Technology Solutions for Small Businesses and WHY They Matter

Technology Solutions for Small Businesses and WHY They Matter

Last year we published a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style blog post highlighting how improvements in business technology (or lack thereof) can provide different outcomes for common problems around the office. In the post, we followed the adventures of a new IT manager attempting to solve several communication bottlenecks in the office by pitching different technology improvements.

That was a fun thought experiment to write about, and we hope readers obtained some helpful information from the post as well. But it wasn’t totally fiction – many clients we speak with have the exact troubles described in the article.

One helpful aspect of working with seasoned professionals like the Continuous Networks team is that no matter what the problem is within a business our team has a solution. Said a different way, the choose-your-own-adventure story when partnering with Continuous always has a happy ending.

Today, we’ll be continuing this business technology adventure and checking in on our fearless new IT manager. It’s a new year and there will always be new challenges for a business, but we hope by keeping this post handy, you’ll be prepared no matter what comes your way.

The Outsourcing Dilemma

The desire to clone one’s self is real, especially when deadlines are getting closer, or customers are being difficult. Ask any IT manager and they’ll confirm that when it rains, it pours. We’ve mentioned before that when IT is running smoothly, nobody in the office is aware the department exists.

But when something breaks, the sky may begin to fall.

And to make matters worse, IT issues have a way of coming in waves. A de-synched email server can quickly spiral into the VPN completely crashing. And then the phone system will also go down, just for good measure.

So where does our IT manager find help in these situations?

Option 1) Business as usual, fix problems one-by-one at the speed of one person – For simple problems, this might be an acceptable course of action. There are only so many hours in the day, and when all technical support falls on the shoulders of one individual, a priority list must be created.

An IT manager will probably choose issues that affect connectivity as priority number one but creating the right priority list will depend on the type of business. If there are employees working remotely, getting the VPN online once again is likely the first course of action. After all parties can access the necessary files, reconnecting the email server so account managers can communicate with clients or customers can reach out is probably going to be a good use of time.

In these scenarios, there will probably be added stress as colleagues and executives ask questions about timelines. If most of the staff clocks out at 5pm, an IT manager will feel the strain of being pulled in several different directions at once.

Executives understand the difference between one or two people being inconvenienced by technology problems, and when the entire office grinds to a halt A LOT of productivity is stunted, and A LOT of money is being wasted.

Option 2) Hire more staff to help perform “break-fixes” when issue arise – Overhead is the term associated with the fixed costs a business incurs. Things like salaries for employees, insurance expenses, paid vacation, and others are considered “overhead expenses”. Accountants and HR managers understand that wages are traditionally the highest overhead expense a business will pay during the year.

They see the “solution” of hiring someone else very differently than other members of the staff.

Especially for smaller businesses who might not have the budget to hire on a whim – this may not be a viable solution to the problem. But that VPN is still down, so get back to work!

Option 3) Outsourced support – The idea of outsourcing certain tasks isn’t the controversial activity it might have once been viewed as. When proper research is done about the right vendor partner, owners and managers are not subjected to low-quality support from overseas resources that don’t have a solid grasp of the situation or the language.

The benefits of being able to pick up the phone and delegate certain tasks is a proverbial pressure relief valve when IT problems are affecting the whole office. With a managed IT support resource, for example, a single IT manager will be able to collaborate with off-site resources when problems arise.

Better yet, being able to delegate proactive maintenance tasks can help ensure everything continues to run smoothly and avoid crisis completely.

And since outsourcing tasks keeps productivity strong without drastically increasing costs, executives are happy with this solution.

Like we stated earlier, you’ve found a way to effectively clone yourself at a minimal cost to the business, nice job!

The Cloud or Something Like It

Small businesses are great at coming up with patchwork solutions. This kind of ingenuity should be admired but in many cases, the solutions themselves are not fit to scale. One example would be over-extending the capability of a free cloud service, like Google Drive.

In our example (this is something we’ve seen), an entire small office is using one Drive login to create, store, and share sales documents. You can browse through some of our other blog posts to get a detailed version of why this is a bad idea:

A handful of shared computers, with users all using the same account to log into a computer or network presents a host of security problems. First, in the event of a worst-case scenario like a data breach, it makes identifying the source of the event extremely difficult, if not impossible. most impossible

Next, sharing passwords for accounts goes against just about every rule when it comes to cybersecurity.

Provide users with unique usernames and passwords known only to that specific user. At the very least, create guest accounts if the user will only be temporary.

Option 1) Continue using patchwork solution but change the password regularly – So the staff seem resistant to change. Sure, the shared file repository isn’t the best long-term solution, but they say it works for now. Changing the password will take some of the cringe factor out of the process from a cybersecurity standpoint.

While some of these free cloud document services DO allow for the administrator to segment who has access to information, all the security utility flies out the window when all users are sharing the same login and password.

All it takes is one disgruntled employee for the whole network to come crashing down. These situations should be avoided at all costs. It might be time to organize an education session and help the team brush up on best practices for cybersecurity.

Find a better solution.

Option 2) Organize the installation and adoption of a private cloud solution – The idea of “scalability” is something far too many small business owners don’t consider. But in terms of technology, designing processes and policies with scalable solutions in mind can set the stage for massive growth. But ignoring this and relying on patchwork solutions can also hinder growth in the same way.

A proper VPN will afford the staff the same flexibility that a shared login and password for a Google Drive would and offer added security. Firewalls, whitelisting applications, and permission settings are all easier to manage with a proper cloud network.

Looking for some material for how to prepare for installing a cloud network? Talk with the Continuous team! We offer free, no-obligation consultations and a have plenty of free resources available here on the website, like our Cloud Readiness Assessment guide.