Category Archives: Finance

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Disaster Recovery that won’t break the bank

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Let’s face it, unexpected outages are the biggest cost you’ll never expect to pay. According to the Consulting group Gartner, only 35% of small to medium sized businesses have a disaster recovery plan of any type. This is a staggering statistic considering the cost of downtime is averaged at $84,000$90,000 per hour for SMB and a whopping $1.25b – $2.5b for large businesses. These statistics are not hard to find. Anyone who reads the latest trade mags can find this data online or in publication.

With these kinds of numbers facing businesses, how does an SMB leader overcome it?

The answer is face it, don’t avoid it. There is some good news however.

New innovations combining Shadow Copy, Virtualization and Cloud allow for some decently priced solutions that add resiliency from disaster and scale with business growth.

By combining your backup and DR, your business can create a comprehensive recovery system that will help protect you from outages due to virus attacks, data corruption, hardware failure and even full site failure. Companies that specialize in these solutions will install an appliance at your location that acts as the backup and DR device. The device starts by creating virtual image of your servers. In the event of an outage, that virtual image can be activated allowing a temporary virtual server to run from the DR appliance independent of the original server. Through snapshot technologies, changes in data at the block level are captured and applied to that virtual image. This allows you to stand up that virtual machine as it was at any give time within the backup frequency. These snapshots can be taken every 5 minutes or every day depending on the amount of data you can afford to lose.

This acts as revision control and near real-time backup.

What if the DR appliance fails? Well, that’s were the Cloud comes in. The DR providers configure their appliances to trickle feed the backup data to their data centers over a secure connection. Typically a VPN or private line is established in advance to a segmented part of the providers network which allows fast, secure off-site transmission of your backup data and also the ability to stand up the virtual recovery server in the Cloud. This allows you to resume operations from anywhere in the world.

If the device fails for some reason, the provider already has the data and will ship a replacement appliance overnight that is pre-configured and has all your data on it.

This may sound like an expensive solution, but it’s surprisingly affordable. A typical cost for a solution like this for a 250GB server is around $400-$800 per month. That’s less expensive than the cost of a tape drive with support, Enterprise backup software with support, loads of expensive tapes, someone’s labor to validate and test backups regularly and a secure way to transfer the offsite. Not to mention the extra DR capability you gain. Also, snapshot technologies have no restrictions by application type, file locks or file in use so the backups are much more reliable.

Combining your Backup and Disaster Recovery in this way can save you a lot of money and productivity loss from downtime. Any businesses that are still using tape backups or considering the cost of replicating their entire environment to a remote location (thereby doubling their capital costs) should consider a solution like this.

CBC Solutions is a holistic consulting company whose mission is to help businesses reduce risk and manage costs. We do this by assessing your environment with our expert team of IT veterans, then aligning best in breed providers from our extensive partner network with your business goals.

Contact CBC Solutions today to see how we can help!

CBC Solutions

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5 steps to unclutter your I.T.

Information systems can become complicated machines and grow out of control in a very rapid manner for even the smallest businesses. Indeed, even the individual person can fall into this trap. In an era of Smart Phones, GPS, Smart Watches and even connected appliances, the average person can have a plethora of technology without even realizing it. Businesses face the same dilema on a much stronger scale.

For businesses, everything is connected. You can’t even get your car smogged without a shop full of computers connected to the Internet. Cloud Computing has helped this reality by making Enterprise level services available to the average small company at an affordable cost. However, this poses a problem. With all these affordable and scalable services, it’s too easy for companies to get locked into a long term contract with a service that may or may not work for them in 2 or 3 years. It’s also too easy to get distracted with the latest bells and whistles and miss the bigger picture.

As Technology Consultants, we often find ourselves in the business of helping companies sort through the minutia and get their IT costs under control. We do this by following some simple guidelines to approaching a new or existing solution.

1. Document your business process:
A good business process should be documented well to define the flow of information throughout the organisation. Prospects -> Leads -> Opportunities -> Accounts -> Invoicing, etc. Having well documented flow helps to define the technical solution. This ensures that the process defines the application.

2. Understand the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO):
Base price and monthly rates are good, but is that really the overall cost of the service in question? No normally. Initial setup fees, switching costs, learning curves, support and downtime all need to be considered when calculating TCO.

3. Look at the big picture:
Instead of focusing on the problem you’re trying to solve today, think about what your business going to look like in 3 years? Defining the overall picture can help you define business requirements in a way that scales with growth. Specking of business requirements,

4. Define Business requirements outside of the technology:
Define your business requirements without any specific technology in mind. Your business process should define the technology rather than the technology defining the business process. Why? because if the technical solution drives, the business process, your business becomes a slave to the technology. It should be the other way around. The technology should work for the business.

