it is a case of weighing up your options here. 

Using leasing options, your business may be able to move forward more quickly then it otherwise may have been able to, financed in a way that suits your budget or cash flow. 

Whilst leasing is more costly than buying in the long run, one of the advantages is that you can establish predictable payment structures aligned to your needs, taking the stress out of an upfront payment. 

This all means that you can get the technology you need with the budget you have today by utilizing IT leasing arrangements.

“When I became self-employed 20 years ago, I got my first laptop and setup via Flexirent, as it meant I didn’t need to spend the cash and then have the asset/depreciation. Instead, I kept the cash, and the entire cost was a relatively small monthly expense. So, sometimes, especially for new start-ups, it means you can save your cash for something you do need, or as a reserve. For more mature companies, taking a lease for gear, means that the cash can stay with you, which can help with liquidity.” Comment from ITA member.

Leasing options: 

These are just a few of the leasing options that some of our clients use. This is by no means conclusive, and we are not aligned with any of these companies. All of our advice is simply that, advice. Please make sure you do your own thorough research on this subject.  Never before has the saying ‘read the small print’ been more applicable. We strongly advise that you speak with your financial advisor and or accountant about this. 

Feefunders
From Fee Funders website: Your business receives 100% of the customer invoice paid upfront, whilst your customers enjoy the flexibility of monthly installments. Fee Funders manages the monthly customer’s payments by direct debit over three, six, nine or twelve months . Your business achieves upfront cash flow at no cost. Your clients pay a basic interest rate to achieve a spread of their outgoings. It’s like outsourcing a spread payment option for free!A simple, hassle free approach to funding for your business and your clients.Your business has the money in the bank within three working days of the customers first direct debit, giving enhanced cash flow with no debtor management distractions. Staff can remain focused on core business activities.
Flexicommercial
Flexicommercial offers your business flexible equipment finance solutions. The credit criteria for finance varies depending on whether you are an existing or new business and the required amount of finance.Choose the equipment you need.Choose the type of lease that best suits your needs.Select the payment term to best suit your budget.Apply over the phone or through your supplier in store.Sign and return the paperwork for approval

Of course these are just suggestions and all leasing arrangements should be thoroughly considered before being entered into. 

Hint – Leasing companies will usually be quite happy to include IT engineer setup costs in the value of the lease. For larger or more complicated systems, this can be quite a substantial part of the project costs. This means you can also expense those costs as well.

In summary 

We can help you to do an audit of your current equipment, and make a plan for future expenditure.

Something that makes this type of IT cash-flow of forecasting easier, is if you are on an  MSP (managed service provider)plan. Being on a Managed Service agreement removes many of the fluctuations of IT budgeting as generally you pay a fixed monthly fee for IT support. 

Please feel free to reach out to your IT Centre to discuss this further.