Computer Hardware and More: Your Small Business's IT Ecosystem
Many small businesses begin at the founder’s kitchen table, with an old laptop serving as the center of its information technology infrastructure. But as a business grows, that way of doing things quickly becomes unworkable.
Once a business reaches the point where it has several employees, it may be time for a change. If you’re spending an increasing amount of time managing your company’s technology and troubleshooting computer related issues, you’re likely considering a dedicated IT department.
The IT team is most widely known as the group troubleshooting technical issues, but it does far more. From setting up your laptops and desktop computers, managing tablets, IoT devices and Wi-Fi networks, to tracking business data, to gathering insights from that data, the IT department can have a significant impact on a company and its customers.
Common problems in your company's technology stack
IT departments are likely to face a new challenge nearly every day, but there are a few that are common to all types of small and medium-sized businesses. Failing to address those issues in a timely fashion can bring a business to its knees, resulting in lost business, a damaged reputation and the possibility of regulatory fines or other penalties.
Some of the common issues facing small and medium-sized businesses include:
Outdated hardware and software
Operating systems and productivity applications require constant updates. Although some of these updates may occur automatically, others may need to be handled by the IT department. Software updates can improve functionality, add new features and safeguard against potential security issues. Train staff to notify the IT department if their computers prompt for a software update.
When it comes to computer hardware for a small business, it’s no secret that costs are a constant concern. It may be tempting to put off investing in new hardware but be aware that a hardware failure can result in lost business. If computer hardware is more than a few years old or is resulting in lost productivity, it may be time for an upgrade.
Using unlicensed or pirated software may save a few dollars on the front end but can eventually break a business. Some software makers offer bounties amounting to thousands of dollars for reporting companies that use illegal or pirated software. In addition, pirated software often includes malware or viruses that can allow hackers outside access to internal systems, resulting in damage to a company’s computers or its IT infrastructure being held hostage for ransom.
Only purchase software from reputable vendors and ensure licenses are kept up to date. Don’t share passwords for commercial databases or other subscription services. And just as important, don’t allow employees to install their own software on company computers.
Lack of security
Computer security is a constant concern in the business world. Employ an anti-malware solution on company computers and ensure it stays up-to-date. Change default passwords on routers and other devices, and train employees on the dangers of clicking on unsolicited links in emails. And if at all possible, don’t allow staff to plug outside devices such as flash drives into company systems. These are frequently the source of malware and viruses.
Lack of a backup and recovery plan
No matter how much a company plans for issues or how much they spend on hardware, it’s only a matter of time before a piece of equipment fails. Even without a system failure a storm, a power surge, a fire or other disaster may cause a shutdown. If there’s a backup solution and data recovery plan in place, those situations can be an inconvenience. If not, they may result in the complete shutdown of operations. As the saying goes, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
How to assess technology needs at your company
To keep your business operating at peak performance and ensure technology isn’t the source of productivity bottlenecks, it’s important to conduct a technology needs assessment on a regular basis.
Issues to consider in that technology needs assessment include:
Hardware maintenance: Is your computer hardware under warranty, or do you have a support contract to maintain those devices? Without these, a failure could leave you on the hook for costly repairs. If hardware is out of warranty or is reaching the end of its usable life, it may make sense to upgrade before a failure occurs.
Software and operating system security: Whenever you purchase a new piece of computer hardware, make sure you install antivirus software. Be aware that security software suites often need to be renewed on an annual basis and failing to do so will leave you unprotected. In addition, set security programs and operating systems to automatically download and install updates.
Network solutions: If your business has reached the point where employees are frequently sharing files, or they have a need to access a central database, it may be time to invest in a server. When it comes to a small- or medium-sized business, servers can be used for tasks including:
- Secure email hosting
- File sharing & storage
- Hosting a website or eCommerce store
- Hosting SaaS software such as customer relationship management programs, bookkeeping software, employee management software, or project management software.
- Backing up business data
- Collaborating on documents
You should consider investing in a server if you make use of accounting programs and customer relationship management software to communicate with vendors and customers, or employees need to share files, software tools or other resources
Backup solutions: No matter how big, every business should have a system backup solution in place, with those backups stored in the cloud or elsewhere off site. Consider, for example, the wildfires that swept through parts of California or the hurricanes that struck the coast of Louisiana in mid-2020. Operators of businesses in those areas were shut out of their location for days or weeks if those locations survived at all. A backup is of no value if it can’t be accessed.
Support: Many technology problems can be solved simply by talking with an expert. Do you have a vendor to which you can turn to in case internal IT staff can’t resolve an issue?
That brings us to the next stage of managing IT infrastructure: finding a reliable source of hardware and ongoing support.
How to assess a technology vendor
Although plumbers, restaurant operators, engineers or attorneys may be experts in their specific files, chances are they and other small business operators aren’t experts in technology. If you have a clogged pipe in your restaurant, you’d call a plumber, and if your engineering firm were facing a legal issue, you’d hire a lawyer.
It’s the same with technology. When it comes to managing your business’ IT infrastructure, it only makes sense to call an expert in the field. With that in mind, how does the owner of a small or medium-sized business assess a potential technology vendor? What’s the best source of computer hardware for small business?
To start, do your due diligence by asking a few basic questions about potential candidates.
- Are you familiar with their work? Lenovo, for example, is a global brand with worldwide name recognition.
- Do they have financial stability? Lenovo’s revenue topped $51 billion in 2019. It’s a pretty good bet they’ll be there when you need them.
- Do they have a proven track record? Lenovo has been serving the technology market for more than 35 years.
Get quotes and assess the value of the services that vendor will provide. You may be surprised.
Just because your business is considered “small” or “medium” doesn’t mean you need less from your technology than “big” businesses. In fact, you probably need more. You need more support, more efficiency and more flexibility precisely. For that, there’s LenovoPro.
With LenovoPro, you can earn business savings, gain early access to Lenovo’s best sales and take advantage of free expedited delivery.
In addition, LenovoPRO offers 1:1 support, with advice from our small business specialists, a year of free Think Premier Support, discounts on other services and easy returns. LenovoPRO also offers opportunities to streamline purchasing with business financing.
Signing up for LenovoPRO is free, with membership tiers designed around your business size. When it comes to serving the IT departments of small and medium-sized businesses, nothing beats LenovoPRO.
For more on what Lenovo has to offer a small or medium-sized business, check out this FAQ.