5. Integration is key:
In this day and age, you shouldn’t really have to manually copy information from a field in one application to a similar field in another. For example, if you own a CRM system that contains contact information, you shouldn’t also have to enter the same information into your invoicing system. It should be the same information. Otherwise your doubling efforts.

Taking a holistic, systemic approach to the way your business used Information Technology is a critical first step in controlling costs, streamlining operations and making your business run like a well oiled machine. Technology is put in our lives to simplify them, not to complicate things. However, many businesses fall into the trap of complexity disguised as convenience.

Don’t make the same mistake as millions of businesses. Contact CBC Solutions today to find out how we can help.


CBS Solutions
(619) 784-5211

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5 Points about data storage you should be thinking about

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For a business owner, managing storage is probably not on the top of your radar. However there are big consequences to neglecting this task.

You should be aware of your storage management policies regardless of whether you store data onsite or in the cloud. Even if you sub out your storage management to a third party, in fact especially then.

Not managing storage can result in higher than normal costs, delayed response from your business as people spend time searching for information. Poor data management can also put you at risk from security threats as well as compliance and legal issues.

1. Storage is expensive

This may sound counter-intuitive if you’ve always heard the mantra that “storage is cheap”. The fact is, Hard Drives and Storage Media is cheap, storage is Expensive.

Costs of storing data may look inexpensive with vendors practically giving storage away these days, but the management of that data is where the hidden costs are.

Backing up, restoring, searching for data, verifying it’s authenticity, managing permissions and even moving the data to a new provider in the future add huge costs to the organization.

2. Data integrity is extremely important

Documentation that isn’t accurate can often be worse than no documentation at all. Either way, it’s never better.

If you can’t verify that stored documents are the latest version and up to date with changing situations, you could be spending more time verifying the information than you would rewriting it.

When financial or legal documentation is incorrect, it could result in poor financial calculations, compliance violations and additional legal trouble.

3. Data retention is a balancing act

Every organization should have a data retention policy. Without it, documents pile up until they are completely unmanageable. A data retention policy instructs team members on when and how to archive and delete data.

However, there’s another point to be made here.

The lack of a documented retention policy can get you into trouble in other ways. For example. I worked for a company once that was named in a lawsuit. The lawsuit wasn’t about them, but the case demanded that they retrieve documents from 10+ years ago. This became a very time consuming task for the company and put a strain on Legal, Sales and IT departments that had to put off or delay other operations in order to respond properly.

If that company had a documented 7 year retention policy, they would have been able to avoid all that.

Likewise, data retention policies that are two short can cause compliance and legal issues as well. Hence, it’s a balancing act.

4. There are compliances your company needs to follow

Most people know that financial documents should be retained for 7 years, but there are other compliances to consider as well.

If your company is required to meet HIPAA, SOX, ISO, SSAE or PCI standards, you could be non-compliant if your retention policy isn’t properly aligned.

Since these compliances usually pertain to a specific type of data, it must be handled properly. Access may need to be controlled tighter than you’re aware.

5. Not all information is equal

Stored information should be prioritized on two levels. First, there should be a security hierarchy to how data is managed. Team members should be allowed the minimal permissions to the documents they need. Secondly, heavily critical data should be stored in the most reliable and fastest media, while less critical data can be archived to less expensive and even slower media.

With these points in mind, you should be able to work with your technology staff and/or providers to develop a comprehensive storage management plan. This plan should encompass the classification, organization, security and retention of each document type.

Using Document Libraries, Folders, Groups and Metadata, documents can be organized in a logical way so that they’re easy to find and secure. Version controls allow you to track and store multiple versions of critical documents without having to double up your storage.

There are many tools available to help you manage storage efficiently today. Using these tools wisely can help you save money, increase business efficiency, and avoid legal issues in the long run.


CBC Solutions is a Trusted Advisor of IT strategy and technology procurement. We can help design an efficient storage management policy as well position you will some of the best solutions and providers in the industry. Call now for a free consultation to help us save you time and money!


CBC Solutions
Trusted Procurement Advisors
Internet • Voice • Cloud
(619) 784-5211

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EMV chips bring new regulations for Merchants

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While many end-users have been receiving new credit and debit cards implanted with the new EMV chip, merchants have been forced to update their systems to take advantage of the new chip technology. Here’s thing most merchants don’t know: new regulations that go into effect on Oct. 1st 2015 could shift the liability for credit card fraud to the merchant. For example, Home Depot went through a fraud debacle in 2014. In that case, customers and banks carried the majority of the liability. If that same event happens after Oct 1st 2015, the merchant could carry all the liability if they are not fully EMV compliant.

