A small business is staffed by employees who need to adapt quickly to the shifting winds of both their company and larger industry. This go-with-the-flow approach has been the springboard to success for countless enterprises — it’s the flexibility that allows people to jump in the fire and capitalize on the moment.
But there’s also a darker side to this approach, especially when it comes to the technology you use. If you’re used to ignoring devices and software until they require your immediate attention, you should know that this is a recipe for an inevitable disaster. We’ll look at the major problems that most small businesses face and what can be done to mitigate the effects on your business.
#1 - Poor (or Non-existent) Network Security
Encryption, firewalls, sandboxing: these terms are more than technical jargon. Most small business CEOs think that their network security is sufficient until they’re forced to admit it isn’t. It explains why 43% of cyber-attacks happen to small businesses and collectively cost more than $2.2 million. Real network security begins with understanding how a hacker thinks and behaves. In some cases, the hacker is a technical genius who can exploit a little-known vulnerability in your network. More often, it’s as simple as a receptionist clicking on the wrong link from a poorly disguised email.
#2 - Old Technology
This doesn’t mean that small businesses need to shell out more money every few months for new equipment. It does mean that leaders should consider the ramifications of ancient technology. If a product is no longer eligible for updates or a program isn’t compatible with clients’ systems, it might be time to buy something more up-to-date.
#3 - Backup Issues/Failures
When you have the right prevention strategy in place, even complete destruction of your equipment won’t affect your data. You’ll have everything you need to rebuild your business even when everything goes wrong. Disaster recovery isn’t easy to execute, but it’s a necessary precaution that shouldn’t be put off.
#4 - No Plan for "Bring-Your-Own" Devices
BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device, and it’s a common practice for businesses everywhere. Employees want to work on their own laptops because they have the programs and systems already customized to their liking. (Or they want to connect to the company’s Wi-Fi to avoid excess data charges on their personal phone plan.)
These seemingly reasonable requests don’t look quite as reasonable when you consider just how many variables there are when employees bring their own technology into a business environment. Many companies will ban this practice altogether, but if you don’t, you’ll need a well-researched plan that protects you against common threats.
#5 - Online and Email Safety
#6 - Uncontrolled Access to Data and Information
There is something to be said about employees having access to information. This way, clients don’t need to be transferred multiple times to get their questions answered, and employees feel respected and trusted enough to do their jobs.
But when there are no real safeguards on information and data, it leaves the door cracked for either a hacker or an employee to exploit the situation for their own gain. Not every detail should be treated as a trade secret, but there should be strategic controls placed on the most important information (e.g., financial, etc.).
#7 - Integration Issues
There’s been a lot of changes made to both hardware and software to make them more adaptable. Now, a wide variety of programs and devices can be seamlessly paired with one another, so small businesses don’t have to spend days or weeks working at half-speed while all the kinks are being worked out.
Yet even with the upgrades, integration can still pose major issues to small businesses — even when they don’t realize it at first. For instance, maybe a new program introduces a small vulnerability into the larger network. If it isn’t identified quickly, it can lead to a system breakdown that was anything but inevitable.
#8 - Identifying the Root Cause of Technology Problems
When a system is slow or a program fails to open, an employee’s first instinct might be to restart the computer or call their manager over. Much of what happens with an office’s technology is a mystery, a fact that leads employees to ignore real issues until they can’t be ignored anymore. (This is especially true if there’s no IT team to even speak with.)
Getting to the bottom of technology issues is difficult even for seasoned professionals. There are so many potential culprits that it’s not always simple to narrow them down. But even though it’s difficult, the case does need to be solved or the same problem is just going to keep rearing its ugly head.
#9 - Old Hardware/Software
Small businesses are notorious for keeping things the way they are. If it’s taken employees a year to master the systems, what good will it do to throw a wrench in the mix? But old programs and hardware were made for a different time, one that was never exposed to the modern threats of today.
Technology manufacturers know that they’re going to need to update their products, which is why you’ll get multiple notifications to install the latest version many years after purchasing. But after a while, the equipment and programs are simply too antiquated to justify the effort. Systems will slow a little with each new release, which is why small businesses need to consider upgrading to the newest models.
#10 - Frustrated Users
Old databases, sluggish websites, and malfunctioning programs are tiny annoyances that can lead to big drops in productivity. When employees dread even turning on the computer or opening their email, you know there’s a serious hiccup that needs to be addressed.
It doesn’t necessarily take too much to satisfy your employees. Part of the solution is just empathizing with them about the qualify and functionality of what you’ve provided. Soliciting their recommendations can also be a great way to decide which direction to take. At some point, you will need to invest in a change to keep people coming back to work.
#11 - Technology Purchasing
What does it really mean to research everything on the market today? The sheer quantity would be enough to make any small business owner want to run for the hills. It’s also not fair to put the burden on another employee, where they’ll be tasked with finding the best possible solution among an infinite number of options.
If you really want to know if a product can integrate with your systems and fit your needs, you’ll need to talk to someone who understands both your business and the basic attributes of what’s on the market today. This elusive combination can usually found in an IT expert who has experience handling a wide variety of small businesses and their individual needs.