How IT Companies Can Effectively Manage Client Hardware

Despite the emergence of “The Cloud”, local hardware will always be required. Even the most basic small business client has a router, a network switch, a PC and one or more printers. Other clients may have Firewalls, Servers, Plotters, Multi-Function Units and any array of other hardware – most of it IP-enabled.Multiply that by multiple clients, and you’ve got an awful lot of hardware that becomes really easy to waste a lot of time and effort trying to manage – if you’re not organized.From Chaos to OrderThe first step in bringing order to the chaos is to buy a Label Printer. My personal favorite is the P-Touch Handheld range from Brother. Anything that you can easily carry with you, plug into the mains (battery operated is fine – but batteries run out, and you then start to forget to label things) and print labels will do the job. If you have more than one engineer, buy them all label printers and get them to label them with their own names – they’ll be more inclined to look after them.Next, organize a time for an engineer to visit client sites with his labeler at the ready – grabbing and labeling anything and everything with a power plug on the end and making a written note of each to take back to the office.(Talking of power plugs, get your engineers into the habit of labeling these too, especially servers. Clearly knowing which plug belongs to a PC and which to a monitor is a real benefit when you’re crawling under a dark desk on a dirty floor trying to work out what to unplug and what not to.)Why Labels?But why bother labeling things?

Firstly, you’re acknowledging the existence of a device. If it’s labeled, you know about it and can document it for future reference.Secondly, when new hardware “mysteriously” appears at a client site and a client calls you for support on it (probably outside your support contract) you can save yourself a heap of time trying to work out why Windows 7 Home Edition is installed on it rather than a Business O/S.Thirdly, labeling hardware speeds up the support process. If a user telephones the Helpdesk to say they can’t print to “That printer in the corner of the office”, then you can ask them to read the label and quickly identify which printer it is that they’re trying to print to.What to label?What the label says depends on the hardware, but the label should help you easily identify the hardware in question. Some examples:-PCs – Workstation name, Fixed IP address (if applicable)
Servers – Server name, Fixed IP address, Domain name
Routers/Firewalls – External IP address, Internal IP address
Network Switches – Internal IP address, Management IP address
Local Printers – Locally attached Workstation name
Network Printers – Fixed IP address, Queue Name (//Server/Queue)We’re not going to worry about Workstation and Server naming schemes, IP address ranges or any other standards just yet. Right now we’re focusing on documenting what’s already out there.In some cases the engineer won’t be able to identify network equipment. Rather than ignore the hardware, they should label it as “unidentified” and raise a support ticket or make a written note to investigate how to identify it later.This takes some time, especially if you have a lot of clients – but it’s time well spent. You should make this type of ‘discovery work’ a part of the on-boarding process of every new client, as the time spent discovering hardware now will pay dividends when you’re supporting that same hardware later – perhaps in a time-sensitive situation.Document your findingsGoing forwards, make it a policy that from now on, every piece of hardware you deploy to a client site should have a label on it.Document your findings. If you have an RMM tool such as GFI Max, then you’ll already be able to scan networks for devices. Supplement this automated information with your own findings.Pretty soon you’ll have a good overview of the hardware at all your client sites. It’ll make supporting the client, both remotely and on-site, a *lot* easier.The use of the labeler as a force of good doesn’t stop there.Hardware in the WorkshopWhenever an engineer brings a piece of hardware back to the Workshop for troubleshooting, it needs to be labeled. You might label it with the client’s name, a brief overview of the issue, and if you’re using a ticket system, the ticket number.This might sound obvious, but how many times do engineers walk back into the office, drop off some faulty hardware and then get distracted by something else? In this scenario, a colleague may be left scratching his head over who the hardware belongs to and why it’s here, or worse, think the hardware is “spare” and go and re-use it for another job they are working on…

Talking of spare hardware – it’s worth creating a process to deal with this too. I like to create an area of the workshop that is specifically for Hardware under Repair, Hardware under testing, and Hardware for disposal. Then, as hardware comes in…If it’s hardware that is to be sent back to a manufacturer under RMA, it’s labeled as such and placed in the “Under Repair” area of the workshop.If it’s hardware that may be faulty and required testing, a ticket is raised for this and it’s labeled as “For Testing” and labeled with the appropriate ticket number. The hardware is then placed in the “For Testing” area, and you can confidently give your newly employed Junior Technician something productive to do on his first day in the office.If it’s hardware for disposal, it’s labeled with the fault and marked as “For Disposal”. It’s placed in the “For Disposal” area of the workshop and once every few weeks you arrange for a specialist IT disposal company to collect the pile and dispose of it in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.Save Time With LabelsThe amount of time IT companies can waste trying to re-use faulty hardware that has simply been left lying around, or re-testing known faulty equipment is mind-blowing.A simple system of labeling such hardware saves hours of wasted time.I hope this article has helped to describe how armed with a label printer you can build the basis of a series of systems that lay out how your business deals with client hardware.

