November 29, 2014

Tech Issues That Steal Efficiency From Your Business, and How to Fix Them

Network Technology

We all want our businesses to be lean and mean. But efficiency can be like heat inside a building that has tiny cracks around windows and doors. Heat leaks out here and there – you don’t even realize it.  Below are some technology issues that can steal efficiency from your business through your information technology systems, that you may not even realize.

Technology Issues and How to Fix Them

Lack of IT Policies and Procedures, or Not Following Them

According to a Ponemon Institute study in 2012, “Negligent insiders are the top cause of data breaches.” Internal negligence accounts for 39% of data breaches. Probably most of those people involved in breaches were horrified at what happened, but human error was still at the heart of it.

There are many ways human error can happen:  Not controlling system administrator access when roles change or people leave; employees losing laptops or having them stolen; easily cracked user passwords. Too often a breach sends a business into a crisis tailspin. It may lead to financial losses, public relations repercussions and legal problems.

  • How to fix it: Prevention is the best answer. Audit your processes and implement security best practices at all vulnerable points. Educate employees as to their responsibilities. Hold them accountable for following policies, too.

Maintaining Physical IT Resources

Maintaining information technology hardware can be expensive as well as time consuming for small businesses already having a tough time meeting the growing demands of their operations. Common issues include slow or outdated servers, and physical loss in the event of a disaster.  Then there’s the capital expense of buying and scaling IT equipment, implementing upgrades, as well as the sheer number of servers needed and the operating expense.

  • How to fix it:  Consider virtualization technologies and moving to virtual environments. Letting an outside service having economies of scale handle the hardware, while you maintain IT oversight in-house, may be a more efficient use of capital and staff. Involve the Finance Department to make a cost-benefit analysis.

Failing to Schedule System Backups or Incomplete Backups

Even in this day and age, studies still show erratic backup practices among small businesses. The causes are many: Human error, backup solution failure, budget restrictions. The headaches and costs of trying to recover – and perhaps not being able to recover completely — can threaten a smaller business’s very existence.

  • How to fix it: Schedule backups and test them regularly. “Inspect what you expect.” If you’ve delegated, ask questions until you get satisfactory answers about backups.  Consider moving to a managed service that handles backups for you.

Not Requiring Employees to Update Passwords Regularly

Using the same password multiple times, and using easy passwords are two common practices making your entire system potentially vulnerable. Chinese hackers were able to breach the New York Times website in January simply by getting email login credentials of a writer. In the New York Times case the login was extracted after a malware attack on an individual, but still it illustrates that employee login accounts are a point of vulnerability.

  • How to fix it: Require employees to reset passwords regularly, through password expiration in applications. Educate them on the need for strong passwords.

Not Treating Mobile Devices as an Integral Part of Your IT Systems

In a 2012 honeypot study, 50 mobile devices were intentionally lost. In the vast majority of cases the person finding it accessed information on the device (intentionally or unintentionally). The costs of mobility-related incidents were  $247,000 on average, per incident, according to that same study.

  • How to fix it: Treat mobile devices (even BYOD devices that employees own) as endpoints of your IT ecosystem, entitled to the same levels of protection as your network, servers and desktops. Incorporate solutions such as encryption and remote wipe capabilities for mobile devices into your IT security plan.

Slow Network and Internet Connections, and Downtime

You may not realize just how much time employees spend waiting for large files to transfer and slowness caused by bandwidth limitations and other issues. The last thing you want is business-critical computing to be interrupted. Other systems can be disrupted, too. A VOIP phone system that’s down for a half a day can mean tremendous lost business and inconvenience for employees and customers alike.

  • How to fix it: Go for fast speed and reliability for key communications connectivity.  One option today is to bypass the public Internet for internal computing locations, and tap into a private Ethernet network service.

Not Identifying and Tackling the Biggest Problems Areas First

Systems and networks get more complex all the time. Complexity makes it harder to troubleshoot issues. You don’t want to spend hours or days solving minor issues while the biggest issues continue to plague the business.

  • How to fix it: The biggest ROI will be had from isolating and fixing the biggest problems.  Don’t underestimate what’s involved with troubleshooting. We see with our systems that troubleshooting can take repeated attempts before you isolate all the causes and effects.  Reports;  web-based administration tools; key performance indicators that you monitor – all are essential troubleshooting tools.

In summary, technology issues involve hundreds of details and can be interrelated. When problems arise they take  mindshare away from running the business. Important revenue-generating IT projects get delayed.  The company can be thrown into crisis mode. None of us enjoy spending large sums to fix issues because we’re forced to in order to avoid disaster.

One other piece of advice we’ve learned the hard way:  Don’t continue doing things one way just because you’ve always done it that way and never had a problem.

Make a point to educate yourself  and your team on the possibilities. Many more options exist today compared with even a couple of years ago. Today’s solutions could be — and often are — more efficient in terms of staff time and money.

Image: Network/Shutterstock

5 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

5 Reactions

  1. Great tips, Anita. I despise a slow internet connect, especially when I’m at work. It can be a real hassle and make for unhappy customers. Thanks for sharing your quick fixes with us.

    Ti

  2. Thanks for the insight! Sometimes it takes simple actions to fix a big problem.

  3. My only opinion is we are missing a key point here – discussing infrastructure only overlooking a business needs streamlined business processes. IT enables business processes – we have competition from bigger companies and to ward off that we not just leverage IT infrastructure but const effective, affordable and sleek Business applications.

    Look for smart options which help customer place their trust in small businesses to place same level of confidence in smaller players as large…

    And trust me market has multitude of such options which can have you work at same or better operating levels and better efficiency compared with large corporations.

    Many offering like SAP business one , Microsoft dynamics … and Decision making reporting tools an make it big for you …

  4. Good article. Its essential that small businesses maintain budgets for IT work and infrastructure. I’ve seen too many times companies putting off upgrading or insisting on keeping old equipment in service and it ends up costing more in the long run.
    Develop a policy, listen to your IT staff or outside consultant and stick to it!

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