Does the EMV chip technology really help?

The way that the EMV technology works, is that when you insert your card into an EMV aware system, the chip generates a one-time access pin through a process known as tokenization. That pin is used to create and maintain the encrypted transaction. The card must stay in the machine throughout the transaction to keep the encrypted session in tact. In this way, the chip improves security and thus reduces the chance of fraud.

If the vendor of my merchant systems says they’re compliant, does that mean I don’t have to worry?

Not really. The vendor can only guarantee compliance for their own equipment. However, PCI-DSS compliance applies to the entire network that the credit card processing equipment is connected to. In other words, if you plug a fully PCI compliant device into your main network, the entire network needs to be compliant as well. Vendors may say you’re compliant but if they’re not giving you a written guarantee, be cautious of assuming you can stop there.

What about ‘card not present’ situations such as online transactions or pay by phone?

Card not present solutions are not required to abide by the EMV requirement.

What is PCI compliance and do I need it?

All merchants that accept credit cards must be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS). Businesses who are found to be non-compliant could be fined as much as $100,000 a month! The cost of fraud is event higher than that.

How can I be sure I’m compliant?

There are companies out there who can help you become compliant, assess your network on a regular basis and even insure you up to $100,000. Contact us to learn more. We can help.

CBC Solutions
Trusted Procurement Advisors
(619) 784-5211

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Start with Why…

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In his book “Start with Why”, marketing consultant Simon Sinek explains that most business leaders can explain what they do and even how they do it, but only the best business leaders can explain why they do it. [] Simon’s explaination for why that’s important is that your business is not going to stand out because of what you do, or how you do it, but rather it’s the sense of purpose that attracts clients, customers and investors to your organization.

The same could be said about technology solutions. When we’re analysing business processes and the technologies that tie them together, we often see a lot of energy spent on accomplishing a specific task, rolling out a new project or just keeping a certain process alive. But when we ask why the process exists in the first place, that’s when things get interesting.

9 times out of 10 we get a pretty good answer to start. ‘this happens so that will happen’. ‘Why does that happen?’ ‘So this other thing will happen’ and so on. When we dig in far enough, we often find that some solutions exist for the mere reason that someone thinks it should exist, or at one time someone thought it should exist.

In my career, I’ve seen processes that do nothing for the organization but keep IT busy. I’ve seen high speed network connections costing $650 a month plugged into nothing, and sitting for over a year. I’ve seen antiquated technologies up and online simply because no one’s quite sure what it does or if it could be shut down. These add tremendous costs to the organization.

Not that it isn’t a valiant goal to make a technology work, but the purpose of technology is to better the business. Often we see that parts of the business exist to support the technology. It should be the other way around.

When analysing a technical solution, first start with why the solution exists. Then ask yourself, is that the best way? Only then can you really know if the time, money and risk put into the “solution” is worth it.

The challenge on keeping up with the latest technologies is not to have the latest and greatest (those two things are not always mutually exclusive by the way), the real challenge is in knowing why that solution exists and what the real benefit is to the business. Bells and whistles are cool and all. Who doesn’t love a good gadget? But you must consider the risk and cost to the business when implementing it as a solution. Why? because once you integrate a technical solution into the business, the business becomes dependent on it.

One of the fastest ways to save money in a business is to find unnecessary costs, processes and technologies and get rid of them. This not only frees up resources, but it makes the entire system more comprehensive.

Just as the best business leaders know why they do what they do, the best IT leaders must know the reasoning behind every process and continually evaluate the usefulness of that solution. Can you imagine doing a cost/benefit analysis on something without knowing why it exists in the first place? It actually happens more often than you think.


What’s your why? Need help finding out? CBC Solutions was founded on the principle that most consulting shops miss this simple point. That technology must have a purpose in the organization and ultimately reduce costs. If it’s not doing that, it has no purpose. Contact us to find out more on how we can help you find the why in your solutions architecture.


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Using technology to gain a competitive edge

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Large corporations are growing at an astronomical rate. Big business is offering better services, faster response times and lower prices than small and even mid-range business can afford. If SMB is going to survive, there needs to be a competitive edge that allows them to stand out.

Sure there are big benefits to working with SMB. Personalized service, support local business, being there when you want them, flexibility rather than rigid corporate rules, and yes, even pricing can be competitive. All of this means nothing though if your potential customers aren’t reaching out to you or you’re not responding quickly enough.

When someone goes to Amazon to buy a product, it isn’t always because they know they can find the best price there. It isn’t free shipping or even a wealth of products to choose from. It’s certainly not because they get a personalized service. It’s because it’s quick and easy.

Pull up a website, find the product you’re looking for (and instantly compare it to like products), read reviews and make the purchase. It’s there the next (or even same) day. Easy.