Importance of Branding for E-Commerce Businesses

E-commerce businesses are becoming a reliable way to buy products online. Branding plays a direct role in improving chances of e-commerce business success. An increasing number of global customers are switching to e-commerce sites to purchase everything from groceries to apparel, and electronics to lifestyle products. The e-commerce industry has completely transformed the way in which consumers around the world access products and services. It has suddenly brought a world of options to the fingertips of end users. The future seems bright for the e-commerce industry, with major players branching out into newer product categories frequently (thus setting the standards for smaller brands).For e-commerce businesses, things are going well enough, but the competition is also fierce. New e-commerce brands are launching every day and persistently trying to get a foothold online. When it comes to branding, e-commerce companies are leaving no stone unturned. In this scenario, it is vital that you build and implement a high quality branding strategy for your e-commerce business.Branding Strategies For E-Commerce BusinessesBy having a result-oriented, effective branding plan for your e-commerce business, you can stand out amongst your competitors. To achieve that, you must determine what makes your e-commerce business a unique player in the industry. Are you offering high quality products at the best available rates? Do you organize regular discounts and offers for your customers? Are you adding new product categories to meet more customer demands? What are the factors that would convince customers to choose your brand against others? E-commerce business owners must strive to highlight the unique selling points of their brand. Only then can an e-commerce brand be boldly promoted to larger audiences.

As an e-commerce brand, you have to be at the forefront when it comes to attracting product vendors as well as consumers to your e-store. Vendors would be interested in using your marketplace, if it has a strong brand that keeps providing value to customers. The number of sellers and customers you bring in to your network depends on the strength of your e-commerce brand, and how well it delivers on its promises. If you are intelligent in your branding, and consistent in your service quality, your e-commerce brand can achieve considerable success.E-commerce branding, like all branding, is influencing the perception of your brand and its services, in the eyes of the customer. Effective e-commerce branding will make marketing easier, retain more customers, drive up loyalty, and create better potential value for steady, long-term success.The way you must approach an e-commerce branding strategy is by highlighting some key points. With branding, you must uphold your business’s core mission, the problems you aim to solve for your customers, standards that it adheres to, and proof of the quality of services you provide. What are the factors involved in business branding and their importance?E-Commerce Branding – Methods and Importance1. Your Brand Image – A stellar, uniquely identifiable brand image helps customers attach value to your e-commerce brand’s personality. This includes various things such as logos, banners, taglines, marketing captions, social content etc., which should always represent your brand the best. This is quite important if you want to create value for potential customers and convert them into loyal customers. A good brand image goes a long way in retaining customers, by continually generating interest for your e-commerce brand’s offerings.2. Customer Satisfaction – Customers are everything, when it comes to e-commerce or any other type of business. You can actually enhance customer experiences and drive up satisfaction (and loyalties). This is a big part of establishing your e-commerce brand. Put your best foot forward while marketing, deliver on your promises you make, and provide unmatched service and support to enhance your brand’s potential value. Remember that satisfied existing customers can and will bring in newer customers to your e-commerce business. Maintain your integrity and keep reinventing to bolster your brand’s chances of business success.3. Find Your Unique Selling Proposition – As an e-commerce business owner you must determine the USP of your brand. This will help you brand and promote it better to larger groups of potential customers. Think about what sets you apart from dozens of competitors vying for true e-commerce glory. Is it your service quality or support? Is it the trust of your customers and your track record? Do you provide innovative offers, discounts and promotions on special occasions? Do you house the widest variety of rare products? You must determine why customers would choose your e-commerce site. What extra value can you offer to your potential customers that convince them to use your platform again and again? Find your USP and use it to strengthen your brand.

4. Utilize All Channels – Technological advances in the past decade demand that your e-commerce business maximizes its presence on all social, web-based and mobile platforms. More and more potential customers buy and sell through handheld devices, and almost all of them are on social websites. All your competitors are doing it, and so should you. It will help you make your brand easily accessible to larger audiences, which in turn will bring more conversions and significantly better revenues. Social and mobile should be the front and center of your branding strategy.E-commerce sites can benefit from the above mentioned branding strategies. By using the concepts provide here, you can establish your e-commerce brand and take your business to the next level.

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6 Facts About Services Everyone Thinks Are True

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Why Codes Aren’t As Bad As You Think

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