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How to make a pitch deck

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What is a pitch deck?

The pitch deck is a presentation that entrepreneurs put together when seeking a round of financing from investors. On average pitch decks have no more than 19 slides.

As described in my book, The Art of Startup Fundraising, ultimately founders need two different sets of pitch decks. One version will be with a lot of text and information which will be shared with people via email. The other version will be the pitch deck that entrepreneurs present to investors in person with more visuals. Having more visuals will contribute to having investors focused on you.

A demo day presentation, for example, should be very visual and contain very little text. It’s going to be seen from afar and you’re going to do all the talking. On the other hand, a pitch presentation that you’re planning to email should be completely self explanatory. It’s going to be seen on a laptop monitor, so small font is not so bad.

In these cases it’s also very useful to track your investor’s activity on the presentation, to figure out if they actually read the 100% of the slides; this can be critical when determining the frequency for follow up emails. In our case, it was key to raising our most recent round of funding. A number of pitch deck platforms offer this as a feature.

Get the necessary tools

There are a lot of ways to create your pitch deck. You can use Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, which are both readily available. Keynote is free on Apple computers. If you’re using an iPad or just want a simple way to create a pitch deck online, Canva is an excellent tool. It has pre-designed templates that you can customize. Your pitch also gets saved to your online account so you can work on it anywhere. I’m a big fan of Canva, so I’ll be using it for this step-by-step tutorial. You can follow along and create your pitch deck in any program of your choice.

Putting together your deck

Slide 1: Logo/Mission/Positioning Line/Founders
  • This slide is your elevator pitch. In 15-20 seconds or less, you should convey a sense of excitement, while getting across to investors that you are “investment ready.” For best results, make this emotive, using images and logos where you can. Use your positioning line to convey your mission and vision.
  • If you’re an unknown quantity to these investors, describe your management team upfront, being honest about skill gaps (Keep in mind that it’s a lot riskier for investors to invest in a solo founder versus in a team of at least 2).
Slide 2: The Problem We Solve
  • Keep this one simple: zero in on the core problem and clearly state it.
Slide 3: The Solution
  • You want to “show rather than tell,” by focusing on how users interact with your solution and offering examples. Again, using images (for instance a screenshot of your software) or logos to take investors through a process flow will make you more effective and convey necessary information in the most efficient way.
Slide 4: The Market Size
  • This is the first slide where VCs can assess whether your team members are product people only or whether they also demonstrate business experience and savvy. You need to demonstrate an understanding/analysis of the true market size and not just paint a picture of a huge total addressable market. Hit it out of the park by helping investors quantify the investment potential of the market niche you plan to hone in on.
Slide 5: The Product/Technology Architecture
  • Show how your solution works from the user perspective and how everything (API, algorithms, etc.) ties together.
Slide 6: IP/Defensibility/Scalability Chart
  • Describe this as concisely as you can, but be sure to answer: Where’s the differentiator? What makes your IP defensible? What’s your strategy for protecting it (patents, trademarks, other)? How will it scale?
Slide 7: Go To Market/Distribution
  • Cover basic blocking and tackling here by explaining how you’ll go to market/distribute your product. You need to have a handle on cost and be prepared to answer questions re strategies for each stage as well as the relative cost-intensity of different options.
Slide 8: Competitor Matrix
  • Don’t dismiss competitors. The good thing about having them is that it validates the market for your product/solution!
  • The key thing to convey is that you’re informed and in touch with the market. Use a matrix to show competitors’ weaknesses and strengths and your distinctive advantage.
Slide 9: Revenue Projections
  • The best way to get behind the numbers is by creating a bottom-up forecast so that you clearly understand the operating expenses, customer acquisition costs, and people resources required to execute your plan.
  • Then, be sure you know your assumptions cold (these can go in an appendix) and are able to speak to them.
Slide 10: The Advisors
  • Advisors are important, especially if you don’t have much of a management team in place yet. Why? They give you confidence and, when the going gets tough, a supportive shoulder.
  • Look for advisors you personally like and can professionally benefit from. Give them a little equity (up to ¼ of 1%), lock them in for 12-24 months, and set clear objectives (for example, ½ day a month of their time or x number of introductions) and demonstrable quantitative results for their involvement.
Slide 11: Use of Funds
  • Have a realistic sense of the right amount of money to raise: enough to get you to the next critical inflection point. In other words, milestone funding. That means aiming for an amount that will give you 12-18 months of runway, including a cushion for pivots and delays. If you’re struggling with this, your advisors, including accountant or CFO, can help you size a round.
  • Put your ask upfront. Know that for A or B rounds with VCs, you will be giving up at least 20% of your equity. This could rise to 35-40% if you’re looking to get a meaningful round done.
Slide 12: Exit Strategy
  • Not every deck includes this, but presenting your strategy shows investors you’re thinking ahead to eventually monetizing the business and returning their money with a premium.

