Warning: Is Your Micro Business IT Solution Good Enough?

Blessed with great business instinct, but limited IT skills, many micro business owners find themselves in an office with IT that is at best “non standard”.

And this is a problem for two main reasons.

Firstly good IT need not be difficult. There are many companies and consultants out there who can help micro businesses sort through the IT minefield.

Secondly reliable, fit for purpose and dependable IT is no longer something that’s a “nice-to-have”. Instead it’s a necessity for running a business. In fact, it’s the only way a micro business can remain competitive with larger firms without increasing their costs by employing large numbers of staff.

What to focus on

In my opinion there are 4 key areas where a micro business should focus their attention in order to get the best value from their IT investment :

  1. A functional email system that links to their Laptop, Desktop and Mobile Phone
    • Preferably Cloud services like Hosted Exchange or Google Apps Email (like G-Mail but using your domain name)
  2. Some form of regular backup procedure that allows company documents and files to be stored and recovered.
    • Preferably Cloud services for file storage like DropBox or Google Docs
  3. Protection from an increasing number of Internet threats that include SPAM, Malware and Viruses
    • Achieved with PC / Laptop anti virus software and an effective firewall on a router
  4. Business grade IT hardware that’s built for business users, not home users
    • Not the latest deal in PC world but a business brand like HP or Dell

How you’ll benefit

Whether you ensure these areas receive the time and thought to be set up correctly, or if you elect to outsource the management of these services to an external suppler, you can be certain your business will receive the following benefits:

  • A rapid response to email inquiries along with timely replies to emails plus retaining an audit trail over multiple devices
  • Confidence that lost or deleted information can be recovered with no noticeable impact to you or your clients
  • Certainty that your business is protected against avoidable threats that could impact your ability to function or put clients at risk
  • Reliable IT hardware that is going to last and provide good long term value and in turn increased efficiency for staff

Get your head in the cloud!

So let’s focus a little more on the two Cloud services mentioned.

By getting your email and files (data) into a Cloud location, the information can be accessed from anywhere and not just from a single PC or laptop. This is very useful if, as many micro businesses do, you collaborate with others but don’t share a fixed office. If you do have an office then it allows you to work more flexibly such as from home.

Affordability…

Let’s now put some outline costs to these services.

A Google Apps account is free from Google and a Hosted Exchange account will cost around £6 per month.

The Google Apps Email service is great for those micro businesses starting up from scratch. For those who are coming from a corporate environment and who prefer the familiar feel of Outlook, then the Hosted Exchange solution won’t break the bank.

Something like Google Docs for data storage is again free, but you also get online versions of a Word Processor, Spreadsheet etc.

DropBox is free for up to 2Gb of storage and just £8 per month for up to 50Gb but it’s more focused on storage and sharing with other users as you don’t get the ‘apps’ like you do with Google Docs. These are low costs, especially given the huge flexibility your business will gain. In addition it takes away a worry about continuity in the event something fails, is lost or stolen.

In respect to Anti-Virus services then one of the best around is currently FREE and is called Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s a Microsoft product and protects you against viruses and malware and can be installed (for free) in a business of up to 10 users.

Hardware purchase requires a little more discussion than is available here, but make sure you get the right hardware from a business focused manufacturer. It will offer better long term value, it will last longer than the equipment designed for home use and it will result in your business being more reliable and thus profitable in the longer term.

Getting reliable IT services into your business may not be as difficult as you might have first thought.

But the benefits of such services, especially Cloud services, are huge.

Micro businesses, in my opinion, have the most to gain from Cloud services. 1-5 users can have full email and file sharing features allowing them to compete and challenge larger competitors who have bigger IT budgets.

I’ve worked with lots of micro business and have seen that by tackling just email and data storage it can transform your business. So imagine what could be possible if 3 or even all 4 of them were covered?

