Common Technology Mistakes SMBs Make and How to Avoid Them
by Kate Smith, Director, Sales & Marketing
There’s no question that small business owners wear a lot of hats and are often forced to do more with less. The following are potential technology pitfalls we see common in the SMB space.
Price Shopping for the Least Expensive Option
As an outsourced technology provider, we often see the following scenario when working with SMB organizations. A small business owner needs to purchase new computers for his employees, enable his sales team to access company files while on the road, reduce the excessive amount of spam they are receiving, ensure there is a plan so his computers are not offline in the event of a disturbance or disruption, and have a dedicated “go-to” person for when things go wrong or break. So, the Small Business Owner does his due diligence and gets proposals from two organizations. Company A promises to fix all his problems and charge him a nominal monthly fee for their ongoing support services. Company B suggests upgrading outdated equipment and installing new software to optimize his current technology investments. Company B’s initial overall investment is more expensive as is their monthly service plan. The Small Business Owner thinks this is a no brainer and opts for Company A who is offering the less expensive quote.
It’s challenging not to fall for the lowest price on the table when budgets are stretched razor thin. However, when price is the only determining factor it’s really the small business owner who pays the ultimate price and sacrifices the expertise and experience of a proven advisor, spends far more than initially projected, and ends up unhappy and worse off than when they started. Invest your IT dollars in a reputable and reliable outsourced IT provider, one who has the credentials to handle your IT needs. The old adage rings true; you get what you pay for.
Investing in Technology Only When it Breaks
It’s hard to escape the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality especially when it comes to shelling out precious dollars for technology that isn’t necessarily broken. Many small and mid-sized businesses fall into the same pattern; instead of seeing their technology as an investment that needs to be actively upgraded and reevaluated, they are willing to let it ride and wait for it to break before investing dollars proactively.
The mind-set about technology is changing. We advise our clients not to wait to invest in equipment and software, and don’t ignore it and wait for it to fail. Companies are looking to squeeze every bit of productivity and efficiency out of their technology and for good reason.
If you invest wisely now and optimize your systems the right way, you’ll run into fewer problems later which ultimately means spending less on your technology in the long run. Additionally, you’ll get more in return such as reduced energy consumption, a lower initial and on-going cost of ownership, and term discounts - just to name a few.
Not Having a Comprehensive and Tested Backup and Recovery Solution
What happens to your business when there is a power outage caused by a storm? How about some other disruptive event that lasts longer than an hour, or a day, or three days? Do you have a plan to keep your systems online and your data safe? A lot of our customers tell us they have a plan, or that their data is safe because they have cloud or other backup solutions in place. Ok, have you ever tested your plan, and if so, how quickly can you recover from the disruption? The overwhelming response is, “I don’t know.”
The first point to make is in regard the actual disaster recovery plan, and having it in place so backup capabilities protect data and devices in the event of a disruption, emergency, or disaster. Items such as cloud-based backups, external remote storage, data archiving and dedicated equipment recovery ensure businesses are prepared. Computer rooms, or closets in some cases, were not designed to be ideal environments for IT equipment when taking into consideration heating and cooling, racks, cabling, power protection solutions and environmental monitoring (smoke, carbon monoxide, water, temperature and fire.) Having the proper environment for your equipment is key to ensuring networks and systems are highly available and highly functional.
The second point is in reference to backing up to a cloud-based solution or another external device. Is there a backup schedule in place? How about versioning? Is there a retention policy? With the wide availability of enterprise-class solutions designed specifically for the SMB space, businesses are eagerly moving to comprehensive backup solutions with point-and-click recovery.
Cut-off from Your Business When You Are Out of the Office
With today’s mobility tools, wireless Internet access, mobile devices, and simple connectivity for remote access, there’s no reason to feel marooned when away from your business. Anywhere, anytime access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for business of all sizes. Your employees, customers, and even partners need access to you and your data instantly regardless of your physical location. Gone are the days when customers or prospective clients will wait for you to get back into the office to address their questions or concerns; if you can’t supply the requested information when they want it, they’re likely to move onto the next organization who can. With the blazing-fast rate of business, we’ve all come to expect speedy attention to our own questions and issues, and in turn we need to be able to give that level of service back to our employees and customers regardless of where we are.
On the flip side, the beauty of a mobility solution is that we become that much more productive. Anywhere, anytime access to systems, data, and devices empowers business owners and employees with work whenever and wherever ability.
As a remote worker myself, I can speak first-hand about the enhanced productivity my organization recoups in direct relation to my virtual office. Technology such as Office 365, SharePoint team sites, and mobile devices are just a few of the tools I use daily to manage my department while working remotely. Unlike a traditional worker who leaves the office at 5:00 PM, my time is much more fluid as I continue to check email and finish up projects during the evening or other quiet times that are suitable for me. It equates to more quality working hours, and a better balance between work-life and home-life. I’m also always available to my colleagues and clients outside of “traditional” business hours, and in this economy the company that stands above, stands alone. A good mobility solution provides flexibility and in turn fosters productivity, plain and simple.
Not Having a Second String QB
With limited time and resources, we’ve found that SMBs often make the mistake of trying to manage their computer networks with limited staff. Trying to wear too many hats, it’s usually the business owner who shoulders that responsibility and is tasked with managing the computer network. Ultimately, it becomes the underserved network that pays the price. Working with a trusted outsourced IT provider, one who has the training (complete with properly documented industry certifications), experience working on a wide scope of projects, and solid references will free up your time to focus on more important issues, like running your business.
The other scenario we are all too familiar with is the lack of the second string quarter back; a small or mid-sized business who employs an IT person that is so burdened with menial IT tasks and duties they are never able to address critical business and technology goals.
Carefully selecting an IT provider to lessen the load can ultimately make the internal IT person look like a rock star. They are then able to plan for new technology implementations that can save the organization time, money, and wasted resources.
About the Author
Kate Smith, SecurElement’s Director, Sales & Marketing is responsible for SecurElement’s overall sales and marketing strategy as well as ongoing partner relationships with organizations such as Microsoft, Cisco, Barracuda and many others.