You should be able to leap over tech problems easily
IT should be a tool to increase your company's profitability and empower your staff.
However, bad IT practices are holding businesses back from achieving their true potential. Here are six things you can do to stop IT interrupting your business.
1. Always, always, always back up your data
Relying on a single place to hold all your information is inviting disaster. If the hard drive containing your data fails or an employee makes a simple mistake, you could lose everything.
Always keep valuable data backed up, whether on another drive or in the cloud. Most importantly, test your backup system on a regular basis. Don't simply trust it to work.
2. Invest time and money in security
Cyber attacks on UK businesses are costing the economy £27bn a year. This means putting proper security in place is vital — from firewalls to fully-fledged antivirus and malware protection.
In short: get a plan or suffer the consequences. Draw up a clear policy on what employees are and aren't allowed to do online, and whether they are allowed to use personal devices for work. (In 2012, 51% of the UK's secure IT networks were breached because staff used their own devices.)
Don't neglect the simple things either. Using strong passwords and changing them regularly will make your systems much more secure.
3. Upgrade your systems
If you have server (an increasing number of businesses are opting to use the cloud instead), it's the heart of your business operations. And one day it will fail, with potentially devastating consequences.
Always remember that technology has a set lifecycle — generally 3 - 5 years — so it's essential to upgrade.
Technology can't look after itself, either. Make sure you monitor and maintain your systems properly. Although this will cost, it's a good investment if it stops your systems from suddenly failing.
4. Choose the right equipment
Buying a cheap and cheerful piece of kit off eBay at a bargain price might sound like good business acumen to you and your bottom line. But you'd be wrong.
Such hardware is fine to use at home for a few hours a week, but for a company that will be using it for hours every day (or even 24/7, in the case of servers, hard drives and the like), it won't last.
With 86% of companies experiencing at least one period of downtime in 2011, it pays to invest in hardware designed to withstand the rigours of punishing commercial use.
5. Plan and audit your IT
Many companies operate on the fly, buying equipment at the last moment when they suddenly realise they need something.
This can lead to extra unexpected costs and result in a mishmash of devices, software and services that aren't joined up. A rushed purchase could also see you buying something that's missing a vital feature.
Keeping a proper track of your IT systems is also vital so you know what assets you own.
6. Stay away from pirated and illegal software
Think installing a cracked copy of vital business software will save you money?
Think again — the list of dangers is long and any one of them could be catastrophic for your bottom line, never mind the moral issues.
You could be fined. The software could be infested with malware that leaks your valuable data. It could be disabled remotely by the software maker. You might miss out on vital security updates.
In 2011, research found more than 25% of UK computer users admit to using pirated software. Businesses are the largest single group.
If caught, expect to be fined for each piece of software, and to be forced to pay the cost of buying that software legally. Don't forget to factor in legal costs, plus the damage to your reputation.
In extreme cases, you can be jailed for up to ten years. Now there's a cheery note to end on.
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This article was written by Danny Walker, director at IT Farm.