Small businesses focus on their own practices and their industry and often don’t have the means, the resources, nor the will to keep up with latest computer developments, malicious security threats, or even practical computer tips. In turn, it leads to overlooking effective technology practices.
These IT failures can be prevented or corrected: here are the measures businesses should take to address these common mistakes.
#1. Stop relying on Inadequate Technical Support
Poor, counter-productive IT support, business administration and information technology investment choices are very common. Businesses often rely on Hardware or Software Manufacturer’s Helpdesk, “Big Store” Service Division, “Side Job” Technician”, “In-house Computer Guru”, Frequent “Yellow Book” budget special, or a combination of all of the above – mostly in effort to save money, instead losing time, productivity and revenue.
Small businesses need knowledgeable, trusted technology partners who are proficient with a variety of current technologies and willing to help learn their industry’s operations requirements. Getting to know your business and taking time to understand your needs is of utmost importance. Once a qualified technology expert is familiar with a client’s requirements, appropriate services and solutions can be recommended and deployed. As result your operations will be more cost-effective, more efficient, more profitable for you.
#2: Stop relying on outdated technology
Smart businesses expect PC lifespan to last 3 years. Retaining PCs or other devices longer than three or four years often results in far more costly repair and support. You can end up paying more money for supporting old systems than you would’ve by investing into new ones.
[tweetthis]Smart businesses expect PC lifespan to last 3 years. Why?[/tweetthis]
Getting new systems will require less support and will actually that meet or exceed the price of new systems, because older and obsolete hardware is less efficient, increases occurrences of systems downtime (and that adds to employee dissatisfaction), leads to loss of opportunities and sales.
#3: Stop playing mix-and-match
One of the biggest mistakes is in failure to standardize hardware components and software applications, where possible. The result is a “salad” of components, and that complicates troubleshooting, repair, and deployment, not to mention require the support of a variety of programs with different license terms and renewal dates, often resulting in incompatibilities and further issues.
Small businesses can overcome common hardware and software issues by
- Employing a 5S Method to Improve Productivity with Effective Computer Network – that would include standardizing hardware components and software applications, as well as – very important! – bringing your software up to standard, including auditing for illegal software and replacing with authorized, licensed copies.
- Retiring equipment at the end of expected lifecycles (typically three to four years)
- Working with an IT consulting company – preferably a Managed Service Provider (MSP) who has an expert understanding of the network environment standards, and can leverage vendor relationships to bring better cost options for hardware or software.
#4: Stop overlooking sufficient power protection
When it comes to equipment, repetitive surges shorten the lifespan of computers, printers, IP-based phones, and other network components and devices. In an “electrical event” or a disaster, a single power outage, surge, or spike can damage expensive electronic components and result in critical data loss, and irreparable damage to the equipment, lead to downtime and can cost business an astronomical amount of money.
A common mistake many businesses make is relying on power strips that are either designed for a household use, are too old, or too basic and not effective enough for big surges. Simple and household power strips should be not just avoided, but strictly forbidden when a computer, server, network device, or other important electronic component is part of the network.
Organizations should deploy professional high-quality battery backup devices with built-in surge suppression for all critical desktop systems. All business servers should be connected to uninterruptible power supplies and be regularly tested. Since surge suppressor quality varies, organizations should purchase such equipment from trusted vendors. Surge suppressors and batteries wear over time, so businesses should replace them on a regular basis.
When deploying battery backups, businesses should properly install and configure corresponding cables and communications software. Network protections should be considered at all times, along with strives to rectify any cable modem, DSL, and other surge sources that can damage or ruin computing equipment and telecommunications.
Important: Make sure it is confirmed your business has adequate fail-over protection.
#5: Stop neglecting security issues.
Small businesses frequently fail to deploy proper security measures, becoming victims to compromised systems, robo-attacks, business data and identity theft, loss of customer trust, damaged reputation and more.
Organizations either don’t recognize the risks or don’t take them seriously, not realizing you don’t have to be the high-profile organization to become a hacker’s target: automated programs work 24/7 hoping for gaps in security systems, desktops, servers and networks to attack, and they are very successful at it.
According to a 2013 National Small Business Association survey, 44% of small businesses have been attacked, with costs averaging $8,700 per incident. The costs are outrageous: the FBI estimates such cybercrime costs U.S. industry money in excess of $400 billion.
Do not become a statistic. Here are several best practices to help your small businesses in preventing security failures:
- Implement and enforce strong password security policies for all PCs, servers, network equipment, and software applications.
- Regularly update operating systems, network equipment firmware, and applications with the latest security patches: if it does not have the latest update, it may be vulnerable to most recently discovered or developed security gaps.
- Deploy business-class firewalls in all locations; connect no systems directly to the Internet.
- Secure all wireless networks.
- Disable and disallow guest accounts.
- Implement Internet and e-mail usage policies that preclude a personal use of those technologies.
