IT forms the backbone of most organisations, so, when it goes wrong, it can see your entire business derailed – sometimes for a prolonged period of time.
While small businesses are often exceptionally good at delivering their specialist service or product, they’re rarely as able to overcome even some of the most simple IT issues. Fortunately, many of these issues aren’t unique – and you can be sure that if someone’s had it before, there’s a proven way to solve it.
We’ll run you through 8 of the most common IT problems that small businesses have – and give you some tips on how to avoid or remedy them…
- Network installation delays
For many companies, the first IT problem comes before there’s any IT hardware in your building; a delay to your circuit delivery.
Your circuit is the hardware that an internet service provider needs to install between the local exchange and your premises. Such connections can take weeks – but more commonly take months – and are prone to last minute delays.
Last minute delays mean you’re in danger of missing the date you set for opening your doors – which in turn could mean enormous financial issues. There’s no quick fix – but don’t worry, this guide will explain exactly what to do if your circuit is delayed.
- Network downtime
Downtime is the term used for any period during which your IT network or one of your main pieces of software is inaccessible.
Downtime can be extremely costly for small businesses – and it’s not uncommon for startups to never recover if the issue isn’t quickly resolved. 98% of businesses say that a single hour of downtime can cost them over $100,000 across their company.
To avoid downtime, ensure the services and providers you use assure as close to 100% uptime as possible – and look at how they would compensate you if they didn’t keep this level of service; the figure should match or exceed your projected losses.
- In-house IT team costs
Dedicated IT teams cost businesses a lot – and many smaller companies neglect the consideration that, if you want to have round the clock support for your IT, you’re going to need 2,3 or even 4 people as a minimum (covering holidays, sickness, working hours – etc).
For many small businesses, the cost of a dedicated team is just not feasible – even before you consider the cost of keeping them up to speed with the relevant training and accreditations needed.
Consider using a managed IT service provider to reduce these costs significantly. Ensure the provider can offer the level of support you need, when you need it – and can grow with you as your businesses expands.
- Holes in data protection
The way the world handles data has changed incredibly over the last 20 years – and if you’re behind the latest data protection laws, you could face the kind of fines and punishments that would mean most small businesses have no option but to close their doors.
With data protection issues, the very best thing you can do is to self-audit – garnering an understanding of what you collect, where you hold it, what you use it for – and how it can be accessed if needed.
When you know the answers to these questions, you can begin to consider if there are any security holes around any of these activities – and if there are, you can work with an IT security team to ensure you, your business and your customers are kept safe.
- No plan B
There are any number of reasons you could lose your systems or internet connection – and if you don’t plan for each of them, they could bring your business to its knees.
Create IT contingency plans for the following instances:
- Building power loss
- Virus/malware infection
- Loss of software as a service access
- Server failure
They may never happen, but if they do, you’ll wish you had a plan B that you could quickly roll out to keep your business turning over.
- No coordination
A lack of coordination between employees and systems is unlikely to cause you any direct knock-on IT problems – but it is likely to have an enormous impact on your staff productivity levels.
If you want to ensure your teams are working together as effectively as possible, consider using a suite of tools that work seamlessly together – and, if possible, allow for team collaboration without the need for leaving the software. Good examples of this are Microsoft’s Office 365 products – and Google’s G-Suite.
- Slow response to scaling requirements
As a small business, it’s likely that some element of growth is firmly at the top of your to-do list – but IT often can’t keep up.
If you buy your devices, install licenced software and hold your network infrastructure in-house, increasing (or decreasing) your equipment and software to match your scaling can be tricky, time consuming and costly.
As a direct response to these issues, more and more IT providers offer their products ‘as a service’ – that’s to say, as a paid subscription model, rather than a large one-off payment that impacts your capital expenditure. Whether it’s software, platforms or infrastructure you’re looking for, check whether it can be procured on a ‘pay for what you use’ basis – it’s often a lot more financially manageable than the alternative.
Bring your own device (BYOD) is a way of working that’s increasingly adopted by small businesses – especially those who are starting on a shoestring budget.
Essentially, workers use their own devices to perform work activities – useful in many ways, especially with the increased productivity that you’ll see from people who are 100% comfortable with their own computers and ways of working.
However, BYOD can expose you to a number of threats, including:
- Lost devices
- Malware brought from less secure networks
- Sensitive data leaving your workplace
- Leaving employees still able to access systems
…to name but a few.
If you’re keen to use BYOD, ensure that your IT policy is watertight – allowing for no business data to leave your premises – and no unsecured devices to be introduced to your network.