In dealing with our clients we see a variety of problems, worries and concerns which businesses have about their ICT. Clients often contact us after they’ve been frustrated with some aspect of their technology or when they are worried about keeping up. From a variety of sectors – our customers span education, construction, financial services and beyond – they are not alone in wanting to harness the benefits of ICT.
So what are the biggest IT challenges faced by small businesses?
“My computer keeps freezing and I need to finish this report urgently!”
“It’s such a hassle trying to work from home on files stored at work!”
“I keep getting messages about needing an upgrade!”
“Why won’t my printer work?”
These are some common IT gripes by employees. A survey of the UK SME sector revealed that over nine out of ten (91%) of workers lost concentration when they had to come to the rescue to help colleagues with IT issues. It also found that two-thirds (63%) of employees were spending between 15 and 45 minutes a day helping their co-workers with these issues, leading to businesses losing almost four hours a week per employee. ( Samsung ‘ More Good Days at Work’ )
When someone starts out as a ‘one-man’ band business, they often set up and control their own IT. As the company begin to grow and take on staff, things can get more complicated. Apart from inefficiency and wasting money, bad IT practices can hit hard financially. This month has brought further news of a new cyberattack, this time on a school – hackers used a computer virus to encrypt college files which contained students’ work and disrupted their exams. The County Durham-based school admitted it had to pay out £1,500 in ransom money. ( BBC ). A cybercrime expert commented said that the pay-out made the school an easy target for future attacks and encouraged criminality.
Nine of the top technology challenges we’ve come across include:
1. Lost files – Not backing up data can be a costly mistake. This can be more difficult when files are on different computers and drives.
2. Slow computers – this is one of the most common and frustrating time wasters. A lagging computer seems to strike just when you need to get something done urgently.
3. Insufficient security – it really isn’t a good idea for staff to store important documents (e.g. invoices, reports, quotes) on different PCs and laptops with a variety of individual software installed on them. This kind of free-for-all can be a real security risk as well as making documents difficult to find. Unencrypted confidential data on laptops risks falling into the wrong hands.
4. Bad or forgotten passwords – your data is only as strong as the weakest password used. Cyber criminals will exploit these week spots. It’s still shocking to hear about the number of people who use 1234 as a password!
5. Insufficient anti-virus protection – individual anti-virus systems downloaded by different staff can be confusing and expensive. It also risks the protection becoming out of date at different times and without anyone noticing, leaving the whole network at risk.
6. Weak firewall protection – weak firewall can let in malware and other viruses which can compromise your data and systems.
7. Too many different systems being used – when firms start out it’s not unusual to add systems as you need them. For example you may end up with one for email, another for accounts and another for file storage. It can get complicated keeping on top of the different passwords as well as possibly duplicating information.
8. Limited IT expertise -It’s understandable when small businesses come to rely on the expertise of one member of staff. This can often happen in micro-businesses. However when that staff member is on annual leave or ill, or worse, when they leave, things can grind to a halt on the IT front. Suddenly, other employees cannot access the database, get the printer to connect to the wifi or even more crucially, operate the payroll.
9. Not keeping IT equipment and software up to date – it’s not uncommon for smaller businesses to try and ‘wing it’ where updates and maintenance are concerned. However this can be a false economy because it jeopardises the efficient operation of your business.
So what action can SMEs take to improve their IT capabilities?
In short, it’s all about paying attention to the right acquisition, implementation and deployment of ICT. This may be more easily said than done when the average small business-owner or manager has so many other things to see to. So what is the answer? Here are some solutions:
● File storage – store files in one central location in a shared drive, either on a local server or on the cloud
● Replace old computers – old stock from the early days of the business may no longer do the job. A slow computer will slow down your operation and frustrate your staff. You may be able to increase memory and give them a health check. On the other hand, it may be time to replace them to keep up with your growing business. Another solution is to move to the cloud – businesses which keep their data in the cloud don’t need desktops or laptops with large memories.
● Integrated systems –At a certain point in the life of your growing business it makes sense to review your needs and consider a more efficient way of doing things. Review the market for an effective integrated system which can serve more of your needs from one place.
● Secure password – make sure you and all employees use passwords and that they are strong ones. Do not leave post-its on PC monitors with the passwords written on them!
● Train your staff – when new staff come on board, ensure they know the drill for how and where to store files, your password and security protocols, etc. Make sure that a sufficient number of staff can operate crucial systems such as payroll.
● Develop an IT strategy – devote time to developing an IT strategy. Smaller companies in particular tend to overlook this aspect. It’s good to have a rolling programme for review and replacement. You should also consider access to your data in the event of an emergency e.g. is your data backed-up in the event of a fire?
● Get a health check for your IT needs – get advice from a professional IT support company who can also help you find solutions for your IT needs.
Investment in new technology
This applies not only to a financial investment in the right hard and software for your business, but to getting the right advice and support. Time and time again we are told that improved use of IT plays an important part in boosting the productivity of SMEs. Small changes can sometimes make a big difference.
Shift from hardware to software and IT services
There are lots of developments in the IT world, more than in most sectors, to help SMEs thrive and stay competitive. One key prediction caught our eye: the shift from hardware to software and IT services – any SME IT strategy should be taking account of the big SME software shift predicted. Here, it is forecast that in 2019 spending on software and IT services will both overtake hardware. This will be an important shift for most SMEs requiring good advice and support during their transition to maintain continuity of business.
Setting up and running a business is all about challenges. UK business-owners have become very adept at navigating numerous obstacles – economic, political and financial. The information and communications technology used by a business should get the same scrutiny too because it’s key to their success.
360ict Ltd can help small businesses to maximise their productivity and stay competitive. We offer no-fuss IT advice and support for a wide range of areas including HR Systems, Accounting systems, risk management, print services and much more.
360ict can manage the whole of your IT services or we can provide support for your in-house IT team – you choose.
Speak to us about our special small business IT support solutions.
To arrange your on-site review or talk to our IT support team about your options, call 0204 538 4774 today.