The Small Business IT Checklist for New Hires

Make sure your new employees are productive from day one by checking all the boxes on this IT to-do list.

Finding and recruiting the right talent is one of the most challenging and crucial components of running a small business. Once you’ve welcomed new members to your team, it’s important that they can hit the ground running, not only because it’s good for productivity, but also because their onboarding experience is a reflection of your company.

Show new employees you are organized and committed to providing an environment that breeds great work by taking the following actions—and do it before they walk through the office door, not while they wait awkwardly for their workstations to be ready. These tips will also help you preserve your small business network security and ensure your recruits adhere to cybersecurity best practices.

Checkbox   Determine how every new hire’s job function affects IT needs

Hopefully, you have clear ideas of your new hires’ responsibilities before you made offers. Now consider how these duties affect IT requirements. The nature of their roles will help you assess the following:

  • Should they use a PC or a Mac?
  • What size monitor do they need?
  • How much memory do they need?
  • What software programs do they require?
  • How mobile are they? Will they be traveling frequently and/or need the ability to work from home?

The answers to these questions will help you choose the right computer and hardware for the position. If you work with an outsourced IT services company, the experts there can do this for you. They can also make sure you do not overspend or throw money away on a low-quality machine.

Checkbox   Set up the computer

An outsourced IT services partner will set up the new computer with the particulars of the job function in mind. Whether you’re hiring a vendor or doing it yourself, consider how your office is wired, and be sure to get the computer on the network before the employee arrives. If he or she will primarily work from an office desk, use a hardline connection to the server room (rather than relying only on Wi-Fi) to minimize connectivity complications and reduce network security issues.

If your new hire will use an existing computer, make sure your IT partner migrates data from the previous user to the appropriate parties before creating a new user ID.

Checkbox   Connect to the printer

Set up and test the connection to the printer. If new employees will be handling confidential information, such as HR documents or company financial information, consider if they need a dedicated printer, rather than printing to a shared device.

Checkbox   Create an email address

Before creating new email accounts, make sure you or your outsourced IT services partner thinks about whether employees need to access email remotely; if so, be sure their configurations can securely accommodate this. Remember to tell new hires to change their passwords, and share password security best practices.

If appropriate, you or your IT partner can help your employees set up email on their mobile phones and walk them through remote access guidelines once they have started.

Checkbox   Determine permissions level

If you have a file server, determine which directories the employees need access to. Anderson Technologies recommends providing access to folders and files on a need-to-know basis and limiting administrator privileges to curb the ramifications of a potential cyberattack.

Checkbox   Set up relevant software applications

Install and create accounts for all necessary software programs. Be sure to track all software license keys in a central place so you’re prepared for a potential software audit. An outsourced IT services partner can do this for you and keep track of when software was purchased and when subscriptions need to be renewed.

Checkbox   Prepare for any necessary IT training

Create a user training plan so your employees feel comfortable with your technology, software, and approach to IT security. Provide education from the onset so they know exactly what to expect. If you’re working with an outsourced IT services provider, ask the provider what level of training it can provide to your staff.

Checkbox   Ask the new hire to review and sign your policies on confidentiality, email and web use, and business network security

Make it clear from the beginning that all employees are expected to abide by strict cybersecurity rules and best practices. This especially includes password security. Are social media sites or personal email prohibited during the work day? Now is the time to share any restrictions. Present them in writing, ideally as part of your new employee handbook.

Don’t have an existing employee guide to cybersecurity best practices? Our Anderson Technologies’ eBook, An Employee’s Guide to Preventing Cybercrime, a comprehensive educational resource for small businesses, is coming soon. Check back in January!

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting company that provides outsourced IT services, including employee onboarding, IT security, cloud services, hardware and software acquisition, and more. Call Anderson Technologies at 314.394.3001 today for your IT needs.

Quoteables: Why Chromebook May Be a Valuable Option for Your Business (Tech Patio)

We recently published a guest article about Chromebooks for business on a technology blog called Tech Patio.  Luke Bragg provided his expert IT consulting advice regarding how these inexpensive machines may be suitable for some small businesses.

