Technology Assessment Criteria
Disaster Recovery Plan
How to Choose New Software
How do You Know When it is Time to Buy New Software
How to Ensure Redundant Data Communications Links
What Should Smaller Companies Invest In When It Comes to IT?
Would you ever build a house without consulting with an architect? Would you do the electrical and plumbing work yourself? As you start a new business or expand an existing one, you should look at your business the same way as building a house. Instead of asking questions like, “do you want it to be two stories, will you use it for entertaining, do you have a family, etc.?”, good business consultants will ask questions like, “how many locations do you expect to have, what do you think your growth will look like, will you have a mobile workforce, will your employees work from home, etc.?” Just like designing your dream home, you need to look at the future of your business in the same manner. Investing time with a respected accountant, insurance representative and a good technology consultant will pay huge dividends down the road.
On average, for a 12 to 24 person office, costs for setting up a network can run $700-$1,000 per person. This cost includes all of the hardware and software for the server infrastructure, with the cost of printers and PCs incurring additional costs. By investing in the right network infrastructure, smaller companies can create a solid foundation for managing costs as well as a create a powerful position for growth.
Large or small, all businesses need a fully secure and robust IT infrastructure. As a small business, not investing wisely in technology can cause a business’ system to fail, which can cost time, money and ultimately, the business as a whole.
A good foundation in IT can be very cost effective and allow for growth of a small business without costly mistakes. Here is a ten point plan to get started:
1. Invest time with a knowledgeable professional from an IT company
that focuses on small businesses. Come prepared with plans for growth, accessibility and functionality for the next 12 to 36 months.
2. Consider a server for file sharing and email
that can make a network run more efficiently, allowing for high productivity and less maintenance among users. A server can provide full collaboration and information sharing. Invest in brand name hardware, not “clone hardware,” which can provide fast onsite warranty service and diagnostic tools to minimize risk of downtime and data loss.
3. A reliable backup system
for data can be the most critical investment for a business. A very costly mistake is trying to recover from lost data. Hardware and software can be recreated, but not years of valuable data that has been lost. That is why stable and reliable backups are critical. A tape back up unit and tapes and can be the most economical option in the long run. Online backups are also more and more affordable and may be a good alternative or addition to tape. Thumb drives and external hard drives have disadvantages. They are not automatic and require back up files. May break, get lost or stolen. Not rotated from the premises. If equipment is stolen, so go the backups.
4. A deep packet inspection firewall
. Locks and security systems are installed in a home and the same should be done for a business. Investing in a business class firewall device is critical.
5. Enterprise class antivirus protection
that is centrally managed on the server. To save time and be as efficient as possible, antivirus should be on a server where virus definition updates are pushed out to the workstations automatically.
6. A spam filter service
. A service that not only reduces spam by 98%, but also holds email for several days and provides access to it during an unplanned outage, can be part of an excellent disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
7. Remote access
for working from home, while traveling or for the remote workforce. A feature with small business server software with some limitations, but can be a good solution. Investing in a more robust remote access server, which allows for faster performance and greater flexibility, is also an option. Costs have come down dramatically for real time connection with email, calendar, contacts and tasks on handheld devices.
8. A good IT maintenance and monitoring plan
. A monthly maintenance schedule and monitoring of a network from a reputable IT company can ensure that technology runs smoothly and does not become a distraction to business. Maintenance - computers and servers have a typical life span of about three to five years if maintained properly. 24x7 Monitoring - Servers typically don’t not just crash. Things happen along the way that if alerted to them, can be addressed and downtime avoided.
9. A website
. Many times, this is the first impression a potential client has of a company. Make sure it represents the business well. A basic site can be created and hosted relatively inexpensively.
10. Investing in the right IT solution provider
. Ask them to demonstrate their standard processes and methodologies for managing and maintaining a network infrastructure. Do they document their work and the network infrastructure of a business? Look for companies that are certified partners with billion dollar companies. They will be more knowledgeable and have additional resources that can benefit a business. Ask for references, call them and talk to them. Ask them to show proof of their liability insurance along with errors and omissions insurance in case of a catastrophe.
Last, but not least, pay careful attention to your software licensing. Just one disgruntled employee or something like improper licensing can leave your organization exposed for large fines.