Successful Woman-Owned Dataworks Consulting Celebrates 16 Years

Caroline Smith leads Seattle-based Information Technology company across gender barriers

Dataworks consulting owner and CEO, Caroline Smith

Newcastle, WA, February 2018 — a woman-owned leading provider of technology services and support throughout the Puget Sound region, is celebrating 16 years strong. Founded in 2002, the company employs a diverse team of professionals with nearly 150 years of combined industry experience and operates with a clear mission: to empower small businesses through leveraging technology.

“Our continued success is a direct result of the hard work and dedication of our
diversified staff, which sometimes proved difficult in a male-dominated industry,” said visionary Caroline Smith, Founder and CEO. “Women in IT were not always accepted, but now being woman-owned is a major advantage. Our points of contact at client sites are two-thirds women, and they feel more comfortable talking to us and connecting with us, as opposed to even a male-led shop.”

Over the last 16 years, Dataworks has grown into a full service and comprehensive managed service provider, using a holistic approach to technology support. With
specialists covering every aspect of technology, from network design to Cloud services, each member of the team brings their own extensive and unique industry experience.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what Dataworks has achieved over these years,” continued Smith, “and I look forward to what the next 15 years brings.”

3 Hidden Costs IT Managed Services Providers Uncover

Female business owner is surprised to see the costs that having Managed IT services have saved her

As a business owner, you know recurring IT issues affect your bottom line. You may also know the benefits of switching to a managed IT services provider but are hesitant because of the cost and the lack of room for it in your budget.

Maybe you worry that time spent switching providers won’t be worth the investment. Or perhaps you already have an “IT guy” who you call when something goes wrong, and beyond that you don’t give it much thought.

While operational efficiency and increased security are always priorities, return on investment (ROI) now ranks as a top concern for small businesses. Even the latest trend analysis shows that organizations proactively seek higher ROI from managed services than what they can achieve with “do-it-yourself” IT.

Here are 3 reasons IT Managed Services Providers can eliminate hidden costs:

One IT expert can’t be good at everything – a team can

With technology evolving daily, you can’t count on one person for all your IT needs. Freeing up internal staff time to devote to higher value projects increases overall productivity and ultimately leads to a higher ROI. A full-service partner like Dataworks gives you access to a deep pool of experts well versed in the latest technology. Whether you need an expert who knows Microsoft or can get you into the cloud or who can explain the latest solutions that are benefiting your industry, it’s virtually impossible to hire someone who is adept in all the areas of expertise you need. Something will be left behind, and your business will pay for that absence.

Downtime increases employee frustration – IT managed services providers reduce downtime

Old equipment and recurring issues can take a toll on employees. You’re doing a major disservice to your staff when you fail to empower them with the tools they need to be successful. Why not spend those dollars on proactive solutions that eliminate ambiguity and provide a clear path forward? With a solution like OneCare from Dataworks, IT costs are more predictable, and our priority planning helps you budget for things like faster internet, extra monitors, automation and training that will maximize efficiency during the workday. Not having this level of planning is a hefty opportunity cost.

You could be teetering on the brink of disaster – and not know. How much will that cost?

Managed IT services is like health insurance for your business. Initially, you may have a hard time swallowing a new cost you can’t immediately realize. One surprise trip to the emergency room, though, leaves you singing a different tune. Opting for a break/fix solution because it’s cheaper on paper is like opting out of health insurance. One data breach, server fail or major virus could leave you with a bill that far surpasses your yearly tech budget. Your IT systems and data are vital assets, and you need to invest in their care or you will be facing bigger bills down the road.

It’s hard to quantify the total cost of lost time, slowed productivity and employee frustration. However, the cumulative effect adds up in the long run. Updating your technology and eliminating recurring IT issues is just the change you may need.

Who doesn’t want more return on investment for their IT budget? Contact Dataworks Consulting  at (425) 687-6185 to see how we can get you there.

Can Technology Increase Productivity?

man showing how technology can hurt productivity or technology can help productivity

Technology is now one of the key drivers – or detriments – of productivity. The reason is simple. Productivity is time. Time is money. Employees goofing off on Facebook, playing online poker or watching Netflix are wasting valuable company dollars.

