Computers are vital to the day-to-day running of a business, but they also present constant challenges for business owners—especially for those who aren’t so IT savvy.
Fast advances in technology, growing storage requirements, and the daily development of new threats, such as viruses, are just a few of these challenges. So today, more than ever, it takes a highly-trained technician to maintain even a simple, small computer network.
Once a business begins using more than a few PCs, these challenges become even more prevalent, however the costs of hiring a full-time, highly qualified IT person—and then keeping them trained and abreast of all the changes in technology—can be inhibiting to SMEs.
In an attempt to save money, many smaller companies try to do their own in-house IT support, and designate the person with the most technical expertise as the part-time IT manager. However, this won’t always deliver the most effective results, given this ‘make-shift’ IT person has another full-time job to do and may not be skilled enough to properly support an entire computer network. This can potentially result in an ill-maintained and unstable network.
At this point, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the network crashes and causes major disruption to the business. If lucky, it may only cost the business a little downtime; but there’s always a chance you could end up with a large clean up bill. Not only do these disasters put your IT costs through the roof, but they also cause major disruptions in staff productivity, sales, cash flow, production and customer service, that can never be recovered. Not to mention a lot of lost sleep for the business owner or manager.
Today, even the smallest businesses are very dependent on their computer and communications infrastructure. More and more services are being integrated into the network—fax, phone and the many software applications that help you run your business. A network issue could mean that you are unable to get your invoices out on time, which may seriously damage your cash-flow. What is your invoicing run worth each month?
While big business isn’t immune to such problems, they tend to take an entirely different approach to computer network maintenance. Their potential for loss is so huge they just cannot allow having a situation where they wait for problems to occur and then fix them. This is the key to your future IT health too.
In order to reduce risk and costs, smart companies work to prevent problems before they happen.
And here is the big ‘gotcha’! If you already outsource your IT support, think carefully about the arrangement you have with your support provider. Many SMEs elect to either pay a computer service provider on an ad-hoc basis or buy blocks of support hours from them. It looks like a good deal, right? After all, why pay for things you don’t use?
Major problems can occur using this approach. Most computer support organisations make their money when your network has a problem. It isn’t in their best interests to do work that will prevent you from having problems in the first place. Well-intentioned they may be, but pro-active, preventative service is just not part of their offering. The bottom line is, they have little incentive to keep your network stable as there are competing objectives here—they actually profit from the failures and the problems that IT is causing your business.
As a result, many smaller businesses lurch from problem to problem and wonder why things never improve. Many will conclude that computers are always troublesome when in fact the opposite is true. Nine times out of ten, it’s not the computers; it’s how they are being managed or, more specifically, how they are not being managed that is the core of the problem. Wouldn’t it be better to work with a services organisation that makes money when you don’t have a problem?
Many businesses also think that it is better to stay with the ‘devil they know’. They are not particularly enamoured by their current service arrangements but believe it is too hard to change. This is another myth.
Professional services organisations have the tools and expertise to assess your network quickly and easily. From there, they can offer the right advice to stabilise your IT and start moving to a situation where your network is reliable and supporting your business objectives.
A professional level services plan isn’t going to cost a fortune either, particularly when you add up the true cost of system failures to date, taking into account not only the actual dollars spent but the more intangible, various types of loss: productivity, orders, even customers.
In fact, industry researchers have estimated significant cost savings as high as $65 per month per PC, or around $780 per year, when a business has its computers professionally managed. If you have 10 PCs, that represents a saving of $7,800 on your IT costs each year.
Every business, no matter what their size, needs to become very serious about protecting and managing one of their most valuable assets, their computer network. As the owner or manager of a smaller business, you need peace of mind and the time to do what you do best—work on your business, not worry about your IT. Don’t wait for the pain and expense of a major system failure. Prevent it from happening in the first place with pro-active maintenance services.
*Source: Combo, http://www.combo.com.au