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Q&A with Don Monistere, President of General Informatics

We had some time to catch up, drink coffee and ask a few questions with the President here at General Informatics, Don Monistere.
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Meet Don Monistere

Involved in Information Technology since the early 90’s, Don Monistere served as the CEO and President of Vista Information Systems from 93-2008, At TekLinks from 2008 to 2017 serving as the President the last two years before being Acquired by CSpire.  While at TekLinks, Don also ran the Cyber-Security practice. His tenure as President of General Informatics, one of the fastest growing Managed Service Providers in the Southeast, began in 2020.

Read on to see what Don has to say about strategic planning, technology changes, and hot topics in the IT world.

What are some strategies my company can use to make sure we keep up with constantly changing technology?

Don Monistere (President, General Informatics): While this might sound self-serving, contracting with a reputable IT provider in your area is extremely important to ensure that you stay on top of the ever-changing technology landscape. Your current IT staff may be experts in the technology you have today, but they are primarily focused on stability and up-time of the network. As a result, they rarely have the bandwidth to seek ways to innovate business processes through new technology. Companies like General Informatics, whose sole purpose is to help businesses succeed through technology, are constantly seeking the latest technology innovations available. From our highly skilled engineering staff to our customer success managers, our staff consistently attends training sessions and conferences all over the country to stay on top of the latest trends. This allows us to take a more strategic approach to information technology as opposed to merely reacting to a customer’s network problems or aging infrastructure.

What types of technology-related products and services are a "must" for any small business?

Monistere: Cloud computing is all the rage. You can’t watch television without hearing something about the cloud. But what does this really mean? In a nutshell, this means utilizing remote computing services that can be consumed in a pay-as-you-go model. Granting access to the latest technology without enormous outlays of precious capital, this is essential for small and medium-sized businesses. Additionally, it allows companies to scale as they grow, so they only pay for what they need, when they need it. As soon as a company can begin consuming in a managed cloud service model, they should.

How can technology help my company be more effective, save money and improve revenue?

Monistere: As mentioned earlier, the pay-as-you-go model works well for companies that could experience slow growth, or more importantly, hyper-growth. In the past, you had to guess at what you thought the demand for technology might be. As a result, companies would over-buy to account for potential growth. In contrast, a managed and cloud services model compensates for the speed at which your company is growing or contracting. Additionally, data is king in today’s world — and the quicker you input that data, the faster it can be monetized. Allowing employees to connect from anywhere on any device utilizing Server 365 enables small- and medium-sized businesses to securely input and access data quickly and conveniently.

What are some of the key components of an overall IT strategy?

Monistere: There are 3 main areas that an IT strategy should include:

  1. Application and Application management. Which applications are you using? Which ones need investments to improve? Which applications will be retired? The applications that we interface with every day must be strategically planned to ensure efficiency within your workforce.
  2. Access. Which users can access the corporate assets and from where? What rights will each user have? It is vital to know which employees have access to what information at all times. Companies can use a tool like Server 365 to provide secure device management and connectivity, ensuring company information is protected.
  3. Security and Data Protection. To what degree should we replicate and protect our data? Backups, firewalls, intrusion detection, and disaster recovery must all be addressed here. Corporate data is an asset and must be protected appropriately.

What are some roles technology can play at a company that some businesses don't often consider?

Monistere: Information technology is often an afterthought once the strategic plan is devised as opposed to alongside it. The IT department or outsourced IT provider should participate in strategic planning sessions as you discuss innovation within your organization. Rarely, if ever, are product or service improvements successfully achieved without changes or planning in IT.  At General Informatics, we have highly-trained Customer Success Managers that are strategists helping to guide you through the planning phases. As a result, we'll make sure there is alignment between the innovation you wish to usher in to your products and services and the IT infrastructure needed to accomplish it.

What are some key steps companies should take to protect their technology, particularly in terms of cybersecurity?

Monistere: This is an extremely hot topic, and very few companies have a great strategy in place to handle cybersecurity threats. Here are a few areas companies should focus on:

Asses the current state of your technology.
Deep scans of server and workstation data are crucial to verify no malware or exploits currently exist in your network. If someone already compromised your system, beefing up security is ineffective until the problem is dealt with. Afterwards, mitigate any exploits or vulnerabilities found in the assessment phase.

Protect the system
This is accomplished by using strategies including policies around usernames and passwords. Two-factor authentication, utilization of a firewall appliance or software, and use of virus and malware scanners are effective in this area.

Monitor and Threat Detection.
Ongoing threat detection is vital in today’s connected network of environments. Assuring those who are trying to gain access to your network are verified users who have been granted permission is key.

Educate your staff
Educating staff on phishing attempts and how to avoid malware infection is a crucial step that is often overlooked.

My company doesn’t have a huge budget for technology spending. Are there any cost-effective strategies that can make sure my company remains competitive in terms of IT?

Monistere: There are many ways a company can remain extremely cost-conscious. Hardware has become very affordable today. Costs generally increase when labor and software licensing enters the conversation. Not all companies have massive IT budgets and should consider low- or no-cost software applications to run their operation. These applications can migrate to a more enterprise class software as the company’s IT budget grows. Another way to both manage and predict your IT cost is to utilize an IT company that charges a flat rate for all-in IT services. This means hardware and software licensing is bundled into the price. Learn more about General Informatics IT Management & Support.

Aside from cybersecurity threats, what are some other caution areas for companies when it comes to technology?

Monistere: The main caution area outside of security is backup and disaster recovery. That's why it's a must to have a solid strategy for backing up data that includes offsite cloud backup as well as onsite physical backup. This ensures multiple copies of your data are at-the-ready in the event of data loss or an unplanned outage. Add a plan around recovery in the event of a disaster, and you will have the main concerns for IT covered.

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