But that’s far from being the most common scenario where technology is causing a loss of productivity.

Think about this: technology is needed for most jobs. Recurring issues with technology hurt productivity and profits on an incremental basis. Manufacturers can’t run their floor because a computer is down. Medical offices can’t schedule patients for appointments or run an ultrasound machine. Retailers can’t check inventory or process payments. Over and over again, this causes large-scale pains businesses often don’t recognize.

These scenarios might sound all-too-familiar but consider the cumulative impact they have on your employees.

It frustrates them. It drives away top talent. It leaves them doing things that are outside the scope of their expertise. Consider the bookkeeper who must troubleshoot the office printer all the time, or the office admin who has a computer lock up every time he tries to book appointments.

When technology is throwing a wrench in your daily operations, it’s negatively impacting your company culture as much as your bottom line.  You are communicating to your staff that you are not invested in them being successful. Or, that you simply don’t care. It adds stress and frustration to their day unnecessarily and that slows them down and burns out their sense of motivation and desire to do well.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have technology that can increase productivity for your staff, such as:

There are several ways technology could help you instead of hurting you. The first and most important step is to stop ignoring your technology until it breaks down.

What we recommend to increase productivity

1. Stabilize your network. Get a managed IT services company to come and fix obvious issues so your employees can do their jobs.

2. Have a third-party ground-up assessment. This needs to be conducted by someone other than your current IT person, so you can spot all the issues they aren’t addressing across your network. Often little tweaks like adding more RAM or re-configuring your server can make a world of difference in the performance of your systems.

3. Take better care of your IT. A fixed-fee managed IT service like our OneCare offers the ultimate in affordable peak performance for your network. With OneCare, we do everything from optimizing your network and maintaining your systems to working with your vendors and you to spot opportunities to maximize your efficiency. From running diagnostic tools to managing your service contracts, we manage your IT services, so your employees have the tools they need to work at their peak performance.

Technology should help your productivity, not slow your workers down. Get your employees working at peak efficiency by tuning up your network and using a service that keeps it working at optimal efficiency around the clock.

Contact Dataworks Consulting for a comprehensive network assessment and see exactly where your technology is hurting productivity.

Inside Intel Meltdown/Specter

Meltdown sign showing the dangers of Intel Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities for businesses

Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of processors, has discovered a vulnerability in their processor design that could affect devices manufactured back as far as 20 years, according to GeekWire Magazine.

The Problem

Simply put, the processor of your computer is the brainpower that drives everything that happens in your computer.  Inside processors there is small, protected space called “kernel memory” which is dedicated to the most essential core components of your operating system (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.) and its interactions with the hardware.  It is intended to be off-limits to other software.  However, the design flaw has made it so that other software, including malicious software such as viruses and spyware, can actually access the kernel memory.

The fix

Due to the nature of the vulnerability, the fix will come from your devices’ operating system manufacturer in the form of security patches.  However, security patches that mitigate the risk of the Intel Meltdown flaw may conflict with your antivirus program.  This means that you will first need to ensure that antivirus definitions are up to date.  From there, you can move forward with security patches for operating systems as well as firmware updates from your computer’s manufacturer. Currently, there is no other option for mitigating the vulnerability.

Intel has noted that there may be a performance impact for computers that came with the first release of Windows 10, along with Windows 8 and Windows 7 systems.  The extent of the impact is not yet known and could vary dramatically from system to system. Newer Windows 10 systems should not experience any reduction in performance.


Concerned about how your systems and devices could be impacted? Contact Dataworks Consulting for guidance.

New Year, Same IT Problems? Time to Fix That

Fixing recurring IT issues in your business makes a great resolution this year.

Happy New Year! Are 2017’s IT issues still plaguing you? You know, your network still runs ridiculously slow. The printer keeps dropping off the network. Servers keep going down without rhyme or reason, and you keep having to call on your IT person to come and fix them.

New Year’s Resolution: fix your recurring IT issues for good

When issues like these keep happening and keep getting “fixed,” nothing is actually improving and it’s costing you a lot more than that bottle of aspirin in your desk drawer.

