IT decisions can be overwhelming for small-business owners who are focused, primarily, on how to win and keep customers. Following these three rules can help you save big on IT costs and will allow you to focus on your core business.
Hire a Consultant
“Often, small-business owners get sucked into a particular solution a vendor is pushing,” said Jason Harrison, owner of Harrison Technology Consulting in Nashville, N.C.
Harrison recalls working with a company that had purchased an accounting and business management system that turned out to be far more sophisticated than what they needed.
“They spent well into the six figures just to see it fail,” Harrison said. He recommends small-business owners take the time to research the various IT products they consider.
Consultants, Harrison said, protect small-business owners against the tech vendors who would otherwise gladly up-sell them.
Harrison compares technology consulting to professional services for which business owners readily pay.
“Tech can be more complex than the small business’s tax situation,” he said, “yet most small-business owners will quickly hire a CPA to guide them through the tax maze,” he said.
Before they buy equipment or hire a consultant, though, business owners may want to draw up a rough sketch of what types of technology they will need.
Make a Plan
“An operations summary and map is a good first step,” said John Torrens, a professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management.
This entails thinking about how technology plays into the normal course of business and finding of ways to streamline it. The method favors efficiency and trims IT shopping lists down to the essential.
“There’s no sense in spending money on a system that doesn’t deliver some benefit in terms of speed, accuracy and convenience,” Torrens said.
Store Data Remotely
Let’s say a fire tears through your business tonight after you leave. You return to find all your inventory and equipment — including your computers and the data they contained — reduced to smoldering ruins.
Are you stunned? Horrified? Livid? Well, if you had backed up all your crucial data offsite a week prior, you would probably feel at least a little relieved.
Kyle Tripp, president of the technology consulting firm Tee One Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., has seen several similar close calls.
A client of his shared a warehouse with a furniture restoration firm that used a lot of spray lacquer. One day, a spark ignited the lacquer, setting the building ablaze. Luckily, the client had moved his data storage and application hosting to a remote server.
As a result, Tripp said, “his biggest decision after the fire was which furniture to buy for the new office.”
Business owners who think things like this happen only to others should talk to another of Tripp’s clients, who backed up her data offsite just two weeks before a tornado ripped through her building.
“Small-business owners who take time to safeguard their investments,” Tripp said, “are a step ahead of those who don’t think a disaster can happen to them.”
Opting for proper data backup — or failing to do so — is an IT decision that warrants careful consideration.
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