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Cards Technology a Decade Later - Q&A with Sam Card

Cards Technology

Sam CardSam Card is the Founder and CEO of Cards Technology, which has grown from a humble computer repair shop to a full-service technology management firm that thrives on building valuable and lasting relationships with the businesses of Delmarva. After more than a decade, Sam looks back on how things have changed since he began his career fixing personal computers.

Q: What is different today about your company, regarding its capabilities and services, compared to 10 years ago?

Sam Card: The better question is probably what isn’t different? I think the biggest shift happened between 2003 and 2004, when IT downtime started to become a major problem. For example, customers would call to report that their email was down, and I would let them know that I would be out there tomorrow. This would be met with a panicked response of “No Sam, our emails are down, you don’t understand. We can’t run our business.”

Fundamentally, we can wait for our IT to be fixed, but we can’t afford our IT to be down. People don’t turn around and do paperwork anymore while they wait for a fix. This new sense of urgency sparked the development of our proven 5-step process; we get to know our customers and, from there, come up with a plan that helps them stay productive and avoid downtime.

Q: How have your services changed?

SC: The direction used to be, “we’re here when you need us, call if something comes up.” That’s known as a break/fix model of IT support, where the customer controls service delivery. We made the shift to a Managed Service model, where our focus is on anticipating and understanding an organizations’ business needs. The Managed Service model results in an improved outcome for your business, since the management and delivery of technology is completely outsourced.

As the general sense of urgency increased, the need to be proactive versus reactive became a priority.

Q: Let’s talk about a client who was helped by Cards Technology’s proven process.

SC: We created the process because we noticed that other IT providers would jump in to deliver service without first conducting a thorough overview. This would lead to the discovery of problems later on, which got very expensive and hurt the customer’s business. A clear assessment and proper standardization in the beginning is key.

Recently, we were approached by a client in the healthcare industry who had a time and materials IT company but not a managed service provider. We typically find that clients who haven't worked with an MSP are handling IT problems on their own and telling the provider what to do, instead of the other way around. This client was inviting security breaches in and experiencing other technology issues because no one was looking out for them. We performed a complete assessment from top to bottom and made sure that our unique set of standards were implemented for preventative monitoring. We stabilized the environment to prevent security threats and created a comprehensive plan for future IT needs.

To learn more about the Cards Technology 5-step proven process click here, email us directly or call us at 410-208-3933.

How Often Do The Best IT Practices Check In With Their Clients?

Cards Technology

Consider this - how long can you go without internet access before problems emerge? Chances are, that kind of downtime spells disaster for your business, no matter what industry. Missing deadlines, upset consumers and lost revenue all put your credibility at risk.

Many businesses are dissatisfied with their IT solution, and an erratic check-in schedule may have something to do with it. So, how often do you hear from your IT provider – only when you put it in a service request or once a year at contract renewal time? At Cards Technology, we believe preventing downtime has a lot to do with a predictable and regular check-in schedule, versus contact only when there’s a problem.

Use the following best practices as a guide:

1. Regularity is key – Checking in on a quarterly basis is a great standard. More important than the frequency, though, is that meetings occur at regularly scheduled intervals. As a business owner, you’re busy and juggling many priorities, so it’s tempting to move or cancel meetings. However, these check-ins function as a way to stay ahead of issues, such as anticipated software updates or alerts that equipment may be reaching end of life.

2. Plan for growth – Sometimes your IT provider is the last to know about your growth plans. Opening or moving an office location? Hiring new employees this quarter? Plans for expansion or upcoming changes should be discussed well in advance. Regular, check-in meetings can spark conversations that you may have forgotten to mention. Your IT partner plays a strategic role, helping you achieve your goals and get the most mileage out of your technology infrastructure.

3. Avoid the risks of inconsistent contact – One of the biggest dangers of being out of touch lies in unexpected IT expenses. When something malfunctions, not only do you worry about replacing it, but then there’s the potential for more problems to be uncovered. This leads to technology expenses you can’t avoid and didn’t budget for. Another example is investing in the latest equipment or software, but not working with your IT partner to ensure your existing systems will be compatible, so you can take advantage of all the new features.

