IT Strategic Planning for 2021 and Beyond

Strategic IT Planning is a collaborative process taken with clients to understand their business needs and goals, that ultimately allows the IT budget to appropriately align with the organizational priorities. As 2021 is quickly approaching, it’s time to start planning to ensure you hit next year’s IT goals. If you haven’t yet done any sort of strategic IT planning, check out these tips to help get you started before the new year 


#1 – Asset Management  

Identify what equipment is currently performing well and what might need to be replaced to continue ensuring that work operations are happening at maximum efficiency. This step typically involves gathering all your company’s hardware and software inventory information and completing an IT audit. From there, your internal IT department or an MSP like Five Nines can identify and fill in technology gaps to minimize downtime. 

#2 – Document End-of-Support vs. End-of-Life Dates  

An end-of-support date means the product provider has decided to no longer provide a support line, while the end-of-life date is a term to describe when a product is no longer for sale. Knowing and documenting these dates for all of your equipment will ensure future IT audits run smoothly and unexpected surprises do not arise. Surprises can range from compromised data security, decreased productivity, higher maintenance costs, non-compliance issues, and problems with scalability just to name a few.  

#3 – IT Risk Assessment  

The end of the year is a great time to run an IT Risk Assessment. In this process, you’ll look at what was effective and ineffective in your IT infrastructure this yearCreate a series of questions that assess your standards, guidelines, and best practices. Use the same assessment on an annual basis to begin to understand where the gaps are and how to best fill them.  

#4 – Consider your talent  

Whether it’s an IT services partner or an internal team member, decide who you need on your team to execute the strategy you’ve developed for your business. If you’re needing to bring in an external partner or new hire, you’ll want to include this cost in your overall budget and consider what the return on the investment may be. 

#5 – Budgeting  

With remote work being heavily prevalent right now, you should ask yourself these questions: do you feel like the year went smoothly from a technology standpoint and did your workforce transition seamlessly from work to home? If not, you may want to consider budgeting for more equipment or services that could alleviate some pressure from your teams. 

Topics: End of Life, Business Continuity, Strategic Planning, End of Support

2019's IT Trends Have Been Revealed


Did you know 83% of businesses expect their IT spending to grow or remain steady in 2019? Responses from 625 IT decision makers across the United States and Canada reflect confidence in 2019 with strong IT budgets, trends, and a focus on future technology.

Skills, support, and budgets are key to success when it comes to your technology. In this report, we analyze 2019 business IT trends by exploring:

  • Challenges and Contributors to IT Projects
  • IT Budgets by Industry and Company Size
  • Overarching Trends

Download the full report to discover how successful organizations are investing in and transforming their IT throughout 2019.

Click Here For The Full Report


This report is in partnership with Dell. 

Topics: Business Continuity, Strategic Planning, Tech Trends, 2019

How Unified Communications Helps To Increase Productivity

Unified Communications Blog

Unified Communications is an important business component meant to optimize processes and increase user productivity.  It is something that relies on successful technology in order to be utilized to the fullest. As technology has evolved, so has the efficiency of Unified Communications, which is why Five Nines has made it a part of who we are and what we do.

You may be wondering, what exactly is Unified Communications? What is UCaaS vs. Unified Communications? How does it increase productivity? Is it something we already have or is it something we need? Keep reading, and we will answer these initial questions for you. 


Unified Communications is best defined by Gartner as the products (equipment, software and services) that facilitate the interactive use of multiple enterprise communication methods. In simpler terms, Unified Communications is used when technology is helping automate and unify user and device communications to streamline processes and improve the end-user experience. It's meant to make life easier.

The term Unified Communications goes beyond the definition above, as these solutions can be delivered in two different methods which we will break down for you below.

Not sure what this looks like for your organization? Click below to schedule a FREE technical walk through to better understand your IT environment, no strings attached! 

