You've successfully closed out 2017. Resolutions have been made, and you might have raised a hopeful toast to a fresh start in the new year. Now that the holiday stress is over and the celebratory confetti has been swept away, it's time to handle a few technology-related tasks so you have a clear pathway to a successful 2018.
Attending to technology issues now means you'll start the new year better prepared to achieve your goals, including those related to greater efficiency, productivity and reduced costs. Plus, the steps you take now can safeguard against unexpected technology expenditures.
To reduce any baggage that could weigh your business down, we've created a basic checklist designed for managing the technology-related transition from 2017 to 2018.
1. Change your passwords. Do it right now. And don't ever use the same password twice. Changing your passwords is the single most important security step you can take for your business. Instruct your employees to change their passwords now, too. Better yet, use a password manager application to create and store strong passwords.
2. Clean your hardware. Nothing dampens the exhilaration of a fresh start more than working with dirty hardware. Clean your keyboard with compressed air and wipe down the screen and monitor with a static-free cloth. Replace the battery in your mouse and swap that old mousepad with a clean one. Consider replacing cords and cables that have begun to show wear, and tidy up everything behind the desk or table with zip ties or wraps. Now doesn't that feel better?
3. Give your printer some love. Remove, empty and clean paper trays to remove lint, bits of paper and dirt that might have accumulated. Go online and check for software updates issued by the printer manufacturer and download them. Carefully dust the exterior and interior components of the printer. If during your maintenance tasks you discover components in need of repair, now's the time to order and install replacement parts. Make sure you have printer cartridges and paper in stock, because your printer will be working harder than ever this year.
4. Update and upgrade your software applications. So many business owners postpone these tasks, and productivity often suffers as a result. Get this out of the way in January – you'll be more efficient and productive all year long. Run a security check manually now, and while you're at it, make sure your computers are set up to download security updates automatically. If your needs have increased since purchasing your current security and protection programs, upgrade to a more robust solution.
5. Out with the old, in with the new. Take time now to organize your digital files for 2018. Store those old digital files and documents in an archive file on your computer's hard drive, a portable backup and in the cloud.
6. Don't spend another year worrying about backups. When was the last time you reviewed your backup system? (Do you have backup system?) Correct any deficits now to protect your business and reduce worry in the event of a data breach, theft, natural disaster or other loss. The peace of mind that backup systems provide is priceless, and portable drives and cloud storage are cheap.
7. Update (or create) your company's technology inventory. An inventory will avoid unnecessary or duplicate purchases and can aid future budgeting and capital expenditure planning. In addition, you'll have an up-to-date list of all your technology assets in one place in the event of a loss. Log your company's owned and leased desktops and laptops, network hardware, printers, and mobile devices, including phones and tablets. You'll also want to identify serial numbers and models, who has possession of these assets, where the assets are located and lease refresh dates, if applicable.
8. Clear out the digital graveyard. Now is a great time to unload all of the old technology you no longer use. Get rid of old or broken hardware and peripherals by selling them to a tech recycler or simply haul them to the dump. (Remove and destroy hard drives first and follow local regulations for proper disposal.) If you have hardware or peripherals that still operate but haven't been used in years, donate them to a charity that could put them to good use.
9. Evaluate your current IT support. Whether your IT team resides in-house or is outsourced, take a look back over the past year together. Review what worked well and what didn't, and determine what your needs are in 2018. Address any deficits and make changes to outsource contracts or explore new outsourcing options as needed.
10. Create a new year's technology checklist for non-IT employees. Everyone has a stake in well-functioning tech tools. Clearly communicate what's expected of employees when it comes to prepping technology for the new year and maintaining the tech tools provided to them. Now is a good time to discuss the security of personal devices employees bring to work and use while on-site. Review your company's policies, especially if employees have company data stored on their smartphones or other personal devices.
11. Make an appointment with your business insurance agent. If you don't have business insurance, you really should reconsider. Speak with an agent about the policies you should have. If you have a home-based business, you should know that homeowners insurance usually won't cover business-owned equipment losses. If you have business insurance and you've purchased new computer gear or other tech devices in 2017, make sure these items are included in your policy. Also, review your current coverage to make sure you're adequately covered.
12. Meet with a tax professional in early January, if possible. Currently there is the potential for significant, wide-ranging changes to the tax code for the 2018 tax year. It's crucial that you get the straight scoop about new business tax implications from a knowledgeable professional as early as possible. While there's no way to know for certain what these changes are or what might be needed from a compliance standpoint, it's possible that new tax laws might influence the timing of planned technology investments. [Read related story: How the GOP Tax Plan Will Affect Small Business]