It’s hard to imagine a business today that does not rely on technology in some way, whether to reach out and educate potential customers, enable employees or store vital information. Technology is integral to the small business; but it’s also a challenge to decide what to invest in given such a complex and constantly evolving landscape of new products, platforms and services. You want to know that you have the right hardware, software, and expertise to do your work efficiently and securely since the unexpected costs of a security breach or a system failure could sink your business. This is one area you have to get technology right. There are four questions every small business owner should address in order to successfully plan for the present and future success of the company.
1. What systems do I have in place today?
What functionality do you have with your IT systems? Are you fully utilizing what you’ve paid for? Do you have the best software for your particular needs? Most importantly, is any aspect of your technology investment limiting your ability to grow your business or compromising its safety? The first step to finding the right technological solutions for your company is a thorough review of the IT you’ve already invested in to understand what you have and how it’s functioning.
2. What critical elements are missing?
Identify any needs your business has that aren’t being met. Are you losing productivity because of system crashes? Are your employees trained to use the programs you’ve invested in? Are you confident your system is secure against viruses and hackers? What would the cost of a system breach be? By talking to the end users, your employees, about their day to day interactions with the technology you have in place, you can expose potential gaps in hardware or software that impact productivity.
3. How is my business going to change in the future?
The best managers plan now for the future of their company, especially when that future might require a significant capital investment in hardware, software or human capital. If you are aware of how the IT needs of your business will have to change in order to meet new conditions, you can make decisions now about your technology that will facilitated that change.
4. Who can I go to for help?
Many business owners are surprised to learn that they can get low-cost or free expert consultation on their IT. A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a company that contracts to handle IT solutions for small businesses. MSPs offer a range of services such as setting up and monitoring antivirus and malware security, round-the-clock server monitoring, providing employee training, handling contracts with IT vendors, providing helpdesk services, and more.
The most valuable service they provide is an expert assessment of the best solutions for a company’s IT needs. An initial consultation can help you determine whether your current IT is serving your company well, whether it is adequately protected, and how your IT needs might evolve as your company grows. After this initial consultation, you might choose to outsource some of these services to a MSP, or you might not. The important thing to remember is that simply establishing a relationship with an outside IT expert can be an invaluable safety net in the event of a crisis. The last thing you want to do is try to create a relationship with an outsourced IT provider when you don’t have the time to accurately evaluate the needs of your business. Bad business decisions are made in times of crisis. The time to invest in a relationship that will protect the future of your business is now.