Small businesses face many challenges in day to day operations; and technology related problems are some of the most difficult to solve. In this article, we will discuss some of the common technology problems small businesses face and help you find where your business might be having issues. We will also help you decide where to focus your time and energy to overcome these issues.
Outdated Hardware And Software
As great as technology is, it quickly grows outdated. Newer and faster products come out regularly, and businesses need to stay up to date. Old technology causes expenses that are often overlooked but can add up quickly. Imagine this scenario: you have 5 employees using computers that take 30 seconds to load a program that they use 5 times a day. That is 12.5 minutes a day spent waiting around, or a little over 4 hours a month. Over a year you have 50 hours wasted. Even if your per hour employee cost is just $25/hr that is about $1,250 in lost productivity. This is before factoring in other costs such as missed opportunities, process slowdowns, secondary employees, … you get the idea.
It is important to know what software your business is using and the requirements and recommendations of the software. Especially so if it is a core function of the business. You can also replace hardware that is nearing the end of its life expectancy. With this information you can monitor all IT assets ensure all software and drivers are up to date and replace hardware that is reaching the end of its expected life.
Standardizing your software and hardware will help immensely with this process. It will also make future upgrades much easier, saving time and money. Some devices may be upgraded without replacing the entire asset; but it’s important to know when to upgrade and when to replace. At a certain point, new software and hardware will be more cost efficient or required.
Pirating or using software illegally is a severe risk to businesses. Not only does this cause potential for expensive fees and lawsuits, but there are security concerns as well. Often times, illegal software use is due to ignorance or poor project management and not from ill intent. One example is purchasing software from an untrustworthy site because of a cheaper price. Another cause may be simply not knowing that licenses have expired or accidentally exceeding the allowed user count.
It’s important for businesses to use software legally. Software manufacturers have collected millions in damages from companies which were caught using illegal software or continuing to use software with expired licenses, even if there was no intent to do so.
When ordering software, it is important to only purchase from known trustworthy sources and to keep track of licensing terms. These licenses must be maintained, and any other resources monitored such as user count that may cause future issues.
Lack of Security
Cybersecurity should be a top priority in every business. Hackers and malware are becoming more sophisticated every day. The reality for most businesses is that it is only a matter of time before an incident occurs. Even with the best security measures in place, there is still the possibility of an incident.
To mitigate the risk of a cybersecurity incident as much as possible, some steps should be taken.
- Create and maintain cybersecurity policies and protocols.
- Educate and train employees on cybersecurity, policies, and protocols for dealing with cybersecurity incidents.
- Regularly ensure employees are adhering to proper cybersecurity policies.
- Follow best practices to ensure systems are secure and limit the ways an incident can occur.
- Keep up-to-date anti-malware solutions on all applicable devices.
- Maintain backups of all important data in a way that compromise is unlikely.
- Monitor sensitive data, internet usage, and devices on the network for suspicious activity and policy violations.
Lack of Control over Employee Devices
More workplaces are allowing employees to bring their own devices (BYOD). Because of this, businesses need to have strict policies that govern the use of these devices. Control over sensitive data and employee training is crucial to protect your business. It is important to understand that with an increase in access points due to these devices, your data is also more at risk. Uncontrolled devices can bring in malware or already be compromised and can provide internal access to hackers.
Create and train employees on policies and procedures involving personal devices. Put in place and security measures that help reduce risks such as anti-malware programs, encryption, and management software. Typically, it is better to have dedicated work devices that employees will use. This is because it creates an easier to manage and uniform environment.
Purchasing new software without planning and assessment can lead to frustrations and extra costs. Expenses from transferring data from old systems to new and failing to work with other software are common occurrences. When looking at new software, compare features such as:
- integrations with the existing software you are using
- ease of moving data from the old system
- requirements such as hardware to ensure the program can run properly.
Sometimes, a less common application can be a better fit and save money.
Insufficient Backup and Recovery Options
Backups are the number one service we can recommend. For us, they are a requirement. But why are they so important? No matter the company, policy, and procedure there is always the chance an incident may occur. Whether it is an accidental deletion, hardware failure, or ransomware, if your data goes missing, you better have a backup.
The 3-2-1 Method
Many companies don’t have any backup solution at all. Others have a copy of important data on a USB drive connected to the computer. While a USB drive backup is better than nothing, if lightning or ransomware hits that USB drive is probably toast as well. A proper backup policy follows the 3-2-1 method:
- Have at least 3 copies of your data.
- Store the copies on at least 2 different media.
- Keep 1 copy offsite.
The 3-2-1 method provides redundancy, speed, and safety. The local backup is a quick option for minor issues; while the remote backup is in case of a larger incident such as a fire. In theory, this can be achieved by having 2 USB drives. A copy of the backup on each drive with one stored remotely when not copying the data. (Ideally you would use at least 3 USB drives so one drive could remain offsite at all times).
A Better Backup Solution
The problem with the USB drive method is it relies on a person to periodically pickup the remote drive, bring it onsite, copy the data, and take the remote drive offsite again. It also limits the distance between the onsite and offsite storage locations and the frequency of backups. The better option is to use your internet connection to copy the data to a far away offsite location.
No B.S. Computer Repair, LLC uses a cloud based approach. We use a device onsite such as a NAS or USB drive and a remote site in another state. The remote data ensures a safe backup in case of a large scale local disaster. This also allows us to run full machine backups as a VM on the cloud. So if a critical system goes down we can keep the business running.
Not Protecting Against Power Interruptions
All computer systems require power, which means at least some of the time they must be plugged in. This is a potential point of risk because of power surges and dips, or complete power outages. Every business can help protect their systems with inexpensive products.
Not to be confused with similarly looking power strips. Surge protectors do what their name suggests: they protect against high voltage spikes and surges. Surge protectors are one of the cheapest and easiest forms of power protection. Any important equipment should at least be plugged into a surge protector. When purchasing, check the wattage rating to ensure your equipment won’t overload the surge protector. Keep in mind that surge protectors are not foolproof, but they are better than nothing. When shopping for surge protectors, look for devices with indicators that show protection and grounding status.
Also known as line regulators, these protect your equipment from brownouts. Brownouts are power dips or sags, and occur when power demand is greater than supply. One cause is using large machinery or other power hungry equipment, especially on the same circuit as your other equipment. Voltage regulators help fill in the small dips, but are not useful for blackouts.
Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)
A UPS supplies power to equipment during a blackout. Essentially, a UPS is a battery which charges when the power is on and discharges during a blackout. This can keep your equipment running long enough to safely shut down or prevent shutdowns during short power outages. UPSs are available in many sizes and ratings for all needs. We recommend having a UPS on all servers. Smaller UPSs on workstations can help as well especially if you experience lots of power fluctuations.
Insufficient IT Support
Failure to have skilled and reliable IT support personnel is one of the biggest causes business face technology issues. Problems can go unnoticed or ignored until they become a disaster; and end up costing the business more. Having proven IT support which can identify these issues and solve them will set a business up for success. A capable IT team can also help plan for the future of your business.
Small businesses often don’t have the resources for an internal IT team. That is why having a trusted IT provider is important. The IT provider can help with all your technology needs. For medium businesses, internal IT becomes an option. But some continue to use external IT providers to avoid the problems of hiring and maintaining more employees.
Whether you are a business looking for an external IT provider for all your needs or to supplement an internal IT team, No B.S. Computer Repair, LLC can help.
For questions about this article, please contact us here at No B.S. Computer Repair, LLC.
Business IT Solutions
No B.S. Computer Repair provides professional IT support and managed services for businesses in and around Fayetteville, AR. We strive to give our clients the services and solutions they need to improve their business.