How to meet Small Business IT Needs?
Small business IT needs are not very different from those of large organizations. Yet, it is a reality that most small businesses cannot afford to hire an entire IT team. Irrespective of that, SMB (small and medium business) owners need to ensure that the IT tasks are carried out by someone- either within the organization or by a Managed IT Services company.
Information Technology is such an integral part of a modern-day business that you can no longer treat it as a standalone department. Technology is ubiquitous and intertwined with your lives at the workplace and beyond. IT operations and management must be given its due because the costs of un-managed IT and downtime are surprisingly high.
The aim of this post is to provide you with a checklist of action items that will give you a comprehensive view of all things IT within your company. When we think about dealing with “IT” it just feels like a big blob of incomprehensible and unending firefighting. However, IT is much easier if we think about one line item at a time. This information technology checklist aims to list out issues you will face, possibly frequently. Each item on this checklist ensures that you have clarity of your own requirements as well as the actions required. The checklist as a spreadsheet is available at the end of the blog.
In this post, we will give you an introduction and overview of the steps as well as instructions on how to use the checklist. The checklist spreadsheet will give you the detailed steps.
1. Initial IT Setup Checklist
The checks required for the initial Information Technology infrastructure setup is similar to what you would have during an office relocation. We have talked about it in detail in our blog: Checklist For A Successful Office Relocation.
Here is a quick recap of some of the checklist items:
Make an office floor plan
Decide where to locate each department, server room, conference room, printers, copiers, and network & WiFi equipment.
Select the ISP (Internet Service Provider)
Choose an ISP as well as a backup ISP and negotiate the best package for your company.
Check the wiring and outlets
Ensure that the electrical wiring and sufficient outlets are in place.
Prioritize IT setup
The IT department is the most critical for any business operation. By arranging for the IT setup to be completed first, you will ensure that your company will be up and running quickly. Here is the priority checklist:
routers and APs (Access Point)
UPS (Uninterruptible Power Source/Supply)
printers & scanners
2. IT Infrastructure
In a small business, it is quite tempting to buy new equipment without even thinking about how it will be installed. It is not uncommon for the entire business to come to a standstill as five employees try to install a new scanner “just like the one they had in their previous company”.
Small businesses also make the mistake of purchasing equipment for their office based on their experience with “similar” equipment at their homes. They fail to realize that most equipment suitable for home use will not run well in a business environment. You must ensure that the equipment you purchase is suitable for a business network environment.
Some of the information technology infrastructure checklist items to consider:
Ensure compatibility with other devices you use
For Installation, if you don’t have an IT expert in-house, get professional help.
Ensure appropriate warranty and service contracts
Ensure a common Operating System to standardize troubleshooting and maintenance
Always have the latest drivers installed
Software licenses are valuable assets for your company. It’s easy to install software on a computer and completely forget that it’s there. It is even easier to forget if you have a service contract, what it includes, and if you should renew it and when.
Imagine forgetting to renew your domain name! Yes, this happens despite receiving numerous emails, which mysteriously get lost in your inbox. Domain names, although cheap, are invaluable as an identity of your business. Any slip up with it can see your domain name get into the hands of a squatter who will try to extract a hefty price for returning it.
Therefore, you should standardize the processes for purchasing, licensing & renewing, and updating. There should be someone responsible for it and everything must be documented and easily accessible when required.
Some of the checklist items you should consider:
Customizing software to suit business needs
Downloading and installation by users
Use an MDM (mobile device management) for assessing and deploying security patches to ensure secure mobile devices, operating systems, and applications
4. The Cloud
The cloud offers an excellent solution for small businesses allowing them to scale their infrastructure and keep pace with their growing business. The cloud is ideal for small businesses as it is affordable, fast, and flexible. However, it’s not all good news. Before you can move your business to the cloud, you need to consider some critical questions. We have talked about it in detail in our blog: 5 Critical Steps For Building A Successful Cloud Strategy
Some of the Cloud checklist items to consider:
Is my use of the cloud in line with external legislations
Does the cloud service meet data privacy and compliance requirements?
What level of service can the cloud provide my business
Ensure that the SLA (service-level agreement) has clauses on response times, business continuity and disaster recovery.
Who is responsible for software upgrades
Who has access to the data
Small businesses are more likely to fall into cybersecurity bad habits than larger businesses. This is because small businesses rarely have a robust IT Security policy at the onset. With the adoption of every new technology, the need for cybersecurity vigilance increases. Small businesses need to be extra vigilant because 43% of cyber attacks are targeted at small businesses.
Some IT Security checklist items to consider:
Password best practices
Limit system access
User on-boarding and off-boarding
Permissions, passwords and other safety, security and administrative rules
Shared folders, disk quotas, and granting/reducing access rights to data, systems, and applications
Database management and access
Secure WiFi network and devices
Use of external USB and hard drives
Policy for cleaning infected machines
Physical security of IT equipment
Use legitimate software
Acceptable use policy
Ensure that the latest updates and patches are applied
Training and workshops
How to Use this it checklist
Your technology-related activities can be categorized into four steps. You need to consider how to Plan, Build, Operate, and Monitor (PBOM) your IT operations.
Plan - Plan how you will invest in your technology needs for the present as well as the future.
Have a clear understanding of what IT does for your business
Tie all your activities to your ultimate business goals
Create a budget for the next 12 months
Build - Build new systems, expand IT infrastructure, install new software as required by your business needs.
Plan your infrastructure for the future needs of your business
Create standard practices for purchase and installation of infrastructure
Operate - Regularly review and evaluate your IT operations. Make sure robust policies are in place and you follow the industry best practices.
Regularly audit your IT infrastructure
Create and regularly revisit policies for IT operations and cybersecurity
Monitor - Keep an eye on your IT operations to ensure that it aligned with your business goals. Research new technology available and evaluate whether it will help you achieve your business goals more efficiently.
Keep pace with innovation and changes in technology
Know what technology you need now and in the future
Conduct extensive research and testing before adopting new technology
As a small business owner, managing your IT operations is a huge challenge. This is even more difficult when you have little or no IT expertise. You may be confident in your abilities, having built home PCs and networks, however, making similar things work in a business network environment is a different ball-game. Poor decision making and lack of management can make IT seem like a cost center, which keeps draining your budget.
Using the PBOM model and the associated information technology checklist, you will be able to turn your IT from a liability to an asset. The core message that we want you to always remember is
By treating IT as an integral part of your business, you will experience increased productivity, lower downtime, and reduced stress. As promised, here is the link to the checklist: The Ultimate IT Checklist For Small Businesses
We have more resources in our blog section that will help you with IT operations management. Here are a select few to get you started:
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