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Simply stating the term Unified Communications (UC) represents on-site solutions requiring hardware and onboarding. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), however, represents cloud delivered solutions. UCaaS has been growing in popularity in recent years, and while both are consistently used, there is a difference between both solutions.

For organizations who already have an established IT environment, it is sometimes preferable to integrate a UC solution into that environment, as they already have the pieces in place needed for a successful transition. UCaaS makes things simple which other businesses also prefer, as it is a solution where users simply have to download and log in. Brands such as Office 365 and Skype utilize UCaaS platforms. According to Grand View Research, the global UC market will exceed $75 billion by 2020. Some organizations will leverage both options, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to Unified Communications.


According to a Gartner report, businesses realize just 43% of technology's potential benefits. One benefit they may be missing is the increase in productivity UC and UCaaS provides. Here are some ways Unified Communications in all forms helps to increase productivity in the workplace:

  • Effective Communication: UC helps with the ability to communicate frequently, being aware of when colleagues are free or busy, and helps alleviate the stress of playing phone tag.
  • Flexibility: UC allows for flexibility. Have remote employees? Giving them the ability to answer incoming communication from a variety of devices will help to increase productivity.
  • High Levels of Collaboration: Interaction over multiple platforms is easy to do with UC, and helps promote collaboration across multiple teams in multiple locations through features such as visual collaboration and instant messaging.

Unified Communications and/or UCaaS are both technological assets that should be used within your IT environment. The more consistent, collaborative communication is supported, the more your organization will be able to get done in less time. Increase the level of communication and productivity for your business at the same time by utilizing a Unified Communications solution.

Building an efficient IT solution can make the difference between your workplace technology becoming an asset or a liability. In this webinar, we will discuss how you can make your IT an asset by going over the right tools, processes, and people that will keep your technology running smoothly.

Click Here For The Free Webinar



Topics: Equipment, Business Continuity, Working Remotely, Productivity, Unified Communications, UCaaS

Gartner Study Breakdown: 2019 it trends To Watch For

2019 IT Trends

The tech world has been taken by storm since Gartner released research about the top 10 strategic tech trends of 2019. It's always intriguing to see what the next year has in store for technological advancements, and can also be very helpful in keeping your business competitive.

Below are top trends we pulled from the Gartner study to keep an eye on in 2019. These are based on research that highlight "changing or not yet widely recognized trends that will impact organizations through 2023."



AI has been on the radar for several years now, and is now being used on autonomous things to perform tasks that are normally done by humans. Examples of autonomous things being impacted by AI are: robotics, vehicles, drones, appliances, and agents. This is expected to increase in strength in 2019 and beyond. An AI-related tool that might be more relevant to your business are chat bots. This technology is becoming more and more prevalent in the way users seek information and make requests. Chat bots are expected to improve immensely in 2019 as users continue to rely on them. According to a recent study conducted by Spiceworks, within the next 12 months 40% of large businesses, 25% of mid-size companies, and 27% of small businesses are expected to implement chat bots into their communication strategies.

Data reporting and collection is extremely helpful in measuring business success, which is where augmented analytics come into play. Through automated algorithms, more conclusions can be drawn where it might have previously been missed. Generating analytics will become easier than ever before, and according to Gartner, by 2020 more than 40% of data science tasks will be automated. Bias will be removed, and data insights will become more readily available.



Gartner states that this next year will raise more opportunity for the blending of the digital and physical worlds, in order to create a more immersive world. These two worlds will be blended in several ways, one being through immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR). Gartner predicts that increased productivity will occur in both VR and MR, VR technology will increase its' ability to sense shapes and track user's positions, and MR will enable people to interact with their world. According to the study, by 2022 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies.

"Digital twins" are also a prediction expected to slowly arise in the upcoming year and advance in future years. This is defined as a digital representation that mirrors a real-life object, process, or system. These will become more advanced as they will provide a focus on improving specific business outcomes, real-time monitoring and control, driving new business opportunities, and the evaluation of "what if" scenarios. An example? A business model or process will be moved from a white board in a board room meeting to a process that is tracked and implemented completely through business technology.