When your IT people only come around to fix things, it means you pay extra for after-hours support, have lapses in employee productivity and lose money every time. Every time something goes wrong, you have to shell out money to fix it as soon as possible. This, instead of using your IT dollars to improve your technology and add more efficiency for your business.

Recurring IT issues also create a company culture where employees are always upset because their computers are slow or it takes too long to do simple tasks. These process and workflow issues cause morale problems in the company. Work is frustrating enough – you don’t need to add to the frustration (especially if you want to keep good people at your company).

There’s a better way.

Your New Year’s resolution: fix recurring IT issues.  Have a managed IT services provider like Dataworks Consulting conduct an assessment of your technology infrastructure and pinpoint what’s causing your IT problems to keep happening. When we conduct these assessments, we look for things like bottlenecks and specific underlying root issues, and then present solutions to address the root causes.

5 recurring IT issues we solved through an assessment in 2017:

1. Reduced cost of telecommunications and increased bandwidth speed, getting the client more network speed for less money

2. Enhanced read/write speeds on data storage drives, getting the client’s staff access to information faster.

3. Improved firewall to work more effectively with the client’s internet connection speed and more efficiently manage the stream of information coming to the network.

4. Upgraded aging network switches, dramatically speeding up the internal network.

5. Replaced consumer-class wireless access points with wireless mesh networks, improving client’s security, network speed and connection continuity.

The second part of fixing recurring issues is to move to a Managed Services Provider model. You pay a small amount per user per month to have an IT company prevent these issues from taking you down, resolving recurring problems once and for all – and having the added relief of knowing there is 24/7/365 monitoring to prevent recurring issues from ever dragging you down again.

Change can be scary – and bringing in a new IT provider when you’re having issues can seem like adding more fuel to the fire. In reality, it should be what ends the chaos. Some IT providers just dive in and start making changes – not us.

We believe your IT partnership should be a two-way street. If you’re having recurring IT issues that’s a sign you’re on a one-way, dead-end road. It’s time to travel on a better road.

Switching IT providers can be painful, but we’re here to help you through it. There’s a way out – all you have to do is contact us.

How Much Should You Spend on IT?

Businessperson calculating what they should spend on their comapany's IT

“How much should I be spending on my company’s IT?” This question comes to us all the time from people we talk to. They want to know if they’re spending too much or too little. Are they wasting their dollars? Well, the right amount to spend varies depending on your revenue and size.

A recent report by Gartner has companies spending about 2.3% of their revenue on IT but doesn’t differentiate based on company size. Another report by ROI consultancy firm Ailnean Inc. compared publicly traded companies on success measures and the amount they spend on their IT. While they found small businesses spending a bigger percentage of their revenue on IT than large corporations (6.9%, compared to 3.2%), they also discovered that the most successful small businesses were a little more conservative in their IT spend.

How much to spend on your IT

Even if you’re a small business, spending under 5% of your revenue on IT expenses is perfectly adequate. At a minimum, you should be spending at least Gartner’s recommended amount of 2.3%, perhaps a couple of percentage points more, depending on what you want to achieve over the coming years.

So, what does that look like compared to your last year’s budget? It’s possible you’re skimping on something that could come back to haunt you.

Regardless of whether you’re too high or too low in the amount of revenue you’re spending on IT, you need to make sure you’re spending your IT budget on the right things. Some investments are a waste of money and aren’t what your business needs to be focused on.

What kind of IT spending works best for your company?

You need to know what makes sense for a fixed, monthly operating expense and what makes sense for capital expenses. It’s helpful to forecast the capital expenses so you can plan for them. A managed IT services provider should be a partner in figuring that out.

Here are four things we look at to make sure our clients are spending their IT budget wisely:

1. Planning for software and equipment life cycles. Just because a computer is running doesn’t mean it’s good to go. Right now, computers running Windows 7 are going to need Windows 10 by January 2020 – that’s a little more than 2 years to upgrade desktop systems in your company, or they’ll be at risk for security vulnerabilities and breakdowns that cost you time, money and frustrations. Knowing things like that well ahead of time and planning for it allows you to allocate your budget more effectively.

