In the course of our encounters with SMEs, we have noticed how these businesses focus more on marketing and sales instead of customer services. While these processes are a must specially for small firms, they have somehow lost their touch on how these processes fall back on their information technology infrastructure. This entry focuses on the most common mistakes that we have encountered, while working with the SMEs:
1. Relying solely on the Cloud for storage
While cloud storage and computing is an excellent resource for the business considering costs, speed of implementation and support, it can be quite dangerous, considering all of the information is left to third party providers.
I have read in an article somewhere that Flickr accidentally deleted one user account, with 4000 pictures in it – all due to a simple human error. Luckily, Flickr was able to restore the account, but it may not always be the case for other cloud based storage providers.
While we do not condone cloud, there has to be a mechanism that ensures continuity if the cloud fails. Network attached storages (NAS) and multiple cloud providers should provide a concrete storage strategy. Always save data in multiple places including physical drives and multiple places. You will never know when you need them.
2. Failing to backup appropriately
It has been said that backup strategies are useless if not executed properly. Unfortunately, this is the case for most individuals and SMEs. Having a physical drive or a cloud based technology will not work if someone fails to backup information, which makes the technology irrelevant.
There are lots of free and opensource backup programs which can do this automatically so one can be sure that all information gets backed-up properly. We, for one, use this, scheduled twice a week, in which, files are backed into a physical device once a week and into a cloud based storage once a week. And not only that, the backup logs should be regularly reviewed to check the success and failure of the backup.
3. The Use of Mobile Devices
As the smartphones get smarter and smaller, there is a need to protect them in case of loss or some other network security attacks. There has to be some sort of an internal policy which defines what should be downloaded to these devices and who should download these files. These devices should also be basically protected when accessing the network.
4. Disposing of old technology incorrectly
Old computers, mobile phones and other gadgets should not be disposed just like tossing it into the trash. For one, they contain hazardous materials that can damage the environment. In worst cases, old hard disks can be restored resulting in exposure and data theft.
Instead, consider cleaning up and reselling old equipments. Make sure hard disks and other storage media are wiped out clean prior to disposal.
5. Failing at Social Networking
Social network sites are excellent resources for small business to develop and online presence. However, they are not excellent if you never use them, if you automate them or even worse, if you use them to get into online spats with customers and partners.
Having a twitter account and only tweeting impersonal promotional one-liners is almost as bad as having no twitter account at all. After all, the key to social networking is the “social” part, not the “networking” part.
Social networks are a great, free way to build relationships with customers, so it’s absolutely worth into doing some research before jumping into the fray.
6. Not researching your “printers”
Most printers now come in cheap, but these are mostly disposable and would only print up to a certain life cycle. Since printers are very useful in a business, research first on the initial costs, the cost of the consumables, and cost of repairs.
7. Slacking on IT Security
The business may be small and unassuming, but it does not mean that people or competitors are not ready to steal your secrets. Along with the smartphones, it is important to make security a top priority.
Make sure to know the ins and outs of your operating system’s security functionalities, and make sure that your firewalls, gateways, proxies and anti-virus programs are always updated.
It’s also important to practice safe computing. E-mail and social networking accounts are vulnerable to viruses, malware and spam so keep different passwords for different accounts and don’t click on questionable and suspicious links. This is common sense, but around 80% of what we have encountered do not have an IT security guideline in place.
8. Buying Extended Warranties on Equipments
If you don’t know a lot about technology, then purchasing an extended warranty to cover your new gadget may seem like a good idea. However, it’s was proven over and over that buying in-store extended warranties is generally not worth it.
Obviously, it will always depend on what you’re buying, what the warranty covers, and what type of person you are. If you’re purchasing a smartphone and you plan to bring it on a lot of whitewater rafting trips, then you may want to think twice about that (and check if the warranty covers water damage). But if you’re purchasing a new PC that’s going to sit on your desk at work, you probably don’t need that warranty.
9. Ignoring online reputation
Small business owners (and even big companies) know that reputation is everything. and this also applies to your online reputation. Even if you don’t think you have much of an online presence, customer review and consumer advocacy sites allow your customers to voice their opinions on the Web without your explicit consent.
That’s why it’s important to monitor your business’s online presence regularly, and research how your company appears in search results. What you don’t know could be hurting you. If you do find out that your online presence is less than savory, you’ll need to take some appropriate steps to rebuild your good name.
10. Choosing the wrong technical support
Technical support is a tricky subject. After all, if you’re a small enough business and you “know a guy,” why bother hiring a professional, right? Maybe. But a research made by Gartner has found that small businesses generally try to use as little IT help as possible, but this is not necessarily a good thing.
While you can use your dog-trainer who knows simple IT stuff –or even hire a remote professional on a per problem basis – –if you plan on expanding your business at all, it may be a good idea to hire a part-time or full-time professional. Not only will you be able to build a better relationship with an in-house IT pro, but you’ll also be able to expand technologically and upgrade your company seamlessly.
11. Skipping training
It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but technology is useless unless you know how to use it. Purchasing an expensive new printer or desktop will only be a waste of money if you and your business don’t know how to use it to its full potential.
Employee training is especially important if you do not employ full time IT support, because your workers will be on their own if something goes wrong. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bring in an external trainer–though the investment might be worth it. Just make tech training a priority and ensure that everyone learns the fine points within the instruction manual.
12. Using pirated software
Purchasing software and the associated licenses for your small business can be daunting. It’s often expensive and would break the bank.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to overpay for software. Instead, check out alternative options , such as using open source software, buying unused licenses, or paying monthly for services.
If you happen to be guilty of one–or several–of these tech errors, don’t worry, because you’re definitely not the only one. However, now you know what mistakes to look out for and how to fix them when you see them. Ultimately, fixing these errors now will help you save money, create a more efficient workplace, and keep you from serious crises down the road. After all, technology is supposed to help–not hurt–your business.