As information grows more and more valuable, keeping information private will increase in importance. Gartner states that privacy must be rooted in ethics and trust. "The conversation should move from 'Are we compliant?' toward 'Are we doing the right thing?'. Digital ethics and privacy will continue to grow in importance and relevance, especially for businesses.

Gartner defines a smart space as a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact. These smart spaces are predicted to increase momentum in the next few years. Smart spaces are all about the collaboration of technology to create an interactive environment for the user. These will be used to connect businesses to their communities, and will drive more social and community collaboration.

The overall theme we are seeing from this study? Interaction. Technology is only going to increase the amount of interaction it has with users and other pieces of technology as the years go by, and 2019 will be no different. Continue keeping your business competitive by staying on top of the latest, most relevant technology to your industry, and don't be afraid to try new things that will streamline your processes.

Technology is always going to outgrow previous expectations, and we can't wait to see what the future holds.

Want to focus your time on business continuity and planning ahead? Click below for our free presentation slide deck about planning for the worst, to keep you at your best.

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Topics: Tech Solutions, Business Continuity, AI, Tech Trends

Unplug Over The Holidays: Leave "IT" To A Managed Services Provider

Unplugging Blog-2

There are only a few times throughout the year when it is encouraged to unplug from work. Where you should spend time with family, eat too much food, and unplug from your phone and email. I think you know where we are going with this… it's almost officially the holiday season.

How unplugged will you really be over the holidays, if you are constantly worried about your business technology? The truth is, you can never really unplug from the chaos if your IT infrastructure is not fully supported.

We encourage you to unplug over the holidays, and leave your IT in the hands of a capable Managed IT Services team. What services should you be able to count on this holiday season?


Your technology is not an 8am-5pm job and it never will be. It requires 24 hour monitoring, every single day of the year so that your organization can not only stay protected, but competitive and efficient as well. On-call engineers are also a great resource as they help to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity within your IT environment. If something were to go awry, they are there to respond. According to Ponemon Institute, only a third of organizations believe they have adequate resources to manage security effectively. That statistic is enough to keep a decision maker awake at night. Knowing that an IT team is monitoring your business technology for you will help you and your coworkers to really unplug over a holiday.


Your IT team should provide you with 1 - 3 - 5 year budgets so that your organization isn't faced with unexpected costs as you are budgeting for the next year throughout the holiday season. Technology is not going to slow down in the professional world, so it's best to have your IT spending for the next year determined ahead of time before the new year creeps up on you. According to a study conducted by Spiceworks, 89% of companies expect their IT budgets to grow or stay the same over the next 12 months. IT spending is becoming a strategic move by most businesses, and investing in the right technology is something that you must plan ahead for. Long-term budgeting and planning will give you peace of mind towards the end of the year as the direction of your IT environment is more controlled and defined.

Want to learn more about how to make your technology a strategic business asset? Sit back, grab some popcorn, and click below to download the FREE Five Nines webinar, "IT As An Asset".

Click Here To Access The Free Webinar


Time is limited, you don't want to take the extra time to worry about your IT efforts, especially as the end of the year approaches. Leaving it up to the pros has become the common trend when it comes to specialized departments as a study showed in 2017, 57% of organizations increased their use of outsourcing. There was a huge increase because organizations wanted to stay focused on their core business. This can be extremely beneficial when you have an IT team worrying about your business technology for you. No more working late nights or long hours trying to squeeze in time to prioritize the direction of your IT, it will all be handled for you, and you can have a more stress-free holiday season.

The end of the year approaches quickly, as does the craziness of the holiday season. Rather than juggling a million things at once, leave your IT to the professionals and really unplug during your time away from the office. Focus on the things that matter most before the new year.

Are you ready to unplug over the holiday season? Click below to schedule a free technical walk-through, no strings attached!

