Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve seen a massive amount of change over the last nearly two years. And at the same time, there is an even greater focus on Cyber Security. So as we wave goodbye to another year, it is a perfect opportunity to take a step back and review priorities for the new year ahead. With this in mind, I’ve pulled together my top IT resolutions to keep you on track next year.
These resolutions aim to save you time by telling you which area’s you need to focus on. Identifying where to concentrate your efforts will help stop your business from falling behind with IT and demonstrate where IT can be used to boost your productivity.
As a business leader, next year you should:
- Put cybersecurity first
- Check that backups are still fit for purpose
- Prepare for secure remote working to continue
On a personal level, aim to:
- Make a to-do that works for you
- Automate a repetitive task
- Build a dashboard
And don’t forget to:
- Be innovative
Resolutions for your business
1. Put cybersecurity first
This year alone has seen some significant cyberattacks. For example, a critical national oil infrastructure was taken offline, the breach of two major suppliers led to companies of all sizes being targetted, and a printing vulnerability put most desktop computers in the world at risk. To read more about these breaches, I’ve attached a few resources to look at:
Colonial Pipeline breach took down the largest fuel pipeline in the US: Colonial Pipeline Cyber Attack: Hackers Used Compromised Password - Bloomberg
The SolarWinds hack attacked companies and the US Government: What Is the SolarWinds Hack and Why Is It a Big Deal? (businessinsider.com)
Kaseya breach crippled thousands of companies: Kaseya ransomware attack sets off race to hack service providers -researchers | Reuters
Print Nightmare vulnerability on nearly all Windows computers and servers: Critical PrintNightmare Security Warning For All Windows OS Versions (forbes.com)
Beyond the headlines, 2021 is on track to see the highest total payouts to cybercriminals for ransomware attacks. Businesses of all sizes are falling victim, but there is particular interest in small and medium businesses that are ‘big enough to pay but too small for enterprise IT security’.
This is big business for criminal gangs. Ransom demands can be anywhere from tens of thousands of pounds up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Why is this? Because they know a ransom may be less costly to a business than being locked out of IT systems for several days.
It is now such a serious problem that governments are moving towards mandating minimum cyber security standards for key industries. In the UK, that may even include MSPs such as ourselves – a move that we’d welcome.
This resolution is so important that it comes in three parts:
- Do the basics: no default usernames and passwords, use multi-factor authentication, keep systems up-to-date and check remote access is secure.
- Be pro-active: staff need security awareness training, build layers of protection.
- Going forward, always think about Cyber Security first.
2. Check that your backups are still fit for purpose
Following on from the previous point, a backup and disaster recovery solution that can protect the business against fire, flooding and accidental deletions may not be effective against a Cyber Security incident.
The worst time to find out that a ransomware attack could lock both your live data and backups is after it has happened. Find out whether this is the case and take steps to protect yourself.
At the same time, ask yourself whether the coverage and recovery times are still long and fast enough to cover your current needs.
3. Prepare for flexible remote working to continue
Nearly everyone had to find a way to get everyone working remotely overnight when the first lockdown was announced. By now, most businesses have a long-term working solution, even if the actual question of the balance between home and office work may not be fully settled.
For the foreseeable future, the safe bet seems to continue to support flexible remote working, whether that is due to the worry of another lockdown, a new working from home policy, or attracting new employees with an expectation of remote working.
Do your IT systems support this? Do staff have the equipment they need? Do you need to set a Mobile Device Management policy or a Bring Your Own Device policy?
The running and equipment costs for a modern, flexible, and secure IT system and equipment can be very different from a more traditional setup. Plan ahead for this.
Resolutions for you
4. Keep all your tasks in one place
Your New Year’s resolutions will need to go somewhere, and what better place than a good to-do list?
The best to-do list is part of your daily workflow already. I like to start with Outlook – emails can be turned into tasks, tasks can be set out in the future or easily added to the calendar, and I’m always returning to Outlook to check what’s next.
If you are more visual or have a team project, Trello or Microsoft Planner can sit above this to plan out and track longer-term work. The advantage of Microsoft Planner is that these tasks also appear in Outlook.
Read around the 4 D’s of time management, or the Scrum concept, if you want some ideas of how to set effective to-lists for yourself or a team.
5. Automate reminders and notifications
Unfortunately, AI assistants like Siri and Google Assistant ended up being better at telling jokes or playing a song whilst you’re driving than organising our days.
With a little bit of work, you can still get computers to take some strain off remembering dates and deadlines.
If you have Microsoft 365, Microsoft Lists provides a great way of creating a list of projects, assets, or repeated tasks. It’s like Excel, but a bit more like an app.
You can set a date for any item listed there and then use built-in tools to automatically send a reminder for expiry or review to a specific person.
It could even send out a weekly reminder to get timesheets in, a yearly reminder to submit your holiday sheets, review an employee handbook or anything you can think of!
6. Build a dashboard
A dashboard is a great place to keep all your KPIs, goals and measurements for the year together in one place. Having clear visual indicators will keep you on track and see what’s going well and needs more attention.
It’s easier than ever with accessible dashboard tools like Microsoft’s Power BI. It can easily fetch data from Excel or almost any database with some extra work.
Creating your own reports is worlds apart from relying on the often inflexible and static reports built-in to business software.
7. Don’t forget to innovate
Keeping your IT systems secure, accessible, and reliable is a lot of work. Even staying on top of lifecycle replacements can keep you busy. But these are just the fundamentals.
Don’t forget to look for the IT innovations that can take the business further. Identify business processes where software and automation could make you quicker, reduce admin work, and let the business grow without increasing your headcount.
Look at your interactions with customers and think about how expectations for service and delivery times are changing. For example, would the customer experience be improved with more communication options like web chat or WhatsApp business? Do clients expect to get updates on orders by text or email, or do everything by an app?
Many platforms can do this out of the box, and even the options for linking into existing systems are multiplying. As technology matures, it becomes more accessible to everyone.
So, there we have it, my seven IT resolutions for 2022. Which ones will you be following?