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3 Pieces of IT Advice Every Small Business Should Consider

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Posted on November 5, 2012

Whether you’re spearheading the hunt for a new IT solution to your large company’s old business problem, or you’re wearing the IT hat as one of your many roles within your small business, one thing stays the same: it’s important to ensure that you’re getting good information technology advice. And no matter what size your company is or the nature of your IT needs, some pieces of advice will always hold true. Let’s take a look at the top three pieces of IT advice that every business should consider:

It’s easier and less costly to prepare for an IT disaster than to recover from one

If you’re in the process of selecting or buying IT services for your business, you’ve likely heard about the importance of planning for a disaster. Whether it be a problem that causes your network to crash, a failed hard drive that leads to information loss, or the pain involved in removing viruses and malware from your business computers, IT vendors seem to have no shortage of “worst-case scenarios” that they insist you consider. But that’s just a way for them to get you to spend more money with them, right?  Not necessarily!

In any of the situations above, there’s a hard cost associated with creating redundant systems and having backups in place. For example, you might have costs associated with network monitoring  (to prevent a network crash), with backup processes (to retrieve data lost during a hard drive crash), or with anti-virus software (to protect your computers from becoming infected); while it might be tempting to think about it as a “cost” for network monitoring and a “savings” for going without network monitoring, consider this: If your network goes down for 1 hour, how much productivity has every employee in your business lost?  If it goes down for 3 hours, how many urgent client emails have gone unanswered? If your phone system is tied into your network, how many important phone calls have you missed?  And if it stays down for an entire day, can you even count how many lost opportunities might have passed your business by? When you consider all of the costs associated with enduring and recovering from an IT disaster, it’s easy to see why solid IT preparation and planning is actually a bargain in the long run.

When it comes to software licensing, ask for permission instead of forgiveness

In many areas of business, we’re taught to move forward with the task and ask for forgiveness if the client or a colleague gets upset, rather than asking for permission in advance. The thought behind this is that sometimes asking for permission can create unnecessary alarm or it can stall a project that might otherwise gain momentum. However, when it comes to software licensing, you always want to ask for permission rather than forgiveness. Why? The risks and penalties involved in illegally “sharing” software between multiple computers, or running “hacked” versions of software, are very serious and very real.

The Business Software Alliance, an industry group aimed at fighting software piracy, estimates that $59 billion dollars’ worth of software was stolen in 2010, with a 21% software piracy rate in North America alone. Small businesses caught using unlicensed software may face charges of copyright infringement and penalties of $150,000 per violation; public companies that must abide by Sarbanes-Oxley may face similar charges and fees, as well as millions of dollars in fines and even jail time for executives. The best bet when it comes to software used by your business is to make sure you have accompanying permission in the form of a valid software license—and if you don’t, make sure unlicensed or improperly licensed software is no longer running on your computers, then see if an open source or free alternative
is available.

Remember that nothing is truly free—especially “free” technology webinars or white papers

When evaluating information technology solutions for your business, you might choose to participate in a webcast or download a white paper that focuses on a specific technology area and gives information and best practices related to that area. While these can provide helpful information, it’s important to remember the reason that vendors host webinars and create white papers in the first place—to generate leads and sales for their own businesses.

If you make a poor decision based on advice that you read in a white paper or heard in a webinar, you may have been penny wise and pound foolish. Take advantage of the information that free webinars and white papers can provide, but absorb the information with a grain of salt, then make sure you consult other industry sources and research before you make a decision.

By being informed about  the realities of disaster planning and preparation, by understanding the real risks and penalties associated with asking for software “forgiveness” rather than permission, and by taking advantage of vendor-produced materials with the knowledge that their first goal is to generate leads, you’ll be well on your way to making smarter IT decisions for your business..

Please question, comment, suggest, and share. Jackrabbit

David Eisner is the President and CEO of Dataprise, a provider of IT services for growing businesses.
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  1. David, this is great article! I’ve spoken with a lot of small business owners, and getting them to understand that forgiveness is far more difficult to get than permission with software licensing has easily been one of my most frustrating endeavors. This is especially true of start-up companies that are understandably on shoestring budgets. What kind of kind of advice could you offer a younger consultant trying to persuade clients to invest in proper licensing early on?


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