So you own your own business in beautiful Vernon BC and things are going well. You are experiencing some growth, sales are increasing and now, after 5 years of hard work, you have grown from a staff of one (yourself) to five full time employees! That's great right? All of your hard work is paying off and your are actually thinking this was worth it. Fast forward a couple more years and now you have 8 staff and a whole lot more variables to manage. A lot of times this is about the time we are contacted by business owners looking for assistance with the myriad of IT products and services.
Today IT is a significant part of any business growth strategy and let's get one thing straight: IT is EXPENSIVE! It is a major cost to any growing business and in many cases, especially in small business, it is piece-worked together using consumer grade hardware and free software and cloud solutions.
If you are looking to seriously grow your business and expect to scale you had best change your mindset on the value of IT! Stop thinking of it as an annoying cost and start considering how it might be properly deployed to help you succeed. As your business becomes more successful you, by that very nature, have more to lose. Some key IT pieces you should be educating yourself on are;
- Website - Is it current? Do you have an online store? Who is Hosting your site? Is it up to date and secure?
- Data Backups - Is your data being backed up? Are you sure? Where is it? What is the retention period?
- Disaster Recovery - If your office suffered a fire or flood and you lost your server do you have another copy of your data? How long will it take to restore the data and get operational again? You don't have a server you are using a "cloud service" instead - what is their data backup policy?
- Antivirus - Are you using some free antivirus software you found? Are your virus updates current? Are your staff educated on erring on the side of caution re- suspicious attachments/links? Have you even heard of the Cryptolocker virus?
- PCI Compliance - Do you accept credit card payments? Do you store cardholder data? If you are not PCI compliant you could face liability risk
- Business CRM Software - You may have gotten by on Excel spreadsheets and a basic Accounting program but as you grow you will need to invest in CRM software typically specific you your industry that will look after sales, client management, billing, Inventory and the like. This software will also likely be expensive. Sorry.
- Business Process - As you grow so grows the number of processes. You seem to have spreadsheets for everything! Anytime data entry is seeming excessive this is a good time to review your process and consider automation and scripting for tasks if possible
- Employee Computers - Are they secure? Are the local files backed up on the server? What happens if an employee loses or steals a computer?
- Company Data on Personal Devices - The most obvious example is company email on employee smartphones. Could you remove that email data if needed?
Yes IT is expensive and yes it is relatively complicated. As I mentioned there are lots of small businesses who get by on the cheap but I will wager that it is simply a question of "When" they will spend $$ on IT if they are actually going to stick around and grow. Do your homework on IT, it really is important! Find a service provider that you can trust, build a relationship and start taking your IT seriously!