Read our full blog post on Tech Patio’s website:

http://techpatio.com/2016/articles/machines-work-chromebook-valuable-option-business

Are you in need of expert IT consulting?  Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting firm that specializes in system administration for small businesses.  Let us help you today!  Give us a call at 314.394.3001 or email us at info@andersontech.com.

What are Quoteables?  This is a category in our posts to highlight any publications that benefit from our expert IT consulting advice and quote us in articles for their readers. 

An IT Tale of Two Cities: Why a New York Non-Profit Chose a St. Louis IT Consulting Company for Its Outsourced IT Services

For High Ridge House, a provider of Christian Science nursing care based in the Bronx, New York, keeping up with technology changes and evolving health care legislation issues had become challenging to handle on its own. With fewer than 50 employees on staff, it didn’t make sense to hire a full-time information technology (IT) expert, so the non-profit organization decided to outsource its IT needs to Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company. The partnership exemplifies two growing trends: the rise in outsourced IT services for small businesses as opposed to hiring a firm to “put out fires” as needed and the use of remote technology to make long-distance work relationships possible.

Taking an ongoing, active approach to information technology, including IT security, allows small businesses “to get out ahead of issues rather than just react to them when problems occur and to have a plan in place to solve them quickly should they arise,” explained Virginia Hughes, Assistant Administrator at High Ridge House.

For High Ridge House, taking a complete, long-term view of IT allows it to run its business reliably and securely, stay Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant, unlock cost-savings, and improve its guests’ ability to communicate with loved ones.

HighRidgeHouse-ITTaleTwoCities

No Longer “Pennywise, Pound Foolish”

Before choosing a partner, the High Ridge House team met with three qualified outsourced IT services companies, including a local firm. Anderson Technologies made this short list because Hughes previously worked for one of its clients in St. Louis who was pleased with the collaboration.

Hughes admitted they had some initial concerns about a remote relationship, “but because I work from home in Boston half-time, I have already seen the tools that allow people to work remotely, and I have confidence in them,” she said. The High Ridge House team also felt confident in Mark Anderson, principal of Anderson Technologies, who flew to New York to present the firm’s outsourced IT services.

The facility had gone years without upgrading systems, which in hindsight, was “pennywise and pound foolish,” explained Hughes. “Mark was good at weighing our short-term and long-term needs, as well as the economics of the decision. We are non-profit, and we have to be careful about how we spend our money, but technology is also an important part of our ability to do our work. Anderson Technologies has a great sense of how to balance the possibilities with the economics.”

Hughes and her team also valued Mark’s ability to explain complicated IT issues simply. He identified IT security and compliance issues that needed immediate attention and devised a plan for tackling them as cost-effectively as possible.

Not Sleeping in the City that Never Sleeps

Mark and Senior Systems Administrator Luke Bragg spent a week in New York, armed with an impressive to-do list. They installed a new server, new workstations, new Wi-Fi infrastructure, new copies of Microsoft Office, custom third-party applications, anti-malware software, upgraded the firewall’s firmware, and more. They did everything necessary to get the office running smoothly, securely, and in compliance with HIPAA, often working until 2 a.m. to make it happen.

HighRidgeHouse-MarkLukeOnSite

Luke and Mark of Anderson Technologies after each putting in over 70 hours in 4 days

“They were awesome!” Hughes enthused. “They had a plan, but they understood that any time you are working on a project that is this large and complicated, surprises will come up. They always stayed calm, optimistic, and cheerful. It was just a joy to work with them.”

High Ridge House’s guests reaped the benefits straightaway. “Previously, the Wi-Fi signal wasn’t strong in a number of rooms. Sorting that out made an immediate difference to the patients, who could then FaceTime or Skype with family and friends,” said Hughes, adding that it also improved the quality of life for the nursing staff, many of whom have family abroad.

The Long-Term Goals of Outsourced IT Services

With the initial legwork behind them, Mark and his team now support High Ridge House from their office in St. Louis, although they will visit New York for check-ins. High Ridge House’s goal is to stay abreast of relevant technology and HIPAA regulation developments affordably and to plan ahead so it can avoid another massive update. Most importantly, it wants to ensure technology supports its chief mission.

Anderson Technologies is thrilled to help support that plan. “Mark and his team aren’t just passionate about technology, they are into the relationships as well,” said Hughes. “That makes this all more rewarding for us, and for them.”