Communicating with your IT provider exclusively to put out fires presents missed opportunities for strategic planning. Big picture planning can’t possibly be accomplished if you’re in the middle of getting your broken servers up and running. Think of regular contact like a physical for your IT infrastructure. You don't want to wait until a problem is hard to treat before taking action.

At Cards Technology, we're diligent about keeping our check-in meetings on schedule. We value our client relationships and know that getting to know you, and ultimately your goals, will help you avoid downtime and security issues for maximum productivity. If regular check-ins aren’t part of your IT strategy, click here or call us at 410-208-3933 to learn more about our communication process.

Minutes vs. Hours vs. Days - The IT Response Time Championships

Cards Technology

The modern workplace relies heavily on the use of technology. Whether you're in sales, e-commerce or financial services, a stable IT environment is the backbone of how you do business. So, when a problem emerges, the time spent waiting around for your IT provider can really add up. Finding a partner with a great track record of fast response and problem-solving times is essential for keeping the servers running, the Internet connected and your data secure.

IT providers make a lot of promises in regard to meeting your company's needs, yet many don’t have the systems in place to deliver service when you need it most. Here are 3 reasons why some providers take so long to respond:

  1. Organizational roles aren't clearly defined - there’s no set process for how to move through issues quickly and accurately. For example, a provider might not have a designated person on hand to answer the phone, or online requests are treated differently than phone calls. There’s also the risk of different people scheduling overlapping appointments, resulting in double or over booking.
  2. No proven process to distinguish calls – is there a defined system for handling quick calls versus diagnostic visits? For some IT companies, the answer is no. What about a service manager in the office all day specifically assigned to service issues? If there is no accountability system in place to work through more complicated issues quickly, that could lead to a delayed response.
  3. Managed service vs. time and materials – be aware of response time priority for managed service clients vs. break fix clients. Sometimes, the latter solution provides no guaranteed priority, no matter what the issue. Managed service clients should ask about a specific guarantee, with the possibility of a refund of monthly fees if the guarantee isn't met.

So, What Are Some Solutions?

Well, we think we have a couple. Here's a look at why Cards Technology is dedicated to such a low response time:

  • Team structure – Cards Technology has a dedicated service dispatcher that operates as the communication “hub” between the clients and the company. From submitting tickets to managing schedules, this type of structure ensures requests are turned around in a timely manner.
  • Two-tiered help desk – Smaller, quick turnaround requests are immediately assigned to T1 technicians, while more complicated issues are sent to the more seasoned and knowledgeable T2 technicians. This system provides quicker resolution times with the appropriate level of skill.

Common complaints heard about other providers: "if you don’t call before 9am, you won’t get a call same day" or "electronic tickets get lost in cyberspace and won't get help quickly."

Instead, we base our work tickets on priority and age, using calculations to figure out where in the pipeline an issue belongs. Then, we work on a solution, so you don't have to contend with antsy employees, lost revenue and frustrated clients.

We know you can't afford to have your employees sitting around while systems are down. If limiting downtime is a priority, look toward a provider that has a documented process and a proven record of low response times. Contact Cards Technology today, and we’ll walk you through our process - from ticket origination to the final solution.

Check Your IT Against Cards Technology's High Standard IT Support for Delmarva

Cards Technology

We all know the importance of IT support for "keeping the lights on." And practical IT tasks are necessary for daily operations. However, you can't underestimate the need for a balance between practicality and strategy. Many IT providers are adept at the support portion, but what about help with strategic IT goals? As your business evolves, you need to leverage technology to not only maintain your business but to help you grow.

The team at Cards Technology has developed an IT support system that combines a practical and strategic approach to IT management.

