Jonathan McCormick, Chief Operating Officer at Intermedia Inc., contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
In an environment where the wrong choice can cripple a business, SMB IT managers are constantly making critical decisions about IT. Add in the complication of limited budgets and a mind-boggling array of service provider options, and the stress becomes unbearable.
But there's hope. Here are five common situations that face SMB IT managers — and five ways to make the right decisions.
Growth Becomes Distracting For IT
Businesses need to be agile, but the more you grow, the more complexity you can unwittingly create.
That's why your bias in technology choices needs to be towards ease-of-use. Otherwise you add unnecessary costs, the propensity for error and, worse, the potential for information to leak outside the company. This is especially true when employees leave the company but you accidentally overlook disabling one of their services because your IT is too complex.
The cloud offers a great solution. Providers of cloud email, voice and file collaboration solutions give you flexibility without complexity. They make it easy to add and remove users, provision new apps and scale your services with very little effort. More importantly, they remove the burden of actually managing the infrastructure, which lets you focus your efforts on core business requirements.
BYOD Reality Gets Ahead of Policy
It's great for your capital budget when employees bring their own devices. But once you embrace BYOD, corporate data gets stored on personal devices. That's when a control issue arises. If you're not ready to balance efficiency with protection, the result is either too much of one or too much of the other.
The solution is to employ systems that support BYOD as part of a holistic IT strategy. Mobile policy management is key to avoid letting data walk away from the work environment.
There are services available that extend control over protected data to any device, regardless of who owns it. For example, you can actually force iPhone owners to set their phones to lock — with specific requirements for password complexity — or deny them access to the corporate network. These same services also offer the ability to remotely wipe all corporate data in the event the device is lost or stolen.
You're One Failure Away From Disaster
When's the last time you tested your emergency power? How do you know your backup drive is working? If your IT equipment is all on-site, what happens if you get robbed?
Redundancy is like insurance: you'll be really glad you have it if you need it. Fortunately, the cloud offers a number of great disaster recovery and business continuity options for on-premise IT as well as off-site services. Make sure you do a systematic analysis of all your points of failure — and make sure every one is bolstered with redundancy.
You're Creating Data but Not Protecting It
Hackers often target SMBs due to the perception that their security is easier to penetrate. Worse, hackers who do penetrate your systems could use it to attack larger targets, which could in turn create liability issues.
Protecting against this requires more than just firewalls. It requires proper process and systems. If you run on-premise servers, it requires constant patching and maintenance. But you must also think past digital threats: how can offline threats be mitigated using digital technology?
A specific example involves litigation. These days, lawsuits seem like just another part of doing business. If your company gets sued, your defense may rely on your digital records. But if your digital records such as email aren't properly maintained, they may not be admissible — which could leave you exposed. As a result, while you may have backup systems in place for disaster recovery, you really should also consider more formal systems such as secure email archiving.
Where is Your Data, Really?
Once you're in the cloud, you're still not quite home free. You need to study the terms of service of your cloud providers. Make sure you know where your data is in the real world. You'd be surprised how many major providers reserve the right to move your data overseas — where it may be subject to data protection laws that are less stringent than domestic laws.
For Every Worry, There's a Cloud Solution
Here's what I love about the cloud: There's a million innovative companies that are finding ways to solve IT worries. When I talk to IT managers at smaller businesses, here's what I always tell them: your problems are not as unique as they feel. If you're facing an IT challenge, chances are that a thousand other SMBs are as well — and, more often than not, you'll find a cloud provider who can take the challenge off your hands so you can stay focused on business.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.