IT mistakes most SMEs make

Daniel Strain 20-Apr-2021 14:13:12
Everyday meeting. Group of six young people discuss something and gesturing while sitting at the table in office

When it comes to business technology, “If it isn’t broken, why fix it?” is the common mentality shared among business owners. While larger corporations may have an IT department to look after their infrastructure, most small businesses simply don’t have that luxury.

Treating your IT systems as an afterthought is a mistake that many small businesses make far too often. As a business, your technology might be one of the biggest investments that you make, and it deserves to be proactively maintained. It’s not just the big failures that you need to think about, but also the time you lose dealing with inefficient software, slow computer, and security issues. Over time, the cost of dealing with minor issues can add up to a substantial amount of lost hours and revenue.

Often, the overall costs of fixing an unplanned failure outweigh the costs of proactive care. It’s the same reason dentists ask us to brush our teeth to prevent cavities, keeping technology up to date can prevent expensive and time-consuming issues down the road.

Mistake #1: Insufficient technical support

Most SME IT challenges start with a lack of technical support. Unlike large companies that have an in-house IT department at their beckon call, most SMEs rely on that one vaguely technical staff member to fix everyone’s IT issues. While this may work in the beginning, as your business grows, you’ll find that you may benefit from hiring an IT technician, but don’t have the budget to hire on-site personnel.

For SMEs it doesn’t make financial sense to have your own in-house IT team - you’ll need to pay for their salary, benefits, training, etc. instead, you could outsource your IT to a managed service provided (MSP). Managed services are still a relatively new and rapidly growing service that many companies don’t realise is available to them.

Mistake #2: Choosing the cheapest option

Everyone wants to save money—especially a small business where every pound counts. However, when it comes to your business technology, cheaper isn’t always cheerful.

It’s smart to establish a budget. But make sure the business technology solutions you choose can provide the support you need. Otherwise, you’re wasting time and money.

It’s easy to think that large enterprises make much better targets for data breaches, but small businesses are not immune to attacks. In fact, SMEs are the target for almost two-thirds of all cyberattacks.

Choosing to go cheaper on your security can be disastrous in the long run. Data loss, especially a security breach that threatens the privacy of your customers, is painful. You’ll lose time, money and maybe even your business, trying to recover. And even if you do survive the breach, you could lose credibility with your customer base.

“A survey of small-business owners by Nationwide found only 13% of respondents believed they had experienced a cyber-attack. However, when owners were shown a list of specific examples of attacks, including phishing, viruses and ransomware, the figure of those reporting attacks increased to 58%.” – CNBC

Mistake #3: Not upgrading technology

When it comes to technology, a proactive approach is always best. Outdated technology (operating systems, hardware, and software) is one of the most common mistakes businesses make. While buying and using older hardware and software may seem like the cheapest option, it will end up costing more money in the long run. Older technologies have a shortened shelf life that increases the likelihood of running into issues and failures.

For example, many small businesses are still running Windows XP on their work machines, even after Microsoft stopped supporting it in 2014. While the computer may work fine, what users may not realise is the critical risks associated with running an unsupported operating system. Why is this bad? If a malicious hacker discovers an exploit that works with Windows, Microsoft will release an update to resolve the security issue across all the operating systems they support. In this case, they wouldn’t include Windows XP among the updates, leaving you vulnerable to hackers that know their exploit will be successful.

Hardware like Hard drives also has an expiry date, typically they have an average life span of approximately three to five years, but this isn’t a given. Some hard drives may defy age and last much longer, while others may die quickly for unknown reasons. A noisy or slow-performing workstation may be showing signs of failing hardware. Take a moment to assess the costs of an upgrade or replacement for one hard drive over the potential costs of a failure in terms of downtime, cost to repair, and lost revenue. Take action before you need it to ensure that your business runs more smoothly.

Mistake #4: Lack of security

Small businesses frequently fail to recognise security risks or don't take them seriously.

