The start of a new year is full of expectation and a great time to look forward and plan how to best grow and “do things better.” We recently spent time reflecting on some of the IT challenges we’ve seen small to mid-sized businesses experience and how best to avoid them. The question becomes, “What do businesses need to do well in the IT infrastructure space in order to best set themselves up for success?”
Two primary categories must be addressed: internal and external systems and efforts. Throughout the coming year, our St. Louis computer experts will share more detailed information on many of these areas to give you technological peace of mind. For now, let’s take a quick look at infrastructure issues you need to be thinking about.
Internally: Within Your Office
- Maintaining a stable computer infrastructure environment
- How well do your workstations, servers, routers, firewalls, printers, and other hardware operate? Are they secured against external threats? Are they up-to-date or just “limping along?”
- Having a reliable wired and wireless network
- Do clients or employees bring their laptops to meetings in conference rooms? Do you allow open access to your Wi-Fi network, or are those networks password-protected? Do you have both PCs and Macs and, if so, can they talk to each other? Can they both save documents to any shared drives you may have? When you send something to the printer does it actually print, or does it go into a “black hole” of unprinted documents?
- Managing robust network security
- Your networks should be secure and accessible only by those with approved access. Are there any vulnerabilities in your systems that need to be remedied?
- Consistently backing up business-critical data
- Losing a file erases your time, data, and effort. Make sure you have backups that actually work. Have you tested your backup systems recently to see if you can actually retrieve a document from your backup system? Just because it’s sitting somewhere “in the cloud” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s properly backed up.
- Protecting computer infrastructure and business-critical data from malware: viruses, spam, ransomware (cryptolocker)
- It only takes one corrupted file to wreak havoc with your whole data infrastructure. If you are in a non-critical industry, it might not seem worth the extra effort to properly protect yourself. But if data reliability and systems functionality are important to your business, you’ll want your systems locked down like Fort Knox.
- Protecting clients’ private data
- Whether the law requires you (for firms entrusted with sensitive client information) or whether it’s more of an expectation in your industry, you need to have the proper systems in place to protect customer records and personal data.
- Being vigilant against developing cyber threats
- Cyber crime happens at the speed of data. Hackers know that a brilliant piece of malicious code today will be worth very little six months from now. They won’t wait, neither should you.
- Complying with all governmental regulations appropriate for your industry (HIPAA, etc.)
- For some industries, there are very specific, very strict rules that need to be followed; for others, there are merely “guidelines” that act as the hallmark of a company following “best practices.” Do you know the rules for your industry, and do you have a plan to keep abreast of changing regulations?
Externally: What Do You Need?
- Reliable e-mail platform capable of weeding out spam as much as possible
- Of the hundreds of e-mails you get a day, how many of them could be classified as digital junk mail? Can you access your e-mails from anywhere, and does your e-mail automatically update in a timely manner? While it might seem like a hassle to switch e-mail platform providers, the benefits might be worth it!
- A digital presence which accurately communicates your organization’s value to your target audience
- Websites, social media platforms, SEO efforts, Google AdWords campaigns and a whole host of other digital outlets should put you in the spotlight in the most strategically-grounded way.
- Reliable website hosting
- Not all web hosting is created equal. For a few additional dollars per month, have the confidence your website is automatically backed up, secured from external threats, and kept “up-to-date.”
- Reliable telephony infrastructure
- How many problems do you experience with your VoIP phone system in a day? Lost calls equate to frustrated customers and potentially lost sales. Don’t let an outdated telephone system weaken your growth efforts.
- The ability to collaborate effectively with clients, employees, and vendors
- Let’s face it; we live in a shared, digital world where sending files via FTP and e-mail is considered too slow. People don’t want to wait for files to be delivered via e-mail; they want them immediately! And they want to be able to make changes and share those changes with colleagues or clients right now. Set yourself up with fastest methods of data transfer and enhance your collaboration efforts.
There are a many components to keep track of and successfully put in place in order to fully realize a reliable IT infrastructure. Master them and your business will experience less hassles, less downtime, and less computer angst. Keep a firm grasp on these core concepts and you’ll experience more—more productivity, more confidence, and more success.
And as always, if you have a pressing need we’d be happy to help!