 

we here at MECH are experts at pitch deck design let us know how far along your company is maybe we can help

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Model posing 101

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Posing can be a struggle both to the model and the photographer. This is because some of the less-experienced model tends to wait for the direction of the photographer before striking a pose. They normally freeze in front of the camera and are mostly clueless on what to do. This situation makes it difficult and troublesome for the photographer to produce good photos.

The preparation for any modeling job starts even before the photo shoot. You need to be aware on what kind of shoot it is. You can start looking at the related fashion magazine on the type of pose that they are doing. Not all of the tips here will work for everyone since the right kind of pose will vary in every genre.

1. Your Mirror is Your Friend

Stand in front of your mirror, take a pose and see how you highlight the shape of your body. The mirror is an ideal tool to show you the thing that the camera can produce. Consider the features and things that can be seen depending on the angle. For instance, in case you put your feet closer to the lens, then there is a possibility that your feet will look larger in the photo.

2. Create a Space on Your Limbs and Body

Squashing your limbs closer to your body will make you appear look fat. Separating your limbs from your body will also create a slimmer appearance. This is a tiny cheat in the modeling world that can make a huge difference.

3. Understand the Light

For instance, in case you raise your arm on the light, it will basically look brighter compared to your face. There is also a possibility that it will cast shadow on your face and body. A simple way to counteract this is by using your other arm. You may also adjust your arm backward to avoid the casting of the shadow. Having an understanding on how the lighting falls is a basic necessity in modeling. Ask the photographer about the key light and think about how you can work with it.

4. Elongate the Neck

In order to show class, poise, and height, elongating your neck would be a great solution. It is also one of the most difficult things to remember when modeling since this action feels a bit unnatural. Look in front of the mirror and stand in a normal position. Let you face come forward by rolling your shoulder backward. By now you have seen the huge difference in the neck’s width. You may even advance your pose by popping the jaw in front of the camera to create shadow that will highlight your jaw line.

Hopefully, the modeling tips that we provided above can provide some help for our aspiring models. These are just some of the tricks that most professional models wish they knew when they were just starting out.

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Music video production 101

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Creating a music video

Creating a music video can cost next to nothing, or it can be tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cheapest option is for musicians to do it themselves or have a friend or relative do it for free. However, they will get what they pay for. A professional video production company has a lot to offer and costs can vary widely. Costs depend on the video concept, how many crew member are needed, gear requirements, location(s), editing and post-production work.

Concept

The concept of a music video can be a huge component of the overall cost. The cheapest option is a simple performance video in a single location such as a club or practice space. Concept videos involving effects, locations, costume changes, props and complicated camerawork, among other things, can cost a lot more.

Personnel

Making a professional music video requires several key crew members, including a director, camera operators, lighting experts, makeup artists and sometimes even cast members. All of these crew members cost money. Many music video production companies offer a package deal that includes all cast, crew, equipment, planning, editing and post-production for one price. Crew members typically work on a half-day or all-day basis. In many cases, the cost of feeding crew members is part of the overall price.

Gear

Video equipment is expensive, and most video production companies account for the cost of acquiring and maintaining cameras, lights and other gear in their pricing structure. If a company has higher quality gear, production costs tend to be more expensive. Many production companies will have the necessary gear on hand, but depending on the needs of the production, they might need to rent it at a daily or weekly rate. The longer the rental, the lower the daily rate will be.

Location

Locations for video shoots outside of a musician’s own house or studio need to be reserved for at least a day. The cost of location rental fees varies depending on the specifics of the location. Some public locations require paid permits. Shooting in multiple locations adds to the cost quickly because the crew needs to pack up, travel and set up again, which takes quite a bit of time.

