These invaluable pieces of IT advice for small businesses come from my own experience and other successful entrepreneurs. I went through hundreds of articles, books, and interviews featuring the many ways information technology can help a company. The main purpose of this post is to save you the time of doing the same. From it you’ll learn the most important tips for choosing, installing, using, and managing tech and software that can propel your company to greatness.
IT solutions of today are extremely diverse and can help you by:
- Boosting employee productivity
- Cutting costs by removing the need to outsource some service (for example, accounting, employee training, web security, etc.)
- Maximizing the efficiency of your business as a whole (for example, automated inventory management)
- Improving the quality of your products and services
- Ensuring the security of your important data
I feel it should be noted that these tips cover all aspects of IT, meaning computing, hardware, software, networking, the Internet, and all the people who operate, use, or manage IT solutions.
7 Essential Pieces of IT Advice for Small Businesses
1. Do not store your most important data locally
We live in the age of Cloud technology and you should embrace the immense opportunities it grants. Storing your data in a cloud or a specially dedicated server, instead of PCs used in your home/office is both safer and more efficient.
This method allows every one of your employees to access the data at any time, no matter where you are. For a small business this means that you can save more money by hiring freelancers and those pros who prefer to work from home. By taking it a step further you can set up a virtual office using specialized IT services. This will save you money on rent and office maintenance.
Storing data on a secure server makes it safer as it won’t be damaged should a PC fail. You can also install additional digital security measures to protect it.
Note that the IT advice for small businesses offered in this text will work for any company, regardless of its location. However, due to the General Data Protection Regulation that’s coming into effect in the EU this May, for European businesses this isn’t a suggestion. Not storing their data locally is going to be a mandatory requirement for them.
2. Don’t rely on a single Internet provider
I advise you to do a simple exercise. Think about your business and determine how much it will cost you to be offline for at least four hours. That’s how much time the average repair of a line takes and what you can expect to happen if you only have one Internet provider. No matter how reliable the company is, accidents happen so you must be prepared to a total loss of connectivity.
The best ways to fix this problem are setting up two lines from different providers or using 4G technology. Personally, I root for the second option as it’s more affordable and efficient overall.
3. Always have backup copies and plans
The most important piece of IT advice for small businesses is to have backups of everything you are afraid to lose. To continue the thought from the previous point, you should assess how much money you will lose should your important data be damaged. Again, no matter how good and secure your server is, there’s always a risk of mechanical failure or hacker attack. Having information backups will ensure you’ll be able to continue your business as usual no matter what.
In addition to backing up your files, you also need to develop backup plans for dealing with any IT problems. William Hall, the President of Learning and Strategy at Simulation Studios, offers some great ideas on how to do this in his Every Small Business Needs a Computer Crash Plan post for Entrepreneur.
4. Splurge on IT
Another important piece of IT advice for small businesses is to put the value of the benefits offered by technology first. This means that you shouldn’t settle for mediocre solutions and hardware only to save money. The main benefit of using great tech and software is that it can give a significant boost to your business. By choosing inferior solutions, you deny yourself this benefit. This makes your investment worthless in the long run.
As wasting money is one thing that a small business cannot afford to do, you need to evaluate your IT investments very carefully. It might be worth it to take out a loan in order to supply your enterprise with the best available solutions. I suggest doing a lot of research as today you can find affordable alternatives to costly software. The hardware, on the other hand, is always expensive and to make the most of it you need to have the best models available. You will also need to plan for future improvements as it’s essential to keep your technology’s performance at the top.
5. Find a reliable IT support service
This tip again ties into that most important piece of IT advice for small businesses, namely ‘be prepared’. If you aren’t able to afford hiring an IT expert of your own, you need to have the contacts of a reliable service that can help you install, maintain, and repair any hardware/software with utmost efficiency.
When choosing this service, pay most attention to the technicians’ response times and average repair time. You will also need to verify their experience and certifications.
6. Get your employees trained for IT
The majority of people aren’t very good with computers and technology they have no prior experience working with. That’s completely normal as we mostly use computers for Internet browsing, word processing, and watching movies.
However, the solutions you’ll use for boosting business efficiency are more advanced. And you can’t rely on your employees ‘learning as they go’. Therefore, another very important piece of IT advice for small businesses is ‘teach your staff to use your tech’.
You should have every employee undergo specialized training that will teach them how to work with ALL solutions used by your company. This means explaining every function of every app and device. You will also need to explain how and why these particular things matter for the business.
I suggest creating specialized manuals that your new employees can turn to whenever they forget some detail. You can make those with solutions like StepShot.
7. Research relentlessly and never cease looking for new solutions
The biggest problem with finding best IT solutions for small businesses is that there are too many options to choose from. With thousands of apps and gadgets you might not even know that there’s a solution that will be perfect for your specific company.
That’s why one of the most important pieces of IT advice for small businesses is to never stop looking. I suggest studying lists of best business IT solutions, like this one, to get some ideas. If something catches your interest, research it further. Sign up for newsletters from IT magazines to stay up-to-date on the new releases. Keep looking and you’ll keep improving your business with the new solutions you discover.