- Prohibit file-sharing programs.
- Deploy proven antivirus, anti-spyware, and anti-rootkit applications and update them regularly.
- Regularly perform security audits and correct all deficiencies.
#6: Stop poor backup – get it right.
Do you need backup? Absolutely! Is backup enough to support your business? Absolutely NOT.
Disasters happen, and for various reasons.
- 45% due to Human Error
- 45% due to Server Failure
- 50% due to Network Outage
How you prepare can mean the difference between business as usual and costly downtime.
Statistics reveal there is a 50% chance an organization will cease operations immediately when critical data is lost. Worse, an organization’s odds of failure rocket to 90% within two years when critical data is lost. Data losses cost an average of 19 days’ productivity. Recovering data from damaged disks, meanwhile, is incredibly expensive.
The costs and consequences of downtime are generally measured in two ways: How much time you can afford to lose (the Recovery Time Objective, or RTO), and how much data you can afford to lose (the Recovery Point Objective, or RPO). In order to be effective, a business continuity plan must establish an acceptable RTO and RPO for the business and engage a backup and recovery solution that can achieve both in the event of a disaster or outage.
It’s easy to see how quickly downtime and data loss can ruin a business. A holistic backup solution protects the business from the potentially devastating consequences of small and large disasters, no matter the cause. A comprehensive solution minimizes data loss by capturing entire images of data, applications and operating systems on all workstations and servers at regular intervals that meet the organization’s Recovery Point Objective. A strategic plan also minimizes downtime by giving IT administrators storage and restoration options that enable them to manage backup and restoration from a central location. These options also enable full restores to different hardware or even bare metal.
When an organization has access to all of its data and can quickly restore that data plus applications and operating systems, it has a business continuity plan that provides a competitive edge and protects all customers and shareholders—no matter what.
After all, if the backup software only captures data, administrators can spend days or even weeks reinstalling applications and operating systems on servers and individual workstations.
#7: Stop exposing your systems to malicious elements
The problem of unsolicited e-mail, also known as spam is a more serious issue than you may believe it be: in addition to wasting valuable time, it also may lead to virus or malware exposure if user makes a poor judgement on the nature of spam, and follows external links to malicious sources.
In addition to local network filtering software, IT professionals can deploy server-based spam protection, or handle e-mail processing in the cloud, where vendor that can monitor e-mail flow to filter out most of the undesirable email.
Such filters can generate false positives, and add cost to the solution. Businesses should also practice effective methods for minimizing spam. Most common options are:
- Do not publish e-mail addresses in plain text on Web sites; instead, use form-based tools that prevent robotic harvesting.
- Ignore common questionable e-mail solicitations
- Use reputable e-mail filters (such as those included in Microsoft Outlook, Google Gmail, and other programs).
- Read all terms, especially privacy policies, before ever providing your e-mail address to another party – specifically avoid submitting to those that share the email with “third parties”, “affiliates” or “partners”.
- Do not register with public websites (forums, discussion boards, social media), that publishes your email address, even for “members only”.
- When using a spam filter, do not forget to report, mark, or label spam (that made it to your inbox) as “spam” and block the user – this action allows mail server store information on the email origin, adds it to the anti-spam queue, thus helping to prevent receiving more spam from the same source in the future – not jut for you, but for your organization, as well.
Often, businesses and users simply fail to implement protection. A survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance revealed that 67% of the respondents did not have up-to-date antivirus software, while 15 percent had no antivirus application installed. The BBC reports that unprotected PCs become infected within 8 seconds of being connected to the Internet. It is important to remember, that just like the virus in the human world, a computer virus can also spread – so if one system on the network gets infected, the whole business is in trouble.
Bottom line: get adequate anti-virus protection, make sure it is licensed, and up-to-date.
Spyware and Malware
Malware, adware, and such tend to display unwanted advertisements, cutting into business time and resources.
Spyware is not the same as viruses. Viruses are destructive by nature, while spyware collect user information or sensitive data. Some of it may be done in conjunction with malware – so the unwanted ads can be displayed based on user’s behavior and habits.
No virus or spyware strategy is foolproof, but most technology consultants recommend the following steps:
- Install reputable antivirus and anti-spyware applications – and if in high-risk environments, install an additional standalone anti-spyware application.
- Regularly update antivirus and anti-spyware programs – if it does not have the latest definitions, it may not protect you from most recently developed spyware.
- Do not let antivirus and anti-spyware program licenses expire.
- Perform regular automated antivirus and anti-spyware scans.
- Regularly review security program log files to confirm proper operation – if you are not sure how to, leave it to your IT professionals.
We no longer live in the age where just exercising common sense is enough to keep your computer network and business that depends on it, safe. Make sureto take all the proper measures to protect your business data.
If your business is in need of a reliable, professional IT consulting firm in New Jersey, call us at 201-493-1414 – we would be happy to assist.
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