Editing and post-production

Once all of the footage is shot, an editor must turn it all into a finished video. Editors typically work on an hourly basis. Post-production includes color correction, audio mastering and other fine-tuning to create the finished piece. These tasks are usually billed by the hour as well.

Cost-saving strategies

A video of you or your band playing live at a venue can save serious money on locations and lighting. Go with a simple concept that can be easily and inexpensively achieved. Have a student shoot your video as a class project. Shoot the video on your own property to save on location costs.

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How to create a Music EPK – Electronic Press Kit

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1. Bio

High on the priority list for your press kit; give promoters, fans, and organisers something interesting to read about you, but make it concise.

This is the first place you should start; practically everyone (even a non-DJ) has a nice profile photo somewhere on the internet, but make a well-written bio, and you’re already set apart from the millions of people online. Make two versions; one that fits in a single paragraph (essentially a tl;dr version for the interwebs), and a long form one that PR writers and organisers can cherry-pick bits about you.

Important tip: If you have a hard time writing, have it done professionally. It pays for itself in a sea of grammatically incorrect and poorly written “About Me’s”.

2. Photos

No matter how many photo sets you take, make sure you’ve got an option for each one of them in a white background in PNG format. This makes it easier for promoters to crop you out and place your photo on a show poster.

I’m not talking about a thumbnail-sized headshot or a jpeg your grandma took with her one-megapixel camera: Book yourself a studio and a photographer and have professional, high-resolution photographs of you done. You’ll be surprised at how affordable it is to do so these days, and you’ll even be more surprised at how a pro’s eye can make you look your best. Trust me: You don’t have to look like a chiseled cover model to look decent in a photograph.

If you’ve got extra cash to burn, consult a freelance stylist to help you pick out clothes that fit your look and body type (there’s a flattering look for everyone!). For the ladies, you may also want to get a makeup artist depending on the style of the spread that you’re shooting. These are the extra details that really turn a good photo into a great one, and you’ll always want to look your best in these photos as these are going to be your representation on all those event invites and festival posters!

Also include a couple of live performance photos of you doing your thing behind the decks. If you’ve got experience playing in large events and destination shows, make sure to put photos that show you and your audience: These days, practically anyone can DJ, but not everyone can rock a crowd!

Important tip:  Always have a version of each photograph with a white background in PNG format. This makes it easier for clients to crop you out of the photo and place you on their posters. Also, don’t put any photos that are more than three years old; you’ll have looked quite different by now (looking even better, hopefully!).

3. Music

Include at least either a SoundCloud or a Mixcloud link in your press kit. Don’t have one or the other? Time to start signing up, you’re getting left behind.

You’re a DJ, of course you’ve got to have some music in your press kit. Embed links to your last three mixtapes and remixes / edits / mash-ups (if any). For your downloadable press kit or USB thumb drive, include properly-tagged MP3s with full album artwork, contact details, and relevant links to your Mixcloud / SoundCloud pages. The idea is that whenever someone plays your file, that person should be able to know where to get in touch by looking at the info.

Important tip: Make sure that these are updated regularly to reflect your current style / genre so promoters know what they’re getting when they book you. This also gets you in the habit of making regular mixtapes and productions, which is always a good thing. Ever heard anyone regret making a proper mixtape? Exactly my point.

4. Video

Include a clip of you DJing, either in private or at a gig. Both give folks a chance to see “how” you perform, not just what you sound like.

Make sure you’ve got video links in your press kit, whether it’s a clip of your live performances, or a music / lyric video for one of your tracks. Don’t have any videos? Make one! Better yet, hire someone to put together a simple video containing a montage of gig photos strung together with music that you play in the background. If you want to save a couple of dollars and get really personal, shoot a quick video of yourself DJing and / or talking on-cam using something like a GoPro (a hi-res phone cam like the iPhone will do).

Important tip: The videos have to be shareable; get them up on YouTube for easy access should organisers want to include them in promos. As part of your downloadable / USB press kit, have them in high-resolution MP4 files; MOV and AVI files are just too big, unless you’re handing out DVDs with your press kit burned on them.

5. Social media links / contact

Make it a point to only include social media accounts that you update regularly. Having too many links with outdated platforms will send promoters on a wild goose chase with dead ends.