2. Implement solutions to handle your future growth. You may not even have growth in the number of employees, but the technology demands on your company will continue to evolve. An increased demand on internet bandwidth happens to everyone as part of the digital age we live in. Trust us, nothing is worse than capitalizing a project and having to completely redo it 2 years later. Everything is in a state of exponential growth. You need a forward-thinking IT partner to avoid the bottleneck that can create.

3. Making technology work better. It might be that you need a new firewall to better prioritize VOIP traffic over internet traffic or you might need to upgrade your internet connection to better support your cloud solutions. Demands on your system are only growing, even if the user experience feels more simplified.

4. Make technology scalable. Doing so allows room for growth at predictable costs. This is especially true if you want to leverage cloud computing for your business. For instance, our EmailAssurance is the same product whether you have 5 or 500 mailboxes, and you pay for only the mailboxes you are using.

The bottom line is, if you’re not budgeting at least 2.3%, you’re not spending enough on your IT. To make the most of that budget, you must spend it wisely, and that requires the expertise of a managed IT provider to make sure you don’t waste your hard-earned revenue on tech junk you don’t need.

Spend your IT budget money wisely. We can help.

3 Things to Consider Before Going to the Cloud

Hand touching the cloud wondering if cloud services will work for their business

A look at all of the 2018 tech trends says that every business needs to be using cloud services. With the promise of lower price points, operating expenses instead of capital spend, and features that a small business might not be able to afford otherwise, it sounds like the perfect solution.

Whether or not the cloud is right for your business depends on a number of factors. Cloud services are great for many businesses. But, you need to get your ducks in a row before you jump in.

Here are 3 things that you should consider before going to the cloud:

1. Will it make financial sense for your business?

Your homework starts with a cost analysis. Will the total cost of ownership make sense for you as an operating expense or a capital expense? Do you have everything you need to make the cloud work? If not, what will you need? Make sure that’s included in your cost projections.

2. Do you have what you need to run your company on the cloud?

Fiber internet should be your primary connection. Your upload speed is as important as your download speed. A lot of internet providers accelerate download speed and have a slow upload rate. With 30 people trying to upload documents, that will be a frustrating bottleneck. If you rely on your applications an data, you’ll also need multiple internet connections incase one gets severed.

When you’re in the cloud, security is essential to keeping your business operational.  Moving to the cloud requires you to use a multilayer approach to security that includes with firewalls, antivirus and antimalware, and best practices use of username and passwords.

3. What cloud solutions will give you the biggest bang for your buck?

If you’re going to go into the cloud, do it wisely. Start with some of the solutions that are going to give you a bigger ROI or help you reduce expenses in the long run. These are a few of our favorites for small and mid-sized companies:

Single-use server. It’s not cost effective to keep a single-use server on site anymore. You can just skip the extra server by running more of your line-of-business applications in the cloud, or spin up the single-user server to the cloud.

Comprehensive and affordable email security. An email security package like EmailAssurance gives you an entire suite of email security products that were not even available to SMBs just a few years ago. As a packaged cloud product, the cost is per mailbox, per month, making it affordable for anyone.

Offsite backup to the cloud. Here’s a true story. A client of ours had a business suite neighbor burn some microwave popcorn and set off the sprinkler system for the entire floor. It destroyed everyone’s servers and documents. If our client was using failover to the cloud and cloud backup, the data on the servers would have been safe.

The cloud is as unique as the businesses it serves and can offer a lot of benefits. Rather than jumping in head first because the cloud is the tech trend du jour, make sure you have what you need to move forward smartly. Otherwise, it can cost you a lot of money to stay up and running.

Talk to an IT expert to make sure that you don’t go into the cloud blindly. We’ll help you figure out what makes the most sense for your business.

7 Tech Trends That Will Get You Ahead in 2018

When we look at tech trends, we’re not looking at what’s going to get the “cool” factor. We’re looking at what’s going to help your business run better, what will help your employees get more done and what’s going to save you some money. At the end of the day, the newest iPad or VR device probably isn’t going to give your business the edge you’re looking for.

