Over the years, I’ve come to see some themes emerge with our clients. Many come to us after they’ve been in business for a few years. Usually, they started small and experienced some growth. Over time, they find themselves in a position where what they once had in place in regards to technology is no longer working. Often, however, these businesses have neglected select areas of their technology infrastructure to the point where they experience unnecessary slowdowns in productivity or they are exposing themselves to undue security risks. It is these situations where a little information and advanced planning would have gone far to reduce risk and save money. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you the five technology weak spots that could be costing your growth.
Consumer-grade firewalls are no match to their business-grade counterparts. Business-grade firewalls are typically not bought off the shelf at big-box stores, and while they do have a higher initial investment, the return is immeasurable. Whether it be the need for HIPAA compliance, credit card processing compliance, or the ability to restrict and control web traffic, business-grade firewalls offer a level of protection that is far superior. These firewalls process information faster, have features like virtual private network (VPN) connectivity either for individual users or branch office connections and are backed by competent technical support. Features are added as software is updated, unlocking new functionality without the need to reinvest in hardware.
There are many forms of backup available and many of them address the need for backing up your files, but some fall short of the unique needs of businesses. How far back do you need to be able to recover files from? Many solutions offer only a finite amount of time that you can recover your files. For example, if you notice a file missing or corrupt 30 days after it was last backed up, there is a chance you won’t be able to restore your file. What about your applications, or how your server or workstations are configured? Things like user accounts, security settings and applications are often not included in these basic backups, making a complete restoration of your environment impossible.
User Security Training
Viruses, malware and data theft are problems often introduced by untrained users. According to a 2014 IBM study, 95 percent of breaches are caused by human error. Being able to recognize a phishing email and know when an attachment is safe to open or when a website is safe to visit are teachable skills that are worth the investment in training. There are options for training in person and online. Training up your team might be one of the best security safeguard investments you make.
With computer equipment, often the easiest thing to do is use it until you can’t use it anymore; however, between changing standards, supported hardware and software, and improvements you gain from investing in newer technology, this adage does not make as much sense for the business owner anymore. Even with functioning hardware, you can run into problems, like with a computer that runs an older operating system. When that operating system is no longer supported, you won’t receive security updates anymore, and that puts that computer and your entire network at risk. With networking equipment, you tend to gain more because that technology is constantly improving and providing for faster connectivity and throughout. This applies to wireless and wired technology. So, between improving your overall environment and limiting threats, it does not make sense to hang on to old equipment.
Did you start out with a few computers but then add more and more people and equipment over time, without restructuring your network? This is a very typical scenario. As your business grows, equipment is added here and there until over time you end up with several different mismatched pieces of equipment installed throughout the office that are not configured correctly and, therefore, not functioning optimally. What started out as a perfectly working small-scale network for a small team is now a slow and cumbersome beast rousing complaints from your team. Centralizing your networking equipment and any ethernet lines makes management and troubleshooting much easier, and investing in equipment that can handle all the necessary connections will equate to a more efficient, faster network.
If you think it’s time to evaluate what equipment you have in place, and if it makes sense to make any changes or improvements, contact your IT provider. If you don’t have a regular IT company, chances are you will be able to find one that will provide you with a reduced cost or a free evaluation that will provide you with a list of findings and recommendations to streamline and improve your environment.
“According to a 2014 IBM study, 95 percent of breaches are caused by human error. Being able to recognize a phishing email and know when an attachment is safe to open or when a website is safe to visit are teachable skills that are worth the investment in training.”
About the Writer:
Michael Remer is founder and president of ComputerCare LLC, an IT services company providing a full spectrum of IT solutions and services to small and medium businesses.