Small business budgets are tight, especially where IT is concerned. But technology upgrades can pay for themselves quickly by improving IT performance and enabling employees to accomplish more in less time. It may be time to focus on your IT assets to ensure they run smoothly and efficiently.
Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your business technology is functional and up to date.
Run the latest operating system
Older operating systems, like Microsoft Windows 7, have potential security flaws that hackers take advantage of, making a system more vulnerable to malware and other attacks. It's not enough to run a current protection suite, such as one that combines antivirus, antispyware and a firewall, because the operating system itself may contain security holes. With new cyberattacks being launched daily, your organization could easily fall prey to a ransomware attack or malware infection.
Windows 10, Microsoft's latest desktop operating system, is designed to be more secure than previous versions. Plus, it has a decent shelf life and should run just fine on PC hardware you purchased within the past three or four years. It requires a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 20GB of free hard disk space (for the 64-bit version). Your PCs that are running Windows 7 probably meet those specifications already.
The latest OS lets employees take advantage of a host of new apps and programs that boost productivity. And because Windows 10 runs on all kinds of devices, including smartphones and high-end laptops, your employees get a consistent user experience regardless of which device they use.
Note: Microsoft will continue to push security patches and hotfixes to Windows 7 computers until Jan. 14, 2020 (when extended support ends). Learn more here.
Update hardware technology
Over time, computers, peripherals and printers become outdated and move into the legacy class. For very old hardware (say five years or more), you might have a hard time finding drivers that support new operating systems and applications, leading to compatibility and reliability issues.
One major issue with legacy computers is inadequate RAM, which can be a major pain point for users. Web browsers, especially, require a lot of memory. Just open Task Manager in Windows and browse the running processes to see how much more memory a browser uses than most other programs. Many employees tend to have a browser open at all times, along with other software, so a computer without enough RAM can greatly decrease employee productivity while increasing their frustration level.
Keeping old equipment in use might seem like a money saver, but it requires more maintenance than new equipment in the form of upgrades and repairs. And waiting until your server crashes to replace it is risky, potentially setting your business back for days at a time and resulting in loss of revenue. Consider an upgrade cycle of every three years for computers, or more often if you can afford it.
Digitize and centralize documents
Paper documents are often inefficient and limit accessibility. You'll do your business a favor by scanning paper documents, such as accounting, sales and project files, and making them available on a centralized company network or, better yet, in the cloud.
The low cost of online storage makes cloud services a good business value, and documents are available 24/7 from any computer or device. Another plus is that you don't have to maintain backups yourself. Cloud service providers back up your data automatically as part of their core services, and rescuing data that's been accidentally deleted is much like fetching files from the Windows Recycle Bin.
Worried about security? With proper folder organization, you can set simple user and group permissions to prevent users from accessing documents they shouldn't see. [Looking for document management software? Check out Business News Daily's best picks.]
Maintain a reliable, high-speed network
A high-speed network connection that's available 24/7 enables organizations to run modern applications, like office suites and customer relationship management software, that might tax older, slower networks. Employees appreciate an optimized network connection that allows them to complete work faster and move on to the next task.
Another important benefit of a reliable network is collaboration. Online collaboration services let staff use voice or video applications to meet one-on-one or in teams, and they make remote employees feel like they're an active part of the office. The ability to archive previous discussions and search through them removes the need to take copious notes during meetings or to share details via email.
Crafting a technology refresh plan is one way to support your organization's mission, goals and strategies, and to keep employees working productively.