So how does a local retailer, for example, compete with that kind of legacy? What must a local retailer do to bring people in their shop and still be able to offer good pricing?

Take another example. A local distributor of industrial equipment offers basically the same catalog as Grainger, the mother of Industrial supply, but goes a step further. By calling one number, the local distributor can shop the best rates, and get the product to you faster than Grainger and even find those odd ball parts that Grainer doesn’t have. This offers a competitive edge, but does that alone get customers coming back to them often enough? Maybe, maybe not. Grainger has every part in their catalog and the whole thing is available online as well as a record of what’s in stock.

If the customer calls in, waits for the right person to take the call, then waits some more while the local distributor needs to look up the SKU, check the warehouse, reserve the part, then call the customer back to let them know it’s ready and take the order and then, after the order is taken, they send an invoice a week later it puts unnecessary strain on the customer. The customer is touched three or four times just for a simple part.

What’s a local business to do?

By implementing some simple technical integrations, local businesses can offer a similar ease of use that cuts through the larger competitors.

Web Presence

One of the biggest things that sets a big corporation aside is their web presence. It’s not just how good their SEO is, or where they drop on a Google search, but more the interactivity on their site. Let’s take something closer to home. Say, Home Depot. From one site, I can find the product I’m looking for, compare vendors, find out if it’s in stock and at which store, make a list of the parts I need to do a job, even find out what aisle and shelf it’s on. When I go down there, I’m in and out.

Every SMB that wants (or needs) to compete with this type of monster should invest a lot in their website. This doesn’t necessarily need to be cost prohibitive however. Little changes mean a lot. A simple relational database integration between supply and a web based inventory system can be cheaper than you think. Online E-Commerce is also pretty affordable. If you ship product, consider a shipping integration that allows the customer to create a UPS or FedEx ticket on order.

If you can’t put every product on your website, consider a “featured product of the week”. Highlight some of the hot sellers and keep changing it up. This will allow you to stand out and show off your product line. You don’t need to be an expert web developer to update this daily.

Integrated Calling

One of the best parts of working with SMB is the experience when calling in for something. When you call a local or smaller company and you usually get a human right away that can answer your questions and take ownership of the issue. Call a major corporation like Amazon or Home Depot and you’re likely to have to dial an 800 number, answer 7 choices from a menu, get transferred three times and eventually get someone who can help you.

In order to offer fast and complete service on the phone, a Voice over IP (VOIP)  system can offer some great features to make sure you don’t miss a call and that your calling is integrated with your normal office applications like CRM, Email, Scheduling and even mobile phones.

You don’t need to buy an inordinate amount of infrastructure and equipment to take advantage of this system either. A Hosted VoIP system is a monthly service that provides everything you need. You pay a simple monthly rate for each extension and plug the phone in like a computer. Everything is configured by a web based interface.

If you have many different departments, a simple Auto Attendant can get the caller to the right department. If you have experts that are away from their desk or on the phone a lot, a good call routing plan can make sure incoming calls are sent to several phone at once, forwarded to mobile phones, even group voicemails and send to a team email.

Sales organizations benefit a lot from this. CRM & scheduling systems linked with outgoing calls can track call volume and conversion rates.

Business Analytics

Most businesses keep track of internal data. For example a property manager is likely to be tracking lease terminations and they’re probably tracking repairs. But what if they could equate lease terminations to repairs? If a lot of leases are not renewed in a building that has a high repair rate, maybe people are moving out because things don’t work right. This would help determine if renovations are in order and cost-justify it.

Most businesses do marketing events of some kind, but how many of them know if those events are paying off? A simple tracking and analysis of event costs to conversion rates can tell you.

Communication is Key

There’s another thing big business has over smaller ones. They become a household name. If I say buy online, you immediately think Amazon.

I’m not saying you need to spam everyone to death here. By you do need to give your customers enough of a reminder that you exist and care about them to keep yourself at the top of their list. Customer Resource Management can help you to know who you’re talking to and about what. This customizable system allows you to track opportunities, events, follow up and even sales pipelines without a lot of work. A CRM that is integrated with Email and Phones can solve the problem of people not putting data into CRM.

Other products like Sidekick or Constant Contact can help you determine the popularity of your emails and ensure that an important email thread isn’t dropped. Sometimes it only takes a day for a prospective customer to buy a service from someone else even though you’ve had an ongoing conversation with them.

None of these need to be exorbitant and costly systems. It’s simply a matter of keeping your technology aligned with the business. This systemic approach will help you get your IT costs under control, streamline your operations and most importantly, help you gain a competitive edge over the larger competition.


Free yourself from the worry of technology and get back to running your business today!