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Dec 27, 201612:01 PMOpen Mic

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5 IT challenges facing small businesses

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I frequently work with small businesses facing IT obstacles and struggling to find the right solutions. Many of these businesses experience the same challenges, regardless of industry, and I’ve identified five common IT hurdles most small businesses will need to overcome at some point in their evolution.

1. Full-time IT staff or outsourced service provider?

When it comes to IT and a small business budget, an in-house, full-time staffer can get pretty expensive. The IT role has a historically high turnover. According to a TEK Systems survey, only 12% of IT professionals expect people to stay with their employer for more than five years. Small businesses need to decide if it’s worth the investment to hire and train a staff IT employee versus outsourcing to a service provider who excels in identifying solutions for your specific needs. By outsourcing your IT needs, you receive a detailed analysis based on your challenges and goals, and a tailored strategy to help you maximize your goals. Outside service providers are on call and work with you one on one to ensure that your small business is ahead of the game. Outsourced IT providers also don’t take PTO days — potentially leaving your business unprotected — and can be kept under contract to ensure performance.

Here are five important questions to ask an outside service provider:

  1. Can you take me through your onboarding and documentation process?
  2. What vendors and products are you aligned with (e.g., Dell, HP, Microsoft, Cisco, Trend Micro)?
  3. Do you have relationships with local reps at each company?
  4. Who are some of your best clients and why?
  5. Can you walk me through the process of getting help for both urgent and non-urgent issues?

Does your business have an IT staff member who is doing commodity work? Perhaps your business is large enough to demand on onsite person. Are they working on strategic and valuable work or stuck just doing basic help desk issues?

Outsourcing can be used to augment your existing staff by bringing in one-time expertise or taking the overflow and backing up your existing resource. A good IT partner can help ensure optimal IT performance and show your IT staff that you support them and know that they cannot do everything or have expertise in everything.

2. Lost in (technology) translation

As a business owner, it is vital that you understand and use advanced technologies. Technology can help increase business efficiency and even expand operations. But dissecting the options and choosing the right vendors, software, and services that make the most sense for your needs can make your head spin. Microsoft, Cisco, HP, and a plethora of hardware and software vendors are constantly knocking on your door, selling the latest and the greatest solutions. It is important that you understand the things that you really need to run your business. An outside consultant can break it down for you and provide invaluable information about vetted vendors and “just the right size” solutions for a small business. By removing the “language barrier” that sometimes is technology talk, this type of personalized service will help you stay focused on the bigger goals and feel confident that you are in good hands with the solutions that you need to further your business.

3. Protecting your business from security threats

The stats and facts surrounding security threats to small business are astounding. The average virus infects a network for 146 days before it is detected. In 2015, the average cost of a security breach was $1.57 million (more info here). McAfee or another anti-virus service alone is not enough to protect your business.

After installing a proper firewall and anti-virus software, the very next step to protecting your small business from an expensive attack is to educate your employees. Your weakest link is often the people answering phones and opening emails. Here are two things that you can do to help with this. First is education. Do phishing tests to measure your current vulnerability to threats. Then teach your users what type of threats are out there and what they typically look like, as well as information that is never safe to give out over the phone or email. Second is creating corporate policy for security that outlines rules for password management, mobile device usage, file sharing, etc.

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