These 7 recommendations are tech trends that can get your business ahead in 2018:

1. Upgrade to Windows 10 for your sanity
Windows 7 will be end of life in 2020. While that’s two years away, it can be pretty expensive if you wait until 2019 to update everything. Start upgrading to Windows 10 now, so you can keep your systems updated and avoid using software that’s gone out of service. Here’s why it’s dangerous to use end-of-life software.

2. Strengthen the walls of the castle
Considering the number of ransomware strains that took the front cover this year, it comes as little surprise that businesses are looking for ways to reduce access to their networks through firewall gateway boosts. Sonicwall is one of the best tools on the market today with enhanced security features like deep packet inspection. You can look for trade-in/trade-up pricing options to take advantage of enhanced security without a huge bill.

3. Be an elegant office host
Guest networks in your office aren’t just a fancy perk to offer visitors. A guest network is used by staff who bring personal devices to work and want to surf Facebook on them at lunch or vendors who stop by and want to show you a presentation on a laptop that hasn’t been scanned for malware in a decade. It just keeps your main network safer.

4. Avoid being like a certain credit reporting company
The award for biggest breach of 2017 (at least publicity-wise) goes to credit reporting bureau, Equifax. And it happened because they didn’t update their line-of-business software. If you’re getting emails from your provider telling you it’s time to upgrade, listen. If you need help, contact us and we can work with the vendor to get it done with minimal disruption.

5. Hack your office productivity
Move over, dual monitors and ergonomics. The trend of 2018 is going to be productivity boosts like triple monitors and wireless mesh for continuous connectivity around the office. Instead of cobbling together multiple wireless access points, a wireless mesh network can optimize performance and make it possible for people to stay connected to the same network anywhere in the building.

6. Skype for Business is out – Teams is in
At their Ignite Conference in September, Microsoft announced plans to replace Skype for Business with Microsoft Teams. The new platform will be an enterprise-grade voice, video and instant messaging platform and is only going to evolve as Microsoft builds in AI features down the road. Like Skype for Business, Teams will integrate with Office 365 and is predicted to quickly take over as the preferred communications clients for Microsoft users.

7. Get fiber internet
Fiber internet is ideal for businesses using cloud solutions (including backup and data recovery to the cloud) as it offers a symmetrical upload/download speed. It is much more affordable than it ever has been in the past, making it accessible to small businesses too. Both Comcast and Frontier have expanded their fiber options to more locations around Puget Sound, so give them a call.

Forget about trends for the sake of the coolest technology. For savvy small and mid-sized businesses, you need technology that will make a big impact on your business, and these 7 picks can do that. Make sure to pick a few to include in your strategic plans for the next year.

Need a strategic IT partner who can help you understand what technology recommendations are essential for your business? Contact Dataworks Consulting online or at (425) 687-6185.

12 Section 179 Deductions That Help Your Business

Managed IT Services Seattle

Q4 is the time to start thinking about the end of the year and planning for next year. You likely already know about tax law Section 179 which allows businesses to deduct up to $500,000 in purchases of equipment and software in the year it’s placed into service without having to amortize the purchase.

But knowing you can spend that money and knowing what to spend it on are two different things.

Our expert strategists put their heads together to come up with a list of 12 ways you can leverage a Section 179 deduction to help your small- or medium-sized business.

Improve productivity & efficiency

  1. Add new workstations or replace aging PCs (after 3 years).
  2. Replace aging servers (within 3-5 years).
  3. Give staff double or triple monitors and/or monitor risers.
  4. Upgrade your mobile devices (within 2-3 years).
  5. Improve your network infrastructure – start with a network assessment if you’re not sure what improvements are needed.
  6. Update operating software – especially if you’re using Windows XP or Office 2007 as these are no longer being supported and present serious risks to your business.
  7. Increase remote office options by adding a virtual private network (VPN) or secure cloud options.

The best values on the list

8. Virtualization. As you grow, you need more and more servers. By virtualizing, you can spin up multiple servers on a single server box. You get in-house control of email servers and line-of-business applications. Virtualization also lowers your long-term replacement costs, because you’re replacing one server box instead of several.