Click Here For A Free Technical Walk-Through

Topics: Outsourced IT, Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, Strategic Planning

IT Strategic Planning for 2019 and Beyond

Strategy Blog

2019 will be here before we know it, is your technology accounted for? In order to keep a well-maintained IT environment, you must make your technology a part of your annual strategic efforts. As the new year creeps closer, it's time to start thinking about your IT strategic planning for this next year. How can you do this? Where should you start?

Guide your strategic planning conversations with the touch points below to set yourself up for success in 2019.



When it comes to strategic planning, an initial objective should be sitting down to establish effective goal setting. This is such an important aspect of general business, and the same should apply to your business technology. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, executives see technology as their #1 business challenge. Identifying and discussing goals can help to conquer the technical challenges that seem impossible or difficult to face. We recommend sitting down and discussing any upcoming goals or changes you have to your technical environment for the next 18-24 months. To further your discussion, identify the strengths and weaknesses that will contribute to the success of your IT infrastructure. Things may need to be adjusted over the 18-24 month period, but your organization will continue to have clear goals and expectations when it comes to your business technology.

Want tips on how to discuss the need for strategic IT with your organization's decision makers? Click below to download our free guide on How To Sell Managed IT Services To Your Decision Makers.

Click here to download the free guide





Take some time to assess all of your IT equipment. You will want to take note of how your equipment is currently performing, the age of the hardware, gather all EOS and EOL dates, and work with your IT team to forecast when certain pieces of technology will need to be replaced. Inventory all hardware or anything that has a renewal date such as a warranty, domain, or SSL certificate so you can stay ahead of the curve. Having this information on hand will help you to prepare a full IT budget that will also align with the goals you are setting.



To forecast well in advance, map out a 3 year budget to go along with your strategic planning. This will include any equipment that will need to be replaced in that time frame, an estimation of renewal prices based on vendor recommendations or past renewals, IT projects you have coming up the pipeline, as well as any partnership agreements or paid IT employees you will have. According to Boardview, 60% of organizations do not link their strategic priorities to their budget, yet 88% say successfully executing initiatives in order to deliver strategic results is essential for competitiveness. Successfully executing IT strategies will require an alignment of your goals and your budget. The more you can map out ahead of time, the more you can act on the goals you have set for your IT environment which will set you up for success in the long run.

Continue to better your IT environment with strategic planning so you can stay ahead of the curve and increase your organizational up-time in 2019 and beyond. Start with a goal setting discussion, run inventory on all of your equipment, and move forward with preparing a 3 year IT budget. The more intentional you are about your technology, the more impactful it will be for your organization.


Want to implement a true strategic IT plan? Click below to request a free IT assessment from Five Nines. We will come to your office and assess your workplace technology, no strings attached!

Click here to request a free IT assessment


Topics: Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, Strategic Planning

How To Sell Managed IT Services To Your Decision Makers

How To Sell Blog  

A Guide to Help Small-to-Medium-Sized Businesses Start The Conversation About Their IT Needs

We understand - having the responsibility for the management of your business technology is a large task. You are likely interested in this blog because you have been tasked with streamlining the technology that runs your business, or you have been struggling with troubleshooting your business technology on a consistent basis. 

We'd like to take some of the stress off your hands by providing you with the tools you need to learn more about positioning the need for Managed IT Services within your business, and how to communicate what you have researched to your decision makers from talking points to a presentation template. The best part is, it's all in one place. 

Take advantage of this FREE resource, and start educating yourself on how to best sell Managed IT Services to your decision makers. 






Topics: Outsourced IT, IT, Five Nines, Business Continuity

Sustaining Your Business With Network Management


Your network is such an important part of your business, which is why correctly managing your network is so important. Overlooking network management could cause a severe halt in productivity which could become detrimental to your business. Without your network, many day-to-day business operations simply wouldn't get done.

We're here to tell you how you can continue to sustain your business with correct network management.