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting company that partners with local and national clients to improve the efficiency and reliability of IT functions, enhance IT security and compliance, and take a proactive approach to maintenance with a focus on cost-savings. For information about outsourced IT services, including IT security, cloud services, hardware and software acquisition, and more, call Anderson Technologies at 314.394.3001 today.

Outsourced IT Services: Why Your Business Needs Managed IT Services, Not a Break/Fix Approach

An increasing number of small businesses are taking a managed services approach to information technology (IT), forging long-term, strategic partnerships with outsourced IT services providers. The global managed services market is predicted to reach $193 billion by 2019, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.5 percent, according to CompTIA’s 4th Annual Trends in Managed Services report.

The survey found that the top factors driving this growth for small and mid-sized business owners are improved efficiency and reliability of IT functions, enhanced IT security and compliance, a proactive approach to maintenance, and cost-savings.

When you opt for managed IT services, you don’t have to worry about your business’s ongoing technology needs or the cyber threats it faces daily. You pay a monthly fee to retain a partner who works with you, and for you, to keep your business running smoothly, safely, and in compliance with industry regulations.

This is in stark contrast to the break/fix outsourced IT services model, in which you only pay an IT provider when you need something. With managed IT services, your provider works to identify problems before they happen, and in the end, saves you time and money. Just as regular maintenance checks for your car can help spot and address minor issues before they become big ones, managed services does the same for your IT needs.

How Managed IT Services Work

A managed IT services partner installs a small suite of software that allows it to monitor your devices and infrastructure remotely, no matter where you are located.  (Read why a NY-based business opted to work with a St. Louis IT company.) The software also alerts the service partner to potential issues, such as IT security threats or storage issues. This allows for proactive management. The vendor gets a complete view of your business and maintains the knowledge needed to do what’s best and most cost-effective long-term, as opposed to just plugging holes and putting out fires, which often ends up costing more in the long run.

A managed IT services partner will help assess, improve, and maintain, the following business areas:

  1. IT Security

As much as we’d like IT security to be a turnkey, passive process, it’s not. It requires constant scrutiny, perpetual skepticism, and skilled intervention. Installing anti-malware and anti-virus software isn’t enough. You need to make sure the programs are updated regularly.

Additionally, many take a “set it and forget it” approach to firewalls, but you must review security logs and install firmware patches routinely. Patching also requires great care while failure to do so leaves your business vulnerable.

Managed IT services partners also stay informed and know when patience is needed or when additional configuration make sense. For example, not every Microsoft Windows update should be automatically installed. Someone needs to review it to ensure its applicability for your particular situation. And setting up a secure Wi-Fi network isn’t as simple as installing a box. Many small businesses don’t have the time or the expertise to tackle these ongoing tasks.

  1. Backups and Disaster Recovery

Every business needs a plan for backing up its business-critical data regularly, and for firms in regulated industries, it is especially critical. An outsourced IT services partner will establish back-up procedures and audit them consistently.

  1. Hardware Performance

Are your servers, workstations, printers, and other devices performing optimally? Does your business have time to manage all these elements and to handle the IT administrative components that come with hiring new employees? A managed IT services firm makes sure your team members can work productively from day one.

  1. Remote Access

Do you and your employees need to access work files remotely? Doing so is convenient, but it can open a host of threats to your business. An outsourced IT services partner will make sure you have a plan for remote access and data sharing that is as secure as it is easy to use.

  1. Compliance

A managed IT services company will help you stay on top of industry regulations, such as HIPAA or financial legislation, so you can rest assured you are in compliance.

  1. Ongoing Support

Maybe you’ve accidentally deleted a week’s worth of work or clicked a link you shouldn’t have. Maybe you’re having trouble printing or even lost your connection to the network completely. Every professional has experienced that quintessential moment when you need help now. With managed IT services, you’ll know whom to call and be confident you’ll get the help you need quickly from someone who understands your business.

Your outsourced IT services partner should be able to explain IT issues to non-technical people. It should also have a plan for consistent communication. Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company and managed IT services provider, runs ongoing reports assessing the status of its clients’ infrastructure and devises plans for improvement. Call 314.394.3001 today to learn more.