This is a biggie: Add your social media accounts in this section, but only put ones that you update regularly, and by “regularly” I mean something you’ve posted to in the last 7 to 14 days. There’s no point adding in a site that has content from two years ago as your “latest post”, so only add accounts here that you visit and update frequently (at least a Faceboook page or Twitter account).

For the contacts section, put details on how to book you, which should include your e-mail address and a mobile phone number at the very least. If you’ve got someone else handling your bookings, make sure to indicate that. This is also where you can put your homepage / blog URL.

Important tip: It bears repeating; don’t put social media links that you don’t regularly use, it’ll just make you look like you’re cluelessly trying out all the platforms out there. Always remember that quality over quantity is key in any online communication

6. Biggest shows / press

Include the biggest, most important shows you’ve played at in your press kit while slowly filtering out the less popular ones as you gain more gig experience. This allows you to maintain an increasingly impressive portfolio while preventing it from turning into a litany.

Finally, include a shortlist of your most important shows to date. People don’t have time to go through a page full of forgettable bars and unheard-of productions, so whittle it down until you’ve got 10 to 15 of your most important, most popular, and most impressive performances. If blogs, magazines, and other press have covered or reviewed your music or shows in the past, include them here by lifting a quotable passage or two, not the entire blog posts or articles where they came from.

Important tip: Aside from your live gig photos and videos, this is the section where would-be clients will be checking out both your experience and reputation as a DJ, and for many this will either secure your next show or get you passed on. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of gig experience to list here yet. That comes with time, so what you should be working on is improving your skills, expanding your network, and gigging.

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The 5 Project management phases

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Project Initiation

PI® increases team efficiency, improves processes and makes collaboration easy through every stage of the project life cycle. Formalize your process for internal project requests or introduce project proposals for clients with personalized forms.

An idea for a project will be carefully examined to determine whether or not it benefits the organization. During this phase, a decision making team will identify if the project can realistically be completed.

  • Project Requests
  • Project Prioritization Scorecard
  • Approval Flows

Project Planning

Strategize the scope of your project PI® templates. Our intelligent scheduling and resource management features help you to visualize and develop a plan for successful project delivery. Baselines ensure you always know when the plan changes.

A project plan, project charter and/or project scope may be put in writing, outlining the work to be performed. During this phase, a team should prioritize the project, calculate a budget and schedule, and determine what resources are needed.

  • Scope & Budget
  • Project Schedule
  • Resource Planning

Project Launch

When your team is ready to launch, PI® helps you manage and control every project. Use project statuses to keep your workflow organized. Efficiently delegate tasks and be proactive in addressing issues or risks within your team.

Resources’ tasks are distributed and teams are informed of responsibilities. This is a good time to bring up important project related information.

  • Status & Tracking
  • Issue & Risk Tracking

Project Performance

Easily evaluate project performance & milestones with PI®. Get real-time insights about plans versus actuals to make sure all objectives and deliverables are met. All users get instant visibility with our dynamic reporting and robust permissions.

Project managers will compare project status and progress to the actual plan, as resources perform the scheduled work. During this phase, project managers may need to adjust schedules or do what is necessary to keep the project on track.

  • Objectives
  • Quality Deliverables
  • Performance

Project Closing

After project tasks are completed and the client has approved the outcome, an evaluation is necessary to highlight project success and/or learn from project history.

Project managers will compare project status and progress to the actual plan, as resources perform the scheduled work. During this phase, project managers may need to adjust schedules or do what is necessary to keep the project on track.

  • Objectives
  • Quality Deliverables
  • Performance

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How Much does a mobile app cost really?

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How much does it cost to make an app?

Generally, the cost of making a mobile app ranges extremely: from total zero to unbelievably expensive price that could reach millions. Although, frankly there is no simple answer to this inquiry due to multiple factors at play. Different developer rates, project complexity and time it takes to build an app impact the cost of making a mobile application. The price to make an app depends on the following aspects:

  • type (mobile game, business, social networking, lifestyle. etc.)
  • platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.)
  • design (basic, individual, custom)
  • number of pages
  • features & infrastructure

If we split mobile apps into 3 categories in regards to complexity (simple, moderate, complex), and take 2 kinds of hourly rates into account, this is how much app costs to make approximately:

Complexity Notes Time, h Cost at $50 rate Cost at $100 rate
Simple No API integration, no back-end, standard UI components, simple features like email subscription, social login, calendar, etc. 400 20,000 40,000
Moderate Custom UI features, payment features, API integration, headsets and tablets adaptation, back-end server. 500-800 40,000 80,000
Complex Multi-language support, 3rd-party integrations, custom animations, complicated back-end, professional design, real-time features. 800-1500 75,000 150,000

Cost of developer team to create an app

Even a small application should be done by a team, not by one person, so it will provide a better user experience. It would be much faster and much more qualitative in the end, because everyone is engaged and responsible for their own part of the project. Surely, complex applications require more people to be involved in the development process.

A basic development team may include:

  • Project manager
  • Programmer
  • UI/UX designer
  • QA engineer

Extended development team:

  • 1 project manager
  • 2-4 app developers
  • 1 back-end developer
  • 1-2 UI/UX designers
  • 1 QA engineer
  • 1 system administrator

Duties and cost are represented in the table below.

Team member Duties Hourly cost
Project manager Prevents any miscommunication and misconduct within the team to avoid pitfalls and abide by deadlines. $20+
Developer Writes the code of an app, integrates it with the data source and fixes bugs. $30+
Back-end developer Ensures that the application, the database and the server communicate with each other in a right way and the whole app works correctly. $25+
Designer Works on how an app interface would be laid out and how it would be felt by users. Solves different optimization tasks. $15+
Tester Monitors each part of the app,  controls code and design quality, ensures the end-product meets all project requirements. $20+

Skipping all the factors in cost breakdown, a median price to create an app is $171,450, according to a Clutch survey. Online app cost calculators name a price tag between $200,000 and $350,000 for an app with dozens of features. While typical cost range stated by app development companies is $100,000 – $500,000. But no need to panic – small apps with few basic features could cost between $10,000 and $50,000, so there’s an opportunity for any type of business.

The cost of app design

Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object, system or measurable human interaction – this is what we find in Wikipedia. A famous quote from Steve Jobs adds that design is not just what it looks like and feels like, design is how it works. In mobile app development design implies aspects like visual design, user interfaces and UX, logos, icons, branding, wireframes, etc.

 

App design is an integral part of the cost to make an app. What are the factors impacting it?

  • Designer
    If you want to hire a professional senior designer,  be ready to pay up to $150 per hour or even more. At the same time, a less experienced designer can take only $45/hour.
  • Geography
    The cost of designers for hire in different parts of the world varies: USA & Canada – $50-250 per hour, Australia – $50-$150, Western Europe &UK – $35-170, Eastern Europe – $25-150, Asia – $10-80.
  • Complexity
    Simple app design cost starts from $5,000 (examples Pomodoro Timer, Flashlight), medium complexity app design starts from $10,000 (e.g. Journey, WhatsApp), complex app design from $25,000 (e.g. Facebook, Evernote).
  • iOS or Android
    iPhone varies from only $3,000 to $10,000, while design for Android phones may cost about $4,000 to $12,500.

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7 things branding strategies for my small business / startup?

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Take Care of Your Customers

“The least expensive way to get the word out about your brand is by focusing on your customer’s experience. It seems simple, but you’d be surprised at how many companies don’t put customers first. When customers feel well-taken care of, they tell others about your company. Customer testimonials and referrals that are genuine get way more attention than anything else.”

Use Facebook Remarketing and Interest Targeting

“Facebook ads allows small businesses to reach new interest-based audiences at more manageable prices than Google AdWords. Well-executed Facebook ad campaigns can have CPCs that are significantly lower with higher conversion rates. If the KPI is branding, then Facebook can expose your business to a large number of people, and when you combine with remarketing, you can gain instant visibility.”

Get a Mantra

“A mantra is an extension of your brand; it’s what you stand for. It communicates to both your customers and employees what your company is about. At Men’s Style Lab our mantra is to create effortless style. This is in both our tagline and our core values. If the things we do don’t make style effortless, than we’ve lost focus on our customer experience (brand), and we’re wasting our time and energy.”

Be Consistent With Your Branding

“If you’re going to brand a certain way, whether it’s fonts, colors or typography, stay consistent throughout all branding efforts — and stick with it.  “

Craft an Elevator Pitch

“When you’re first starting to promote your startup, the best way to do so is through word of mouth — your mouth. When you attend networking events and expos, make sure you have a consistent elevator pitch for the various clients or consumers you hope to attract to your business.”