You don't need to be a high-profile business to become a target, either. Hackers have created countless automated programs that search the Internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, seeking poorly secured systems, servers, PCs, and networks to infect and exploit.

Unfortunately, businesses everywhere are falling victim to compromised systems, robotic attacks, identity, and data theft, and more. SMEs that fail to properly secure client and customer data often find themselves in the middle of security crises that result in bad press, lost sales, and loss of customer trust. At a minimum, small businesses need anti-virus software, malware protection, and a strong firewall.

Mistake #5: Poor password hygiene

Almost everything on the internet requires a password and it’s easy to just use the same one every time, but by doing that, you leave yourself and your company, vulnerable.

Reusing and sharing passwords across different account is a big no-no. It only takes one of your accounts to be breached for your password to end up on the dark web, ready for a hacker to take advantage of.

There are many ways your passwords can be hacked, but practising good password hygiene can drastically reduce your chances of getting breached. Of course, a password manager can help you stay within the best practice guidelines for password protection, creating strong and unique passwords for each new account and storing your passwords in one secure location.

Cyber threats are a daily problem for businesses of all sizes. Download our  guide on good password habits to make!

Mistake #6: Bad backup strategies

Despite numerous choices, methods, and options, many organisations fail to adequately back up data.

An estimated 70% of cyber-attacks are specifically targeted towards small businesses, with almost half of small companies have already experienced a cyber-attack, but what does that really mean?

Losing IT capability due to technical, human, or natural disasters for any length of time means downtime for your staff which may have a devastating impact on your business. If you suffer data loss – including client data – you are losing one of the most important business assets you have. The critical nature of business data can be overlooked and often its importance is only realised when it’s too late.

Even organisations that believe their data is properly protected may find themselves at risk. Occasionally, the wrong data is backed up, or, in some cases the backups prove unreliable. In fact, the Gartner Group estimates only half of all tape backups restore successfully.

Since data backups are so critical to an organisation's livelihood, it makes sense to turn to a professional. An outsourced IT partner can work with your SME to determine what data, files, and information should be backed up, how often you need to create the data sets, where to locate the backups, and how often to test the sets' integrity. Consultants also prove invaluable in updating backup routines when software upgrades, migrations, and other updates change critical file locations. Plus, they can ensure your business and client data remains secure, which is a critical concern for any business in the finance, legal or even retail services.

Mistake #7: Lack of business technology training or support

One of the most important factors in anything related to business technology is access to the support and training when you need it.

It's estimated that office staff understand less than 20% of the available features in the software applications they use. That means 80% of the features, time-saving capabilities, and cost-reducing functions remain unused – resulting in mass inefficiencies.

Of course, even when training resources are present, there are no guarantee staff skills will improve. For that to happen, businesses must make computer and software training a priority.

One way of rolling out effective training programs is with the help of an IT partner. Not all SME IT solutions offer training, so when looking for a partner, be sure to ask them. At Netitude, we train all users on new software to make sure they’re getting the best out of their programs and offer additional security awareness training to help combat Phishing.

Need help but don’t know where to start?

Seeking outsourced IT from an MSP could drastically improve your business across a variety of areas. How can an MSP help your SME? They take responsibility for proactive and preventative maintenance of the IT systems within your business and costs much less than hiring a single in-house technician. This includes onsite and remote support, emergency after-hours support, virus removal, backups, monitoring, installations, and more.

When it comes to setting an IT budget, SME IT support services like Netitude can carve out a technology road map that’s aligned to your business goals, so you know when and where you’ll need to invest in technology ahead of time.

While most MSPs will tailor a solution specifically for the needs of your business, Netitude also provides you with your own IT Director. Your Virtual IT Director will develop an IT strategy to align your infrastructure with your business goals and advise on a technology solution to drive your business forward.

Want to know more about Netitude’s Managed IT support services? Get in touch and discuss your needs with an expert.

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