Don’t neglect your IT services. Instead spend a bit of time ensuring what you have is fit for purpose. And if you’re not sure where to start or are wondering what you should focus on, have a chat with an IT consultant. They will be only too happy to help and advise.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Do a quick review if your IT services. Can you access your email and documents on multiple devices? Is your data backed up? Are you protected from Internet threats? If you spot anything that needs attention, either find a fix, or talk to an IT consultatnt for advice?

Craig Sharp

Craig Sharp works with a wide range of business sectors, and uses over 16 years of experience from a diverse customer base to ensure clients get the best possible IT Support and Service. He is customer focused and meets regularly with clients face-to-face to see how he can enhance the way they work and make sure they are getting the best from their investment in IT.

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Comments

  1. DrobBox is just fab…. I use it for all my client work and not only is it simple to use but it is acceptable from my Ipad and laptop!
    Backing up my laptop is something I am not so good at… thanks for the reminder and such a great blog! IT is something we take for grated but when it goes wrong, we do struggle!

  2. Remember when an airline lost its business for 3 days because their cloud stuff malfunctioned. I do. It will be a long time before I trust my business to the cloud.

    Having a mac and using gmail helps with spam and viruses and so on. (And you don’t have to spend ages downloading the latest updates either.)

    Until google renounce unequivically any writes in what I write on google docs I won’t be using it. Other word processor companies have done this. I once said to a google rep that I thought they wanted to own my stuff. He said, “What do you think we’d want to use it for?” I note that this falls short of a denial or an affirmation that they will never claim ownership of my stuff. (Bic doesn’t get ownership of what I write with their pen google doesn’t get ownership of what I write with google docs. Same applies to some other wordprocessors – which means reading the Terms of Service, yuck and sigh).

    I learnt the hard way that automatic backup to an external hard drive is a VERY good idea!

    With an external hard drive with big storage you probably won’t need the cloud. Unless you need to store video or something.
    Evan recently posted..Self Development and Acceptance Part 1 of 4 Wholeness and Why We Do AcceptingMy Profile

  3. Dropbox is a good service but not one I would recommend for UK businesses if you store any customer data as your files are store in the US (https://www.dropbox.com/help/7/en) which breaks the UK data protection laws which state you need to keep customer data in the EU – unless you have their explicit permission.

    Janine – install offsite data backup which automatically backs up your data as you save a document…then you don’t have to remember. But please can everyone run a monthly check their backup is actually doing what it should be doing.

  4. Some great comments and thank you for taking the time to read and reply to the article.

    Janine – Great to hear you are getting some great use and value from DropBox. IT is a good product and for the Micro Business its a wonderful way to bring together shared documents, collaborative working and data safety into a single point.

    Evan – I understand your concerns about Cloud, but your Gmail account is in fact a Cloud service. Email is stored in the Google Cloud and you see a representation of it on your MAC, so you are indeed using Cloud already. I think that for companies with 2 or more people (this may or may not be you) then Cloud is the only way to offer collaboration on files and company information so it’s a necessary evil perhaps ?

    Philip – Yes, the US situation is one that can be a problem for companies looking to meet all of the UK laws, but for the Micro Business looking to get good quality file backup and shared storage I really think its better than not having it at all. One thing to point out is that DropBox uses Amazon Simple Storage and they have a ‘Regions’ policy. they have data centers in many parts of the world and so over time DropBox could offer Region Specific storage – Quote (from Amazon) “.. Objects stored in a Region never leave the Region unless you transfer them out. For example, objects stored in the EU (Ireland) Region never leave the EU ..” – some hope then 😉
    Craig Sharp recently posted..1.5 million accounts hacked, was yours?My Profile

  5. Check any non EU cloud services are under the Safe Harbor agreement. This is an agreement between the EU and the US that any data held under these companies’ services are covered under the Data Protection Act.

    The benefit of cloud AND local is that some of us do not have the ability to keep a regular backup offsite (in case of fire) and cloud is a good alternative.
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..One Man Band Accounting new website launching in September!My Profile

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