Be Yourself

“When our company first started off, my business partner and I hid our biggest asset, which was a crazy, fan-girly passion for music.  We didn’t want to seem overzealous or unprofessional. However, we one day realized that this was what made us special and started being to be ourselves in our pitch meetings. This is when our business started to exponentially accelerate!”

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IG Modeling 101- 5 tips

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1. #HASHTAGS #HASHTAGS #HASHTAGS

Beginning with the pound (#) symbol, a hashtag on social media is a link that connects messages from multiple users under the topic of a phrase or an idea. The tool was predominantly used on Instagram and Twitter, but is now used on most social media platforms.

Modelling agencies will use Instagram to scout potential models by searching an existing hashtag, so including them in your Instagram upload is important. Equally as important is knowing which hashtags to use. Below is a list of the most active and relevant hashtags for the budding Australian model on Instagram:

  • #scoutme
  • #getscouted
  • #scoutmechadwick
  • #willyscouts
  • #imgmodelscout
  • #vscouted
  • #chadwickmodels
  • #imgmodels
  • #giantmgmt
  • #viviensmodelmanagement
  • #priscillasmodels
  • #chicgirls

2. MAKE YOUR PROFILE PUBLIC AND PROFESSIONAL

For hashtags to work, modelling agencies have to be able to view and peruse your account. It is important your Instagram account is set to public, not private for this to happen.

Because your profile would be able to be seen by anyone and everyone, it is important to see the platform as a professional space. Continue to upload everyday pictures, but be mindful that language and content could be being seen by a potential employer – so cater for this.

Additionally, relevant personal information should then be available and put in your bio on Instagram. Your email and living location are important pieces of information for perspective modelling agencies to contact you.

 3.CREATE CREATIVE CONTENT

Modelling agencies should be able to get an insight into your personality and image when on your Instagram, so uploading content that reflects who you are is important. Creating a niche for yourself and marketing yourself as something different to everyone else on Instagram is important when getting scouted on Instagram. That being said, it is equally important to upload a variety of images to express your versatility. Photos that focus on your facial features, body shape and your ability to pose in different environments are all aspects that modelling agencies search for. Before you decide to make your Instagram a professional space, consider what tone and aesthetic you’d like your profile to follow.

4. GROW YOUR FOLLOWERS

Because Instagram and social reach has become such a strong marketing tool in the modelling industry, modelling agencies have started recruiting not only models but influencers too. Having a large following on social media platforms is very advantageous and can help you get scouted on Instagram quicker.

Implementing some of the tips we’ve already mentioned in this article will definitely help increase your follower count. A public profile, appealing content and hashtags will all garner attention to your page. This is often what aspiring freelance models do, uploading a photo with a brand’s product in it and tagging the relevant parties in hopes the brand will see the image. Social media reach is now understood to be lucrative for brands and you could be more appealing as a model with a high follower count.

5. UTILISE DIRECT MESSAGES

A last option is to direct message the Instagram pages of modelling agencies. Direct message, or DM as it’s commonly abbreviated to, is the message tab underneath an Instagram profile. Pressing this will take you to a screen in which you can write a personal message that can go directly to the user behind the Instagram page. Some modelling agencies have it written in their Instagram bios that they prefer potential models to direct message them, but others might not have it specified. When direct messaging a modelling agency off Instagram, attach two small size images of you and a quick message. Always do your research and make sure you are contacting the authorised Instagram pages of the modelling agencies you’re interested in. Lastly, be patient. If you do not hear back, remain professional and pursue other agencies. You may not be exactly the look they’re after, but every agency is looking for different things. Don’t give up!

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Building a Successful Service Level Agreement

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SLAs capture the business objectives and define how success will be measured, and are ideally structured to evolve with the customer’s foreseeable needs. The right approach to an SLA results in agreements that are distinguished by clear, simple language, a tight focus on business objectives, and ones that consider the dynamic nature of the business to ensure evolving needs will be met.

1. Both the Client and Vendor Must Structure the SLA

Structuring an SLA is an important, multiple-step process involving both the client and the vendor. In order to successfully meet business objectives, SLA best practices dictate that the vendor and client collaborate to conduct a detailed assessment of the client’s existing applications suite, new IT initiatives, internal processes, and currently delivered baseline service levels.