Everything worth having often requires a little maintenance and care from time to time. The same thing goes when it comes to your network. Maintenance is important as it catches small imperfections that could harm your network in the long run. Be sure to talk to your IT team about network maintenance on a consistent basis. Network maintenance typically requires analyzing different network issues such as whether cable connections are damaged or incorrect, whether your system is outdated, how much space your network can continue to hold, DNS or ISP failures, vulnerability to viruses and much more. 


Monitoring your network on a consistent basis is important to keeping your IT environment sustainable and efficient. Typically an IT team can do this for you. Monitoring requires allocating time to update the network based on industry improvements and updates. Not only is monitoring important for staying on top of the network itself, it helps to implement efficient recovery plans if needed as well. You never want to issue a recovery plan, but if you have to you want to implement it as soon as your network is showing signs of slowing down.


In order to keep your network optimized for the highest levels of productivity, you must configure your network for optimization. This will help keep your information secure and your network uninterrupted. This will also help to save your organization money by preventing potential downtime as well. Steps towards optimization may include upgrading your anti-virus software and storage plans. This will all lead towards a more efficient network that fits your organization.

The best way to stay on top of network productivity is to create a plan for your network. This plan should entail how your network will be managed, monitored, and how your organization will continue to work towards the optimization of your network year after year. Your network is an important aspect of your business, don’t forget to treat it like one.

For a guide on what to look for when conducting a Network Health Check, click here:

Download Our FREE Network Health Check

Topics: Business Continuity, Network

The Many Hats Of Your Internal IT Employee


Internal IT Blog

Have you ever heard anyone go up to an IT engineer and say "Hey, just checking in to let you know that everything is running smoothly!"? Probably not. In the IT industry, there are always tech problems that need to be fixed, and once one problem is fixed there is always another.

Put yourself in the shoes of your internal IT employee for example. You are energized and excited about bringing someone in to manage your technology, and they are excited to implement and control an entire IT environment. They will clean up your network and put together new technical processes. Once that's done, they will begin addressing any IT issues that your employees are having as needed until the concerns of running an entire IT environment alone creeps up on them.

"I feel like I'm becoming an internal support desk." The "as needed" issues will escalate as your employees feel more comfortable running to IT with issues they are having. When outsourcing your IT, calling in about any and all IT issues is normal, but for an internal IT individual, they may have other IT projects to work on throughout the day. They become the go-to for everything, and eventually you'll realize you're spending $50k or above on an individual who is being asked to replace keyboards and put band-aids on larger tech problems that would be completely fixed if they weren't distracted with random issues throughout the day. Without a proper ticketing system, which usually isn't implemented for one or two internal IT engineers, things can become lost in the shuffle of emails. The IT professionals are either going to get bored with solving basic tech issues because they are more advanced engineers, or they will quickly become burnt out from having either too much or not enough to do.

"If I go on vacation, who is going to cover for me?" You invest in your technology, which means the expectation that your IT environment should be monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year is not unrealistic. It is unrealistic, however, to expect that one individual can constantly monitor an entire technical system all on their own. Not only does this lead to an unhealthy work/life balance for the employee, it leads to mistakes as the employee is trying to do it all at once. Working on an IT environment alone could mean that no one is there to double check anything or pick up the slack. This could also lead to an eventual resignation because the employee won't feel as though their time is being valued, which will leave your IT environment in a state of limbo. If the internal engineer would have been backed by a team of experts, the constant monitoring wouldn't seem like such a large request.

"I don't have time for extra training or certifications." Naturally, any business wants to continue growing and developing its' employees through extra training or certifications. Frankly, that is probably the last thing an internal IT engineer has time for. It's not that they don't want to do it, but with IT requests and projects stacking up, that will become the last thing on their to-do list. That isn't good for business growth or individual growth, which is why having a team that can fill in for each other when someone wants to take time to complete a certification is highly recommended.

