Starting a new business can be costly enough but throw information technology mistakes into the mix and it can be downright expensive. While small business owners don’t set out to waste money when putting their technology infrastructure in place, it often happens.
“The mistakes range from a few hiccups here and there to costing an enormous amount of money,” says Kyle Haroldsen, managing director and Chief Technical Officer of technology services company Intrinsic Technologies. “A lot of times small business owners misunderstand the cost to set up and maintain their IT infrastructure.”
With budgets tight, especially for start-up businesses, owners can’t afford to make IT mistakes. To avoid throwing away money unnecessarily, avoid these four common mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: Failure to plan
Whether you are starting a new business or plan to overhaul the IT systems of an existing one, a costly mistake small business owners often make is not understanding fully the technology requirements, says Haroldsen.
“There are a lot of different things that make up a business and there’s some aspect of technology associated with all of it,” he says. According to Haroldsen often business owners will jump first and then look and as a result they end up having to go back and do it over. For instance it’s not uncommon for a company to rush to get its Web page up and running and then realize the site isn’t optimized to handle transactions or mobile users even though that’s where most of the sales are coming from.
To avoid that mistake small businesses can consider hiring a consultant to come in and go over all aspects of technology. If you can’t afford a consultant then set aside time to brainstorm and focus on all aspects of technology involved in your company.
Mistake No. 2: Do it yourself
Just because you are the family CTO or have no problem getting your iPhone and iTunes synced, that doesn’t mean you are a computer expert that can roll out and maintain the IT for your company. According to Haroldsen, the DIY crowd usually ends up throwing away more money than it would cost to bring in a professional. Small business owners have to look at it the same way they look at their car, says Haroldsen. They may know enough about the engine but are they going to spend all day working on it or take it to a mechanic, he says.
“You’re better off spending the time focusing on building the business,” says Haroldsen. Small businesses have two options in that regard. They can either hire a professional to come in and implement and install all the IT hardware and software. Or, go with a cloud provider that will host everything without the need for much on-site infrastructure.
Mistake No. 3: Failure to secure the environment
Malware and computer viruses are a part of life, but for a small business it could mean the end of the entire company. Not to mention that fixing the systems in the aftermath can take a huge amount of time, which means a huge amount of lost productivity. While it seems like a no- brainer, Haroldsen says small businesses get too complacent with securing their environments which makes them vulnerable to hackers and attacks. Having antivirus software running and making sure the computers are patched are two things small businesses can do, but that’s not enough.
“Antivirus software doesn’t protect you from every virus out there. You need to set up polices and not allow employees to go to certain Websites and do certain things,” says Haroldsen.
Mistake No. 4: Not backing up data consistently
Lose all your important computer data and that could spell the end of your business.
“Imagine you had everything on Quicken and your PC crashed. All of your accounting, taxes, everything would be gone in an instance. That can destroy companies,” says Haroldsen. “I’ve seen companies go out of business because they didn’t take the time and effort to make sure they were protected.”
According to Haroldsen, small business owners need to make sure they are backing up their data regularly and that they have a full redundancy system in place -- so that if one backup fails there’s another. What’s more, the small business shouldn’t keep the backup tapes on site but instead store them in another location.
“It’s very important to test the backup,” says Haroldsen. After all you don’t want to find out when it’s too late that the backup wasn’t working.