IT Support. Where to cut corners, and where to invest when it comes to your IT: Wouldn’t it be nice if there really was a money tree, and we could harvest an almost endlesssupply of cash? The reality is, we are always weighing the odds. Always. If you are a business owner, this never stops. Frequently asked questions include:
“What do I have?”
“What do I need?”
“How much can I afford?”
“What about the rest?”
As a solutions integrator, we are frequently asked these questions, in one way or another:
“Do I need to back up ALL of my data?”
“Can we continue running Windows XP?”
“Why do we need a new server, this one has almost NO problems”
“I’ll just call you when we need something, thanks”
The above statements are from actual conversations with clients, and they all boil down to one thing: “Can I cut corners here, or not?”
We didn’t create your dependency on technology, just as you didn’t create the need for the product or service your business produces, most likely. Complicated laws or the fear of an audit keep accountants and lawyers busy. Commuters keep entire industries busy. Technology advancements keep IT companies busy. Although our industries and expertise may be different, there are constants with regard to running a business, and I am no stranger to weighing the odds.
So, where can you cut, and where should you invest? Here are a few suggestions to help sort this out. We will focus on three areas of interest:
- The Cloud - Cloud Computing
- Your Data - Data Backup
- Computer Hardware - Upgrade or Maintain
The Cloud - Cloud Computing: Invest. Leveraging cloud technology should be in your future, if it isn’t already. Sadly, many small businesses already use cloud technology or have access to cloud solutions, but don’t realize it because their provider does not give them the necessary feedback or regular status reports related to their network. Most new hardware and software solutions have cloud features “built in”, just sitting there, waiting for you to use them. Another positive, is the ease of entry. You can take baby steps with the cloud. You can work in small, digestible, cost effective chunks. Hosted email, or a hosted server are excellent places to leverage this technology, but even smaller steps may already be available to you, with the stuff you have now. *Did you know… even your entire phone system can be cloud based!
Your Data - Data Backup: Invest a little, get a lot. I used to feel like an ophthalmologist when I worked with a new client. When I showed them the quote for backing up their data, their eyes would pop out. This is not the case, any more. Data backup and recovery is probably the one area where costs have drastically come down, while ease of use and service levels has gone up. For a few hundred dollars a month, a small to medium business can have onsite and/or online backup, WITH quick recovery options, AND remote management. That’s like getting a limousine, with a chauffeur that is at your service 24 hours per day, 7 days per week ALL for the price of taxi! If you currently use tape, an external drive, CDs, flash drives… take a look at some of the latest solutions for data backup and recovery. The bottom line is, when a PC or laptop dies, it’s not the actual machine that causes the heartaches and headaches: it’s the loss of the data. This can be prevented.
PC’s and Printers - When to upgrade: Cut corners. If you came to me with X amount of dollars, and said, “Tom, what should I do, I only have X?” I would recommend upgrading your physical PCs, Desktops, Laptops and the like, as needed, and invest your money in protecting your data, and getting remote management for your server(s). Windows 7 and Server 2008/2011 are almost a must, and once Microsoft discontinues support on the last service packs they will be. We don’t make these decisions, but we do understand how to navigate the waters. Of course, everything has limitations, and your software applications, or vendors may make it impossible for you to cut corners with your PCs. If so, you may be able to streamline and consolidate your printer hardware. Many buy-back and bundled programs are available. We’ve seen companies GAIN money with an entry level managed print solution. Trade in your old lasers and ink jets, and get brand new units for less than what you’re paying just to USE the printers you have now.
The information is overwhelming, and the possibilities are many. Weighing the odds isn’t easy, but it is possible to get the most out of what you have, and make the right investments for future. In response to this, we now provide a service called the Virtual CIO. It’s free to our TotalCare clients, and offers periodic visits and consultations by our in-house experts, AS IF they were the CIO of your company. If you were serious enough about your IT to read this entire blog post, I can reciprocate with a VCIO consultation, at no charge to you.