Did you know that Connecticut is the most connected state in the union?
Connecticut has more than three million Internet users (86.5% of the state’s population). Computer-savvy workers are one of the reasons that Connecticut small businesses continue to thrive.
The Small Business Administration estimates that 49% of employees in the state work for small businesses, all of which rely on computer technology to succeed.
A study by Emergent Research shows that most small businesses rely on technology, and another study by Pb7 Research shows that small businesses that adopt cloud computing tend to lower their IT costs, double their revenue, and increase profits by 25%.
Today’s businesses run on computers, and in the years we have been serving the Connecticut small business community we have seen business owners make the same IT mistakes, no matter what industry they are in.
Here are five of the most common IT mistakes we see on a regular basis:.
Mistake #1: Losing Company Data
Intellectual property is the crown jewel of any organization. As we continue to move to paperless processes, every piece of operational data is stored in digital form somewhere on the computer network.
Your contracts, customer records, orders, patents, and other vital documents are too valuable to leave to chance, yet most small businesses don’t take adequate precautions to preserve business-critical data.
Businesses can lose data in any number of ways: equipment failure, poor archiving protocols, user error, or cyber attacks, to name a few.
Some businesses, such as healthcare providers and financial services, have even more need to secure digital information for regulatory compliance.
Secure data storage and backup provide minimal protection. That means maintaining a secure data store, ideally outside the office.
If there is a fire or flood, you don’t want to lose your backup copies in the same disaster. Most businesses maintain remote backups using cloud services or managed service providers that can provide secure remote data backup and restoration.
Mistake #2: Lack of a Disaster Recovery Plan
It’s one thing to keep your data secure, but what happens if your entire network fails?
Natural disasters such as blizzards, flood, or fire can disrupt power and shut down your computer network. And then there are man-made problems.
More than 36% of IT failures are due to human error. Computer attacks also are increasing, and something like a distributed denial of service attack can stop your network cold.
Additionally, we have seen a rise in viruses and Trojans targeting business. Ransomware alone has increased 50% in the last year.
A study of U.S. data centers estimates that network downtime costs an average of $7,900 per minute, which is more than any small business can afford.
A disaster recovery plan ensures that you are ready when disaster strikes.
The sooner you get back online, the less revenue you will lose from lost sales and lost employee productivity.
Mistake #3: Failure to Support Remote/Mobile Workers
Remote workers and telecommuters are no longer the exception but the rule, even for small business.
Citrix reports that 61% of employees spend some time working outside the office, and that the average worker uses three or more computing devices daily for business.
Statistics also show that the number of devices managed in the enterprise has increased by 72% in one year.
Progressive companies provide secure remote access for telecommuters and remote workers, and they have adopted bring your own device strategies.
However, supporting a remote workforce requires more than just access. Data has to be secured using data encryption and strong authentication.
Viruses and Trojan attacks targeting businesses are on the rise. Ransomware alone increased 50% in the last year.
Companies, especially small businesses, also need to manage software licenses to accommodate remote users.
And remote and mobile users also need help desk support, even at odd hours, to promote productivity.
Mistake #4: Failing to Capitalize on Analytics
Today’s business is data driven, yet few businesses make adequate use of the information stored in their IT systems to assess operation, production, customers, marketing, financials, and other aspects of their business.
Data analytics requires more than running reports and creating charts. You have to know how to ask the right questions and then assemble the right data to find the answers.
Big data techniques are increasingly being used by small business to analyze vast quantities of structured data (e.g., what’s in your database) and unstructured data (e.g., email, social comments, catalog descriptions, etc.) to provide insights that can save money and generate revenue.
More company executives are relying on predictive analytics to guide strategic business decisions.
Mistake #5: Inadequate Planning for IT Growth
As your company grows, your computing capacity has to grow with it. You will need more computing power, more data storage, more workstations, more printers, etc.
Many companies are working with managed service providers to adopt cloud services to accommodate growth. In the cloud, new software and more data storage can be added to the computer network almost on demand.
Infrastructure as a Service is becoming popular to expand computing resources as needed and for use as a staging platform to accommodate short-term needs and experimental systems changes.
Finding qualified IT staff as part of growth is also a challenge. Demand for IT managers is expected to rise 15 percent between 2014 and 2024, and the median salary for qualified IT managers is $131,000 per year, assuming you can find them.
About the Author: Tom McDonald is the CEO and founder of Naugatuck-based IT support firm NSI.