9. Wireless mesh network. One of the biggest values on the list, a wireless mesh network delivers, multiple interconnected wireless access points. Since these access points share identical configuration, employees are free to move about the office without disruption to their wireless. Be sure to stick to business-grade access points. Home access points are less secure and will still present connectivity problems.

10. EmailAssurance. Did you know Office 365 doesn’t include backups for your emails and has limited spam filtering? How much vital information is in your email right now? EmailAssurance is our complete email package that offers full email security and continuity across multiple platforms without having to onboard new technology or projects.

Security essentials

11. Unified threat management. Your security can’t depend on an antivirus or an older firewall. Threats constantly evolve, and the technology needed to keep them off your network evolves too. You need to have an updated, properly configured firewall, which includes a full gateway security suite.

12. Internet content filtering. While the cat’s away, the mice will play. Sometimes they play online poker on sites loaded with malware. Other times, they play their favorite TV show and eat up your company’s bandwidth. Internet content filtering acknowledges that the mice are going to play, and allows you to take control of what they’re playing on company networks – and company time.

Your Section 179 deductions can be used strategically to gain a competitive advantage, improve productivity, increase efficiency and reduce or eliminate future costs. If you plan well for it, this is one deduction that can bring your company a lot of value.

Want to take advantage of Section 179 deductions for your business? Chat with one of our experts to find out what’s going to give your business the best value.


Legal disclaimer: This article is not to be construed as legal advice. Be sure to check with your tax professional about any and all tax laws that impact your business.

The 7 Differentiating Ways We Protect You From Ransomware

With the WannaCry attack still circulating, businesses are up in arms wondering how to protect themselves.

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not your existing IT provider has adequately protected you from the latest in ransomware developments. As your first line of defense against cyber threats, your IT provider must be on top of your security..

Ransomware is nothing new.

It’s just that this particulary virulent strain has garnered international media attention. Now, even more ransomware developers have exploited the same security gap that allowed WannaCry in, meaning that more businesses are exposed to risks. That’s why when the media starts talking about a global threat that has swept up tens of thousands of victims, it’s a bit too late.

Ransomware protection starts well before that.

Some IT providers do not focus on protection and prevention, leaving you vulnerable. In those cases, it becomes a matter of time before something happens to your networks.

A proactive, holistic approach to ransomware is your safest approach. Here’s how we protected all of our clients from the recent Ransomware attacks:

  1. We start all clients with a full security assessment. Whether your IT is being managed internally or with another provider, you can have us come in and assess your network and will provide a report that shows you where we see room for improvement. If nothing else, this offers clients assurance that they are secure.
  2. We perform daily proactive maintenance and monitoring. When software patches are sent by vendors, we ensure that they are updated quickly, reducing the number of vulnerabilities that ransomware and other malware can get into your network.
  1. We ensure their software is always up to date. Everything from your desktop operating systems to your line of business applications to your server software needs to be an up-to-date version that is still supported by the manufacturer. When you use outdated software, you’re at a much higher risk for infiltration.
  1. We implement multiple layers of security. Security needs to include firewalls, email spam blockers and an antivirus that is constantly updating with new definitions to enhance your ability to block emails from ending up in your inbox and identifying malware before it has a chance to cause damage.
  1. We never skimp on backups. Regardless of what protective measures you do or don’t put into place, having the right backups ensures that you can recover quickly from the ransomware without having to pay the ransom or worry about remnants of ransomware being left on your device, ready to reactivate at a moment’s notice (yes, this happens).
  1. We set up resilient environments. For our managed services clients, we ensure that their networks are set up to be resilient. If they experience an outage, ransomware or some other malady, recovery is quick and painless.
  1. We test their security over and over again. If our clients get a suspicious email, they know they can call us and we’ll test it out to see if it is malware or a legitimate link or attachment. We get calls like that all the time, and have successfully thwarted a number of potential attacks because of that.

If you’re not sure how much security you really need, start with an assessment. At a minimum, you should understand what your risks are and be able to prioritize where your attention should be on mitigating those risks. Remember, it takes more than an off-the-shelf antivirus to protect you.

How are you protecting your company from ransomware? Contact us today for a Security Assessment at (425) 687-6185 or online.