"I feel like I'm on the accounting team." Because business technology is viewed as a "cost center" of most organizations, an internal IT engineer must also collaborate constantly with an accounting department to ensure that money being spent is budgeted and accounted for. The engineer must be able to provide proof as to why certain technical pieces must be purchased, as well as keep everything documented and organized on their end. Even if they find time at the day to work on a certification, it's likely they won't be able to because they will need to stay on top of their expenses.

As you can see, your internal IT employee must wear many different hats to balance your IT environment accordingly.

Extensive research has shown that if you compare all of the costs associated with hiring and managing an internal IT engineer vs. a managed IT services organization it's incomparable. The bottom line is, you will gain more for an equal amount of money or less when outsourcing your IT needs. Not to mention, no one involved will have to worry about being affected by any of the statements listed above.

No one ever lets the IT engineer know when their job has paid off, when everything is working, and when nothing else needs to be done. It's time to let business owners focus on their business practices, while letting a fully equipped outsourced IT team handle the rest.


You deserve peace of mind.


For more information about the specific cost breakdown of Internal vs. Outsourced IT, click below.

Click here: Outsourced vs. Internal IT




Topics: Outsourced IT, Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, Customer Service

3 Signs It's Time Your Company Gets An IT Assessment

 it assessment blog

An IT environment without a clear direction can easily get lost in the constant twists and turns of tech traffic that is constantly evolving and adapting. When it comes to business technology, feeling lost and behind can quickly turn into a loss of productivity, something many businesses can't afford to lose. Avoid getting lost on the tech map and be sure to watch for the warning signs that will tell you when it's time your organization gets an IT assessment.

Here's what to look for:



Does it sometimes feel as though your IT issues are running your business more than anything else? When IT issues run your business, you may notice that your processes begin to lack, leading to inefficiencies when trying to complete a task or a project. Often, these inefficiencies derive from your organization's IT structure not being well rounded enough to efficiently support all of the technical aspects needed to run a business. Not only does this impact efficiency, but security as well. If you are having any rising doubt about your organization's IT security, it might be time to take a deeper look at it. According to Cybint Solutions, 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses first.

Technology efficiency can be achieved if it is conducted the right way. Make sure your IT efficiency is up to par with the speed of your organization.



Are your payments constantly going over the projected IT budget for the quarter, or even the year? Not sure when to invest in what types of technology to continue to progress your IT infrastructure? As unforeseen IT issues arise, money is spent in areas that weren't previously budgeted for. A lot of times, these issues come about because of a lack of preparation and resources. When organizations have to spend extra money to solve tech issues, other IT questions, updates, and unfinished projects get put on the back burner because there is no room in the remaining IT budget to fix, update, or replace them.

IT budgeting should only be one piece of your technical wheel, and it shouldn't be something that holds your organization back from improving an IT infrastructure. According to Customer Think, 59% of businesses end up hiring a managed IT services organization because it's a cost cutting tool. If you feel as though you don't know where a majority of your IT budget is going, it may be time to consider assessing your IT environment.



Can you think of a time where a technical support question simply went unanswered? If you and your team must resort to simply "dealing" with a tech problem because you've found that requesting support is too frustrating, the level of your IT support may need to be reevaluated. Your IT infrastructure must have the ability to operate the technology needed to power your organization. There should be enough knowledge and resources available dedicated to providing staff support, consistently analyzing the success of the environment, and implementing IT projects when necessary. The value of your IT shouldn't be a question.

Don't get lost in the twists and turns of the everchanging tech world. Become a presence on the tech map, and make sure your technology supports your organization in the most efficient way possible.


Did one or more of these sections cause you to think twice? Take our free IT assessment quiz to test the strength of your organization's IT environment. Want to skip straight to the proactive approach? Click below to schedule a free IT assessment with the Five Nines team, no strings attached.

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Topics: Outsourced IT, Tech Solutions, Managed IT Services, Business Continuity, Customer Service