According to the Salesforce 2016 Connected Small Business Report, more than 80 percent of small businesses do not have an IT staff, and 72 percent of small business owners are responsible for purchasing technology for their businesses. It is the combination of these two statistics that are of concern to Boston SMBs. To develop a sound IT strategy, Boston SMBs should consider these essential questions.
Do I Have an IT Department?
If you're part of the opening statistics without an IT team, use a part-time outside IT person, or have employees with some IT knowledge, it can be difficult to get a handle on current and future needs. This leads to the next important question.
Who Is Responsible for IT Decisions?
While it can vary from owners to managers, the question of who is responsible for taking ongoing ownership of IT and is accountable for the decisions and its alignment to intent is key. You can’t evaluate current IT and make decisions about its maintenance and improvement without knowing who is ultimately responsible.
What Is Holding Us Back and What Will Further the Business?
If you’re not IT savvy, you're still able to look at things from the perspective of business processes. This can help determine what technology is outdated and insufficient to the business’s needs. That’s all about answering these three questions:
- What are the costs of outdated technology to the business?
- Which network technologies should I be using?
- Are business processes and technology secure?
Do You Have Backup and Recovery Systems in Place?
Maintaining operations and services driven by IT infrastructure in the wake of a disruptive event is the premise of business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR). To accomplish this, organizations must have the availability to maintain:
- Application services
- Physical network access and network services
- User/client access to this infrastructure
- Web servers
- Critical databases and more
Disaster recovery is all about systems and processes for IT system recovery in the event of a natural or manmade disaster like a security event. Business continuity is your ability to keep running the business and communicating with customers either from a different location or with your workforce dispersed to various locales. The specific challenges may include:
- Network or connectivity outages
- Server crashes due to security intrusions or other means
- Protocols for lost or corrupted data
Regardless of the size of the business and its internal IT organization, a comprehensive disaster recovery plan is essential. This would include protocols for:
- Off-site copies of all your data and software to ensure recovery
- Adequate off-site/cloud protection and plans for workstations and servers
- Clear mapping of network connection points
- Remote access and communications protocols
BCDR is about more than natural disasters as the more common and likely threat comes from cyberattacks that can cripple a business. This is why every Boston SMB should know and understand the Massachusetts Information Security Law, which is foundational to understanding the importance of BCDR and cybersecurity.
Are Managed IT Services a Good Fit for the Business?
If your business is dealing with process slowdowns due to technology and delayed repairs, those are symptoms of a lack of dedicated IT support. Even if you have a great IT person or knowledgeable staffer, the business may have grown beyond his or her ability to tackle all the needs in the time available.
By having an external IT services partner deal with day-to-day IT support as well as long-term evolution, the organization can tap into highly skilled IT consultative support. The best of these managed IT services partners provides a broad and interconnected suite of services bolstered by an understanding of how to develop and fulfill a defined IT strategy that is aligned with business goals and culture.
This crucial decision would start with understanding what are managed backup services and how can they safeguard my business. These services should include:
- Remote monitoring and remediation
- On-site support (when required)
- OS patching and antivirus updates
- Asset performance analysis
- Firewall firmware updates
- Policy management
- Development and assessment of continuity and recovery plans
- Ensuring infrastructure redundancy (networking, power, cooling, telecom)
- Deploying tools to identify vulnerabilities
- Considering the role of the cloud (public, private, or hybrid) in BCDR
Once your business grows beyond one or two people, IT can become a complex burden or a simple tool that facilitates efficient and fast business processes under diverse circumstances. Boston SMBs must ask the aforementioned vital questions to determine how they can move from complexity to simplicity and efficiency. This is crucial to being a competitive, agile, and cost-effective business in a changing business climate.