Here are the 4 ways that Cards Complete can help your company be more strategic:

  • A stable IT environment
    If you are constantly working to identify, troubleshoot and fix problems, you can’t possibly have time to analyze business objectives or think about growth goals. Cards Technology takes a proactive approach to IT support management, stabilizing your IT environment so that daily productivity runs smoothly. You are then better able to focus on business intelligence from IT, and can prioritize strategic initiatives since you don’t have to worry about a vulnerable network.
  • Identify short and long term goals
    Have you sat down with your IT provider to discuss future business objectives? Part of the Cards Technology discovery process includes a thorough analysis to determine how you generate revenue, and the impact your current approach to IT support has on your bottom line. It is essential to understand what you are doing in your business in the next 12-18 months to ensure your technology can support it.
  • Simplify systems
    Many Delmarva small businesses have more than a handful of different IT systems, and most of these disconnected systems don’t work well together. Cards Technology evaluates your overall environment and creates an IT support solution for Delmarva businesses that eliminates redundancy and integrates functions into one collaborative system.
  • Leverage data
    It’s one thing to have a working database, but another to actually use the data in a cohesive and strategic manner. While many companies like the software they’re using, they find the reporting aspect is lacking. The experts at Cards Technology use industry research to identify options for custom tailored reporting. By recommending a bolt on to their current software, important metrics can be found in one central dashboard, and for an additional expense of a few hundred dollars, instead of thousands.

An experienced IT solutions provider can help create your path towards a more strategic approach to technology. So what crucial things should you check against when evaluating providers?

Start with asking IT support providers these key questions:

  1. How long has the organization been in business?
  2. What is the skill and pay level of the technicians?
  3. What’s the average response and resolution time?
  4. Are issues fixed remotely or on site?
  5. Who is your main point of contact?
  6. How involved is the owner of the company?

Let us help determine if your technology is running at peak performance. Read about the Cards Technology 5-step proven process here, email us directly or call us at 410-208-3933.

The Dirty Truth: Why Your Hourly IT Provider Won't Solve Your Recurring IT Issues

Cards Technology

Running a small business means juggling multiple priorities, and the right technology can streamline processes and support growth. With so much at stake, you need more than just computer technicians that "monitor" your equipment and repair it when it breaks. You need a stable and efficient IT infrastructure to help propel your business forward.

A break/fix, hourly or adhoc provider refers to a provider that offers "as needed" services. When you need help, you call a support person. This may have worked for you in the past, but do you wonder why the same IT issues keep cropping up? Maybe you have a limited budget and think you can’t afford a managed services route. Or, you are hesitant to switch due to a disruption in service. These are minor concerns when you consider the motivation of a time and materials billing provider. There really is no incentive for them to permanently fix everything; otherwise they would be fixing themselves out of a job.

If your goal is to proactively invest in IT solutions, rather than reactively address downtime, here's the dirty truth on why you’re still having recurring problems:

  • Your urgent IT problems are an hourly provider’s most profitable venture. When systems malfunction and downtime effects productivity, you have no choice but to agree to whatever fees and extra expenses are being charged.
  • There is no incentive to implement stable solutions. Frequent repairs are business opportunities for the break/fix or hourly provider, who only gets paid when there is a problem to be addressed.
  • Little motivation exists to work quickly. When you are paid for the amount of time you spend working, slower results equates to more billing.
  • A job done "too well" is a threat. Setting up a network flawlessly or recommending monitoring software could potentially threaten the long-term job security of a break/fix provider.

A proactive managed services provider is more aligned with your goals. You both want an efficiently run IT infrastructure and will both benefit from succeeding in that goal. Having to fix recurring problems is not only time consuming but also cost prohibitive for both you and your provider. The mutual advantage of a true partnership keeps your IT systems running smoothly so you can run your business.

Maybe it's time for an assessment. Read about the Cards Technology 5-step proven process here, email us directly or call us at 410-208-3933.


4 Real Life Signs You're Assuming Your IT Management is Satisfactory

Cards Technology

When it comes to your company's technology, what does satisfactory mean to you? Maybe you're not constantly fighting downtime, but when it happens, it takes a toll on productivity. What about predictable IT expenditures – do you come close but have some months that just blow the budget out of the water?

