For our September luncheon, John Ash and Jon Grover with Digital Office Systems spoke about finding and choosing an IT provider. Over the last two decades, perspectives regarding IT and technology have changed drastically, and it’s crucial that businesses adapt to the changing technological landscape in a way that makes sense for their business and their bottom line.
The “digital revolution” has metamorphosed the way businesses use and interact with technology. From the “Adoption” age of the first decade of the 2000s, which saw the rise of ecommerce, to the “Build Up” of social media marketing, big data, and cloud services over the last half-decade, the technology landscape has undergone a massive evolution. And, in the last several years, this transformation has continued, with more and more businesses realizing just how much technology matters.
Digital transformation is about using technology to improve processes and enhance the customer experience with an emphasis on utilizing digital-intensive means to achieve goals. Of course, this can be a daunting proposition for many businesses, especially those whose current IT solution involves “Bob from Accounting” because he’s great with computers.
Security concerns facing businesses today – of all sizes – include computer viruses, spyware, email security, leaking confidential information, and a host of other attacks that the average businessperson may not even be familiar with. And it’s a scary technological world out there, with over $4.2 billion reported in victim losses annually. With $676 million of those losses stemming from business email breaches and a further $60 million from data breaches, it’s imperative that businesses take necessary security precautions.
Though large companies – and their technological blunders – receive the lion’s share of the press, small businesses are increasingly becoming popular targets, especially since they are less likely to have IT departments devoted to security. Taking a proactive approach for identification of, protection against, detection of, response to, and recovery from threats is a crucial step, much in the same way we take precautions to make sure our homes are as safe as possible.
Reducing liability is an aspect of security that companies would do well to spend more time considering. Making sure that employees have access to the resources they need – and making sure that employees don’t have access to resources they don’t need is often overlooked. Onboarding and offboarding employees can also be an area to reduce liability. Employers need to make sure that new hires have access and the proper training for their systems and, equally importantly, employers must have a process for cutting off access to systems and information once an employee has left the company. And, of course, there’s the need for creating an implementing policies to protect data.
Unfortunately, many small businesses are in a reactive position when it comes to IT security. Sometimes the “IT Department” consists of one overworked individual or at worst, the person in the office that knows the most about computers. It’s almost impossible for these small-scale operations to do anything but put out fires. Even small businesses that outsource some of their IT needs often rely on a “break/fix” model where their IT provider waits until something breaks before working to fix it.
To move forward in this digital age, businesses – especially small businesses – must realize that technology is both operational and strategic. Technology innovation, and the disruption that comes along with it, is a major factor in every industry today. In order to be successful, businesses must incorporate technology into their strategic plans. In fact, if done right, innovative technology solutions can be used to give businesses a competitive advantage.
Thankfully, there are options beyond the reactive IT models that so many small businesses are stuck using. Digital services managed by providers that view IT and technological solutions as a partnership can alleviate many of these concerns and free up internal IT staff for other tasks beyond the mundane day to day operations of data security.
When considering entering into a partnership for managed IT services, it’s crucial for business to first honestly assess where they are with respect to user support, industry standards, management and remediation, current technology, security, data and documentation, and technology strategy, planning and budgeting. Not every business needs to be on the cutting edge of each aspect of technology services, but it’s important for a business to see where they are and where they want to be.
Partnering with an IT firm provides a host of benefits that small businesses often can’t find with in-house IT staff. Even the best IT staff can’t work round the clock, but managed services can provide availability to monitor threats constantly. Fast service and response times mean that if problems occur, they can be quickly rectified by professionals. Taking over daily backups and cloud services, security testing and monitoring, and proactive maintenance means that your business is always up to date – even if Dave the “IT Guy” is on vacation.
Of course, as with choosing any service for your business, there are red flags to look for. If your prospective provider has no interest in getting to know you or your business, they aren’t likely to be interested in working with you to create solutions for your unique needs. And if they don’t provide a scope of services agreement up front to tell you what you’re going to get, that’s bad news too. Make sure you get a written commitment of service and a written contract – any good partnership with an IT firm is built on a solid understanding of each party’s responsibilities.
At the end of the day, there is no perfect IT solution for every business. Each business has unique needs, challenges, and concerns. However, it is crucial for businesses to realize that a reactive approach to security opens them up to an incredible number of very real dangers. The wolf is a the door, so to speak – being proactive to keep it at bay is vital to success in our digital age.