No business is too small to have Information Technology (IT) needs.
These days, it would be difficult to find a business that doesn’t have at least some need for IT expertise. Even if you’re working alone out of a spare bedroom in your home, you still need fast, reliable internet access, as well as protection against external intrusions. You may want help selecting the best hardware and web services for your needs, and occasional assistance when things just plain don’t work.
Big companies have big IT budgets, but you don’t. You couldn’t keep a full-time specialist busy, and you can’t afford another staff position anyway. Yet you know that a serious data loss—think customer list—or repeated, lengthy outages or, worst-case scenario, a hostile takeover of your company’s computer systems, could be catastrophic.
Before you start looking at your options, take a close look at your short- and long-term IT needs. Take into account your answers to these questions:
Is your company poised to expand?
Will you be hiring? Adding products and/or services? Opening a new location? Growth=more complex IT needs.
What would the consequences of an outage or data loss be?
Do you take online orders? Count on data-sharing to process and ship orders? Provide customer service on social networks, on the phone, or via email?
Do you have an emergency backup plan?
Catastrophic events like natural disasters and fires can shut down your operations for a few days – or a few weeks. Do you have offsite data backup (local or cloud-based) and alternative options for critical work?
A related aside here: This brings up a compelling argument for allowing at least some employees to telecommute. You will have already set up policies and protocols for maintaining business operations away from your physical office.
On a scale of 1-10, how sensitive is the data that you store within your networks?
Let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you create logos and illustrations to put on t-shirts and signage. That’s important work, but if you got hacked and someone got access to your content, it’s unlikely that anyone would be seriously harmed. That would be a 1 or 2. Do you do your company’s accounting online, so you have confidential customer information like credit card numbers or worse, Social Security numbers? That’s a 9 or 10.
What’s your budget for IT?
IT deserves its own budget line item. Plan for it. Make it as important as the bills you anticipate paying to suppliers or your insurance premiums or anything that doesn’t involve your payroll or the government (the latter are top priorities).
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know what to tell an IT contractor when you find one. Often called managed IT, these individuals or firms can provide a variety of services to you depending on what you need. They can be called in for regular maintenance and emergencies, or you can even hire them to monitor your networks continuously.
So do Google searches and get recommendations. You’re likely to find numerous IT professionals in your area who can serve you well.
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