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November 18, 2016

What Small Businesses Can Learn from Corporate IT Departments

Technology has leveled the playing field for small businesses, allowing them to market their offerings, process and ship orders, and manage their accounting processes with minimal staff. But even a one-person operation can sometimes suffer from tech failure, which can disrupt operations and cut into earnings.

While there are many third-party services that can help a business with its IT needs, troubleshooting software and hardware problems are only part of what a corporate IT team does. It’s important that small business owners pay close attention to what large companies do in order to remain competitive. Here are a few things you can learn from corporate IT departments.

Security First

Survey any IT department and you’ll likely find security is a top priority. Protecting the sensitive information housed on a business’s servers and devices is essential. This is equally true for small businesses, which can often be targeted by attackers due to the assumption that they won’t have top-notch protection in place. Consider the cost of a security breach and protect your business with malware protection and strong passwords that you change frequently. Many businesses contract with cloud providers for their hosting and applications, but it’s important to carefully review the security precautions those third-party companies take to protect their customers.

Equipment Replacement

Large IT departments often put an equipment replacement cycle in effect. This avoids unexpected breakdowns by replacing computers, laptops, printers, and other electronics once they reach their fourth or fifth year. Unfortunately, many small businesses wait until a device fails to replace it, leaving them stranded until they can purchase and prepare something new. Not only does this lead to downtime, but it also impacts productivity, since equipment usually slows down as it ages. By simply building computer replacement into your budget every four to five years and mobile device replacement within three years, you’ll keep your business moving forward. Before you officially replace anything, conduct thorough analysis to ensure you’re adequately filling the needs of your business.

Legal Considerations

In addition to security breaches, businesses also must protect themselves against legal troubles. As San Diego attorney Chris Movafagh explains, businesses without IT departments need to realize their legal obligations when it comes to preserving emails and documents. If, for some reason, your company should find itself in legal hot water, your failure to save and back up your crucial files could cost you in court.

“As a business, you’re responsible for storing both electronic and paper-based data, especially once legal proceedings are underway,” says Movafagh. “It’s important that small businesses realize that they could be asked to explain their electronic data storage procedures in a court of law and put processes in place that they’ll be proud to disclose.”

Disaster Preparedness

Disasters happen unexpectedly, from fires to earthquakes to floods and beyond. If your building is impacted by one of these events, it could destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to build. In fact, 40 percent of businesses do not open after a catastrophe, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Of those that survive, another 25 percent fail within one year. Consider how quickly you’d be able to get your business operational after different types of disasters. In addition to ensuring all of your data is backed up to the cloud, you should also be prepared for all of your employees to work remotely should your building become uninhabitable.

Employee Independence

The goal of any successful corporate IT team is to empower its end users to manage the technology they use each day. It’s important to first hire employees who possess the basic computer skills necessary to do the work. However, once hired, you can also boost productivity by providing training, whether it relates to your own specialized software or basic applications. There are now so many training opportunities available online, you can give your workers access to classes they can take directly from their computer.

For corporate IT departments, keeping employees productive and safe is a top priority. Small businesses can learn from their much larger counterparts, using the many third-party services available to remain competitive. It’s important to always come up with strategies for improving the technology your business uses to keep things moving forward. In doing so, you’ll be able to see quick growth.

Edited by Alicia Young

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