2. Analyze Technical Goals & Constraints

The best way to start analyzing technical goals and constraints is to brainstorm or research technical goals and requirements. Technical goals include availability levels, throughput, jitter, delay, response time, scalability requirements, new feature introductions, new application introductions, security, manageability, and even cost. Start prioritizing the goals or lowering expectations that can still meet business requirements.

For example, you might have an availability level of 99.999% or 5 minutes of downtime per year. There are numerous constraints to achieving this goal, such as single points of failure in hardware, mean time to repair (MTTR), broken hardware in remote locations, carrier reliability, proactive fault detection capabilities, high change rates, and current network capacity limitations. As a result, you may adjust the goal to a more achievable level.

3. Determine the Availability Budget

An availability budget is the expected theoretical availability of the network between two defined points. Accurate theoretical information is useful in several ways, including:

  • The organization can use this as a goal for internal availability and deviations can be quickly defined and remedied.
  • The information can be used by network planners in determining the availability of the system to help ensure the design will meet business requirements.

Factors that contribute to non-availability or outage time include hardware failure, software failure, power and environmental issues, link or carrier failure, network design, human error, or lack of process. You should closely evaluate each of these parameters when evaluating the overall availability budget for the network.

4. Application Profiles

contractApplication profiles help the networking organization understand and define network service level requirements for individual applications. This helps to ensure that the network supports individual application requirements and network services overall.

Business applications may include e-mail, file transfer, Web browsing, medical imaging, or manufacturing. System applications may include software distribution, user authentication, network backup, and network management.

The goal of the application profile is to understand business requirements for the application, business criticality, and network requirements such as bandwidth, delay, and jitter. In addition, the networking organization should understand the impact of network downtime.

5. Availability and Performance Standards

Availability and performance standards set the service expectations for the organization. These may be defined for different areas of the network or specific applications. Performance may also be defined in terms of round-trip delay, jitter, maximum throughput, bandwidth commitments, and overall scalability. In addition to setting the service expectations, the organization should also take care to define each of the service standards so that user and IT groups working with networking fully understand the service standard and how it relates to their application or server administration requirements.

6. Metrics and Monitoring

Service level definitions by themselves are worthless unless the organization collects metrics and monitors success. Measuring the service level determines whether the organization is meeting objectives, and also identifies the root cause of availability or performance issues.

7. Customer Business Needs and Goals

Try to understand the cost of downtime for the customer’s service. Estimate in terms of lost productivity, revenue, and customer goodwill. The SLA developer should also understand the business goals and growth of the organization in order to accommodate network upgrades, workload, and budgeting.

8. Performance Indicator Metrics

Metrics are simply tools that allow network managers to manage service level consistency and to make improvements according to business requirements. Unfortunately, many organizations do not collect availability, performance, and other metrics. Organizations attribute this to the inability to provide complete accuracy, cost, network overhead, and available resources. These factors can impact the ability to measure service levels, but the organization should focus on the overall goals to manage and improve service levels.

In summary, service level management allows an organization to move from a reactive support model to a proactive support model where network availability and performance levels are determined by business requirements, not by the latest set of problems. The process helps create an environment of continuous service level improvement and increased business competitiveness.

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IT Infrastructure Defined

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Techopedia Explains

IT infrastructure consists of all components that somehow play a role in overall IT and IT-enabled operations. It can be used for internal business operations or developing customer IT or business solutions.

Typically, a standard IT infrastructure consists of the following components:

  • Hardware: Servers, computers, data centers, switches, hubs and routers, and other equipment
  • Software: Enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), productivity applications and more
  • Network: Network enablement, internet connectivity, firewall and security
  • Meatware: Human users, such as network administrators (NA), developers, designers and end users with access to any IT appliance or service are also part of an IT infrastructure, specifically with the advent of user-centric IT service developmen

Here is a BMC breakdown of the pieces involved

Switching

A network switch is the device that provides connectivity between network devices on a Local Area Network (LAN). A switch contains several ports that physically connect to other network devices – including other switches, routers and servers. Early networks used bridges, in which each device “saw” the traffic of all other devices on the network. Switches allow two devices on the network to talk to each other without having to forward that traffic to all devices on the network.

