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7 IT TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) increasingly find that their IT system is a crucial part of their operating infrastructure. From giving out quotes to taking and filling orders or scheduling and organising mission critical processes, a well-functioning IT system can be essential to optimising your company’s performance. In this executive summary, we’ve compiled 7 IT tips that can help you get the most out of your IT assets.

1. Schedule regular service checkups for hardware

It’s easy to become complacent about the hardware that powers your IT system. Advances
in technology have made computers and associated devices ever-faster and more efficient. However, as with any mechanical object, your IT hardware is subject to breaking down. To keep such episodes to a minimum it’s important to schedule regular service checkups for your hardware.

The following services are recommended to keep your hardware assets functioning smoothly and even extend their lifespan:

Computer cleaning: Ensuring that your computer’s interior is clean is essential to keeping your hardware working as long as possible. Various foreign objects and dust can lead to blocked cooling fans, causing your hardware to overheat and potentially even short circuit.

Hardware checkups: Regularly performing diagnostic tests on your hardware can help extend its lifespan and prevent the problems that a catastrophic failure of a crucial element of your IT infrastructure can cause. One free diagnostic resource you can use is the Windows Disk Defragmentor utility, which offers functionality designed to help keep your disk drive in good condition. A basic analysis of the health of your hard disk can be performed by right-clicking on the drive’s icon in Windows Explorer and then choosing Properties, Tools, Check Now.

2. Backup your data

It can’t be said enough – backup your data. It is much more expensive to hire experts to try and retrieve this data after the fact than it is to back it up in the first place.

Preferred data backup approaches include:

Cloud backups: This method solves the problem of redundancy in regards to location that can face SMEs based in a single location. Backup over the cloud takes advantage of massive, highly secure server farms in redundant locations.

Separate system backups: When backing up to a device that your company controls, make
sure that this device is not customarily connected to your main IT system. This allows you to disconnect the device after the backup is complete, or to use USB sticks to transfer data to a backup system which will not be affected if a virus or some other system fault occurs on your main system.

3. Keep manufacturer’s warranties and software versions current

When purchasing expensive hardware, it is crucial that you keep the manufacturer’s warranties associated with those warranties current. If your hardware breaks down and your manufacturer’s warranties are not up-to-date, you run the risk of losing valuable time updating the warranty information whilst your equipment is out of service; in the worst case this can lead to denial of a claim altogether.

Similar care should be taken when it comes to keeping your software and operating system updated to the most recent version offered by the software provider, as an out-of-date version can subject your company’s IT system to increased risk of malware infection or a security breach. This process is done automatically if you are using software-as-a-service (SAAS) solutions such as Microsoft Office 365. If not, you can visit the website of the software publisher to check for the latest update version to ensure that you have the most recent one installed on your network.

4. Consider migrating to the cloud

Many SMEs can experience a variety of benefits from moving some or all of their IT operations to the cloud. Whilst cloud services are not necessarily appropriate for every company or every application, in many cases they can offer significant advantages. These include:

  • Affordable access to a wide variety of solutions
  • Enhanced IT usage flexibility
  • Improved data security
  • Enable focus on your company’s core competencies

5. Maintain a business continuity plan

As IT systems take on greater and greater importance for companies, some have found that simply backing up their data is not sufficient to provide them with the level of redundancy necessary to continuously operate their business.

A business continuity plan goes beyond simply backing up data and allows you to make a copy of your entire operating environment in case of an outage of system malfunction of some sort. If this occurs, you can simply restore the saved image of your environment and continue working while your main environment is repaired or debugged.

6. Invest in a business class firewall

Whether a business is large or small, setting up a firewall is recommended to protect against malicious software programs, whether in the form of malware, viruses, or ransomware. A firewall’s main function is to protect a network from outside attacks. It acts as a barrier designed to protect a company’s internal network from an insecure outer network, such as the Internet. The greater protection businesses need can be provided by two main types of firewalls:

  • SOHO (Small Office, Home Office)
  • Enterprise class

To decide what type of business class firewall is most appropriate for your business, it is necessary to determine how many users utilize your network. For higher user amounts, a higher class of firewall is needed. Generally speaking, a SOHO firewall can handle up to 50 or so users without great difficulty, although for greater security, a firm with under 50 users may still want to use an enterprise class system.

7. Outsource as needed

Many SMEs find that as their business grows, their IT system needs increase correspondingly. As this occurs, managing the growth of your business and your IT infrastructure can be a challenge. Instead of ramping up your IT staff and expenditures, it can often make sense to outsource
this function to a managed IT services firm that has the expertise to help keep your system functioning smoothly and help you strategically plan IT system growth.
Taking such an approach allows you to focus your company’s energy and resources on doing what you do best: operate your business. Some of the advantages of using a managed IT services firm include:

  • Convenience
  • More efficient scaling using outsourced expertise
  • Reduced commitments by using outside personnel