This month my blog will focus on IT within the work place, what a company needs, what are the best products/ solutions and best practice to manage your infrastructure. Also - stay tuned because next month I will follow-up on this subject by focusing on the importance of the internet and online capability.
The importance of IT
I always say to people," it's the things you don't worry about in business that bring you to your knees" and this in a nutshell, describes IT. This is because we never associate IT with having anything to do with revenue generation or cost control but in reality, it is both.
In 2000 it was good to have IT but not essential. In 2013, only 13 years later, 90% of communication is sent electronically and 99% of data is stored in the cloud or on a server. Don't leave your IT to chance - place it at the same level of importance as your rent, staff and tax.
Size is not an issue
What do you think Kellogg's, British Airways and your local independent tradesman have in common? I bet you wouldn't answer that they all use the same IT solution but they do! The biggest change within IT is that cloud based offerings make it accessible and affordable for people working in smaller businesses. Do not work under the assumption that these are too complicated or cost prohibitive.
Prevention not cure
The majority of calls we receive into my IT business are from SME owners who are in a panic. It maybe their server is down, they can't access their emails or the worst case they have lost data.
Ensuring you have a good IT processes which includes virus protection, regular back-ups and security can save you a fortune by avoiding or limiting an otherwise inevitable disaster. If you are building a business with hopes of one day selling it, it is fundamental that you build a robust IT infrastructure which is kept up-to-date.
Back to basics
In order to help you I want to give you a check list of the "Must Do's" for SME:
Protect your email
Ensure your emails are spam and virus free. Bigger companies have had email filters for years but now you can remove the risk of emails crashing your computer by investing in a solution that costs a couple of quid per user. If you are using a modern mail provider, spam should be a thing of the past but if your Inbox is littered with emails from the Nigerian President, I would suggest using a solution like Symantec cloud.
Affordable corporate email for SME's
In my opinion, Office 365 is the biggest innovation in the last 10 years to impact on SME's. It delivers all the features you would expect from a corporate email infrastructure like, email, calendar (with sharing), document management, SharePoint storage and instant messaging for less than £3 per user.
Regular, safe backup
There is no excuse for any SME not to have a functioning backup solution. There are literally hundreds of offsite solutions that you 'set and forget'. It takes minutes to set what you want to be backed up where and when. From that point, the solution will do it for you automatically. Take a look at Attix which is an affordable solution.
Multi use hardware
Gone are the days when you need a desk top and a laptop. I'm always shocked when I go into a business and the staff have both, when you can simply dock a laptop? Hardware normally lasts around 3 years so when you look to replace desktops check first the cost of a docking station.
I would always recommend that you purchase your hardware from a business focused vendor like Dell, HP or Apple as they provide 3 year next business day warranties. Buying cheap hardware online with no warranty will cost you in the long run.
Each year I seem to increase my cyber protection insurance as the risk of fraud and data theft grows. A key aspect to your IT infrastructure is security. The basics are email filters which are cloud based, off site back up, hardware anti virus's and firewalls. Firewalls can be expensive but a quality product will prevent your staff from visiting sites that could harm your business, downloading things they shouldn't and emailing certain documents beyond the network with data leakage prevention. If you can't afford a firewall, have a good anti-virus on each machine.
Travel less and use technology more
The cost of travel keeps rising and this can be combated by technology. Investing in the right equipment so you and your staff can video conference and use a business instant messenger like Lync will increase real time communication and reduce expenditure.
For companies that have onsite servers you have to have a backup plan if they go down. The easiest way to establish if this is affordable is to sit down and work out how much money you will loose in revenue and staff productivity if you have no access to your server, emails, data and documents. Once you have done this, compare it to the cost of a small business disaster recovery service, I guarantee the first outweighs the latter.
Outsource your geek
If you have more than 10 staff you need IT support. Employing an IT geek is expensive and not always practical. I would recommend you save money and ring a local IT support company who specialises in SME's as you will benefit from all their knowledge for a smaller monthly cost.