Small business owner/managers understand that IT plays a vital role within their companies. However, many SMBs are still making simple mistakes with the management of their IT systems that are costing them money and market share.
Acting on some simple tips can transform your business from one that just uses IT to one that leverages the power of IT to deliver tangible results.
Avoid using involuntary IT managers
According to a study from AMI Partners sponsored by Microsoft small businesses are losing more than US$24 billion in productivity each year when nontechnical employees, referred to as 'involuntary IT managers' are tasked with managing their companies' IT solutions. Ensure your business has qualified people managing your IT systems.
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Bridge the knowledge gap
Small businesses often suffer from this symptom. Simply buying a server doesn't immediately bring tangible benefits, as you have to place this technology within the day-to-day operation of your business.
Also, try and ensure you don't have just one person that is tasked with 'IT'. When they leave your business they take their knowledge with them.
No integration across systems
Where IT is concerned avoid hardware and software silos. Integrating your IT together is infinitely more efficient.
Think about the separate systems in your business and how these could be more closely aligned. Often, this can also mean a reduction in the IT in use with corresponding maintenance cost savings.
Open source, open wallet?
In a bid to reduce overall costs, many SMBs look to open source applications and platforms. Many of these can be useful, such as the Zoho suite of office applications.
However, care must be taken when using open source platforms for mission critical systems. The maintenance costs and ongoing upgrades can be substantial. Ensure you understand the total cost of ownership before committing to an open source platform.
The cloud is not a panacea
There is no doubt that cloud-based services are highly attractive to SMBs. The whole SaaS (software as a service) market has exploded over the past few years.
However, the cloud should be approached with care. Often, business will develop hybrid systems that keep some of their data and services in-house, with others moving to the cloud.
Carefully assess any move you are contemplating to the cloud, and ask if the cost saving, efficiency gains and security justify the move.
Not backing up critical data
IT consultants have been attempting to get SMBs to understand the importance of robust data backup regimes with little success. And the impact can be catastrophic, as the London Chamber of Commerce estimate that 90% of companies that suffer a major data loss go out of business within two years.
With access to masses of online backup platforms, SMBs can easily protect themselves from these events.
The BYOD (bring your own device) to work phenomenon shows no sign of slowing, and a major mistake that SMBs make is not paying attention to the IT issues that BYOD brings.
According to a survey carried out by Trend Micro, half of companies that allow BYOD have reported security breaches. Their survey revealed that 83% of companies that do permit BYOD have policies in place that require employees to install security software as a precaution.
Paying close attention to the security of these devices is of paramount importance for SMBs in particular.
IT is an essential resource that SMBs can't operate without, but it is easy to make mistakes with the myriad of technologies available to your business.
A careful study of your existing systems, and how these will evolve will give you all the information you need to avoid the most costly IT mistakes.