Many small companies take the break-fix route of IT services, however, there are risks of not knowing when something will go wrong or what it will cost to fix it.

How do you recognize when "satisfactory IT management" isn't benefiting your business anymore? Look for these 4 real life signs:

  1. Inconsistent response times – Your network is down and you're not sure why, so you call your current IT provider for help. They prefer to come on-site to diagnose the problem. Sometimes that takes a few hours and other times a few days. There is no consistency of service and every minute of downtime is costing your company money.
  2. Unpredictable costs – Hourly, ad hoc or as needed services may seem like the more affordable solution, but the costs are open ended. This makes it practically impossible to stick to an IT budget and downright scary when the invoice arrives. Hourly billing also gives no incentive for a break-fix provider to find a permanent solution to an underlying problem.
  3. Lack of software automation – Software is constantly changing. Updates, bug fixes and newer versions require time and expertise to navigate. Without standardized templates and scheduled installations, a large chunk of your budget could be spent on repetitive activities that could have been automated.
  4. Reactive environment – Have you ever heard the phrase, prevention is better than treatment? That same advise applies to your IT environment. It's certainly important to fix what isn't working, but without proactive maintenance, you could incur the same issues over and over again.

Recently, we were asked to assess the IT of a local construction company where the CFO manages their technology. When problems occurred, the CFO contacted their break fix provider. They were experiencing inconsistent response times that caused downtime and delays, and billing by the hour to fix their problems was costly. Software updates were also considered additional billable items and therefore there was no predictable budgeting.

The construction company moved over to our Cards Complete Managed IT Services package, where proactive monitoring was implemented and software templates were created for automation. With downtime practically eliminated, the CFO now focuses on managing the business finances instead of worrying about IT problems. The entire company saw a huge productivity increase.

Is your IT solution keeping up with your growing business? Maybe it's time for an assessment. Read about our 5-step proven process here, email us directly or call us at (410) 208-3933.


Disconnect vs. Sign out for Remote and Local PCs

Cards Technology

Mark Shaw VP Sales & Marketing at Cards Technology presents “Disconnect vs. Sign out for Remote and Local PCs” in video #7 of the Tech Advisor Video Series.

Disconnecting can certainly be useful when you need to keep all of your apps running while you jump to another computer or work from home.

Signing out is the best practice to use when you’re done working for the day or need to troubleshoot a buggy program in your remote desktop session.

Take a look at our latest Tech Advisor video to learn the differences between these functions in both Remote and Local environments.

Feel free to circulate this video among your staff.


Work Faster With Multitasking Tips

Cards Technology

Mark Shaw VP Sales & Marketing at Cards Technology presents “Work faster with multitasking tips” in video #6 of the Tech Advisor Video Series.

Using shortcut keys like Alt-Tab, Start-Tab, and Ctrl-Tab can definitely save you some time while you’re working in multiple apps.

Feel free to circulate this video among your staff. We hope it has been informative and would like to thank you for viewing.

Using Task Manager on Unresponsive Programs

Cards Technology

Mark Shaw VP Sales & Marketing at Cards Technology presents “Using Task Manager on Unresponsive Programs” in video #5 of the Tech Advisor Video Series.

Have you ever been right in the middle of working in a program like Microsoft Word or Outlook and the program just locks up and stops responding? This video can certainly help.

We hope this information is helpful. Feel free to circulate this video among your staff.

Have a great day!

Automatic Replies and Out-of-Office Messages

Cards Technology

Mark Shaw VP Sales & Marketing at Cards Technology presents “Automatic Replies and Out-of-Office Messages” in video #4 of the Tech Advisor Video Series.

Automatic Replies are a great way to keep your staff and customers informed of when you’re on vacation so you can set some expectations as to when you will be able to respond to messages. It’s a good business practice to notify your customers of another staff member that can be reached while you’re gone so their immediate needs can be taken care of.

We hope this information is helpful. Feel free to circulate this video among your staff.

As always, if you have any questions or comments you are welcome to contact us.

Have a great day!