Routers

Routers move packets between networks. Routing allows devices separated on different LAN’s to talk to each other by determining the next “hop” that will allow the network packet to eventually get to its destination.

If you have ever manually configured your IP address on a workstation, the default gateway value that you keyed in was the IP address of your router.

Firewalls

Firewalls are security devices at the edge of the network. The firewall can be thought of as the guardian or gatekeeper.

A set of rules defines what types of network traffic will be allowed through the firewall and what will be blocked.

In the simplest version of a firewall, rules can be created which allow a specific port and /or protocol for traffic from one device (or a group of devices) to a device or group of devices. For example: if you want to host your own web server and only limit it to only web traffic, you would typically have two firewall rules that look something like this:

Source Destination Port / Protocol Description
any 10.1.1.100 80 / http Web traffic in
any 10.1.1.100 443/ https Secure web traffic in

The source is the originating device. In this case, any means ‘allow any computer to communicate’. Destination is the specific IP address of your internal web server. Port/Protocol defines what type of traffic is allowed from the source to the destination. Most firewall devices allow for a description for each rule that have no effect on the rule itself. It is used only for notes.

Firewall devices can get complicated quickly. There are many different types of firewalls which approach managing traffic in different ways. Detailed firewall capabilities and methods are beyond the scope of this post.

Servers

A network server is simply just another computer but usually larger in terms of resources than what most people think of. A server allows multiple users to access and share its resources. There are several types of servers.

  • Perhaps the most common type of server is a file server. A file server provides end users with a centralized location to store files. When configured correctly, file servers can allow or prevent specific users to access files.
  • Another common type of server is a directory server. A directory server provides a central database of user accounts that can be used by several computers. This allows centralized management of user accounts which are used to access server resources.
  • Perhaps the most common type of server is a web server. Web servers use HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) to provide files to users through a web browser.
  • There are also application servers, database servers, print servers, etc.

Physical plant

The physical plant is all of the network cabling in your office buildings and server room/ datacenter. This all too often neglected part of your infrastructure usually is the weakest link and is the cause of most system outages when not managed properly. There are two main types of cabling in the infrastructure -CAT 5/6/7 and fiber optic. Each type of cabling has several different subtypes depending on the speed and distance required to connect devices.

People

By the strict ITIL definition, people are not considered part of the network infrastructure. However, without competent well-qualified people in charge of running and maintaining your infrastructure, you will artificially limit the capabilities of your organization. In larger organizations, there are specialty positions for each of the areas mentioned in this article. In smaller organizations, you will find that the general systems administrator handles many of the roles.

Server rooms / Data center

The server room, or data center (in large organizations), can be thought of as the central core of your network. It is the location in which you place all of your servers and usually acts as the center of most networks.

Infrastructure Software

This is perhaps the most “gray” of all infrastructure components. However, I consider server operating systems and directory services (like MS Active Directory) to be part of the infrastructure. Without multi-user operating systems, the hardware can’t perform its infrastructure functions.

DAVE LAZOR EXPLAINS WHY A SOPHISTICATED IT INFRASTRUCTURE IS IMPORTANT

Most start-ups and small businesses that aren’t technology-based companies start out with a “DIY” infrastructure that gets the job done – they invest in basic hardware like desktop computers, laptops, a simple phone system and a router for a solid Internet connection. Delivering services and communicating with employees, suppliers and customers is typically accomplished through cloud applications that allow you to share files over the Internet, like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Apps for Business.

But as the company grows, issues of security, connectivity and overall productivity are increasingly questioned. Computing speed and reliability are important, but what about system disruptions and security breaches? Cyberattacks on small businesses are up 300 percent since 2012 due to weaker online security and their ability to be an entry point to other, perhaps larger businesses’ sensitive data.

Ensuring that your IT infrastructure is reliable and secure is rudimentary. To gain a real competitive advantage, a strategic infrastructure is vital. Smart investments in hardware, software, network services and people to manage it all could be the difference between a profitable company and a failing one. Taking shortcuts to save money is unwise – even something as simple as poor cabling could make a fancy software application unusable.

To tackle the next-generation IT challenges, business leaders need to get involved in the infrastructure conversation, elevating the importance of IT infrastructure and making the right investments for the future.

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