We’ve seen it all. Business leaders regularly seek us out when they are struggling with I.T. problems like a downed server containing vital business data, a network infrastructure riddled with malware, or poor internet connectivity causing a loss of employee productivity.
Of course, we’re always eager to solve their problems. After all, it’s what we do! But we often wonder how much more successful these growing businesses would be if they’d started with a smart I.T. strategy.
I recently asked some of TekLinks most experience engineers and business experts, “What is the No. 1 mistake you consistently see growing businesses make?” Not surprisingly, they all talk about I.T. strategy. Here are their top do’s and don’ts:
Don’t be a victim of your own success. Sometimes a business grows so fast that its I.T. staff and network infrastructure aren’t able to keep up. This creates technical debt due to what I call "Speed of Business.” These situations arise when shortcuts have been taken in order to satisfy a business need in the short term. In the chaos of a Speed of Business situation, you’ll hear something along the lines of, "It’s OK for now. We will do this right when we have time." Unfortunately, many don’t return to correct the shortcut they’ve taken. Unless the business is intentional about doing it right the first time, it more than likely will never be right. Why is this a problem? These shortcuts can create an unstable infrastructure, fraught with intermittent downtime (aka employees unable to work or access to important data), poor security measures, and many more problems.
-Chris Walker, Director of Client Service Engineering
Hackers know when security isn’t your top priority. I often see companies delegate cybersecurity responsibilities to the same technical staff that are paid to primarily focus on operational up-time of systems. These are actually two very different disciplines that require different skill-sets and expertise. Companies simply aren’t getting the security protection they think they expect and need. Most companies also don’t realize that more than 60% of data breach victims are organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees. This fact should really put things into perspective for companies that think that they’re too small to be a target. Unfortunately, cyber criminals know that smaller companies typically struggle to properly protect their critical systems. If an organization is too small to have dedicated security resources on staff, they should enlist the services of a third party who can (at a minimum) assess their overall security posture, and provide both strategic and tactical recommendations that are specific to their business and how they operate.
- Nick VanGilder, Cybersecurity Ethical Hacker
When vendors push, stand your ground. In my experience, the top technology mistake smaller companies make is letting application/software vendors direct their I.T. strategy. Often software is hastily written without considerations taken for security, reliability, or high-availability. For instance, SQL Server can be configured with features that enhance your I.T. strategy such as Transparent Data Encryption for data protection, or SQL Always-On for database high-availability. However, an application you have purchased to run on top of the SQL Server may not support these features and therefore you are left with an insecure database and a single point of failure. As I.T. administrators and business owners, you have a responsibility to be good stewards of your own (and your customers’) data. When assessing new applications, be sure to take these capabilities into consideration, in addition to the application features itself. When considering any I.T. partner, ask yourself, “How would they improve my I.T. landscape and provide business value?” If they can’t? Find someone who can.
- Jordan Helton, Cloud Solutions Engineer
Remember your risk tolerance. Making technology decisions without consideration of business objectives has left many business leaders with regrets. The I.T. industry offers a host of different products, many of which are marketed (appropriately so) to make consumers fall in love with the product. But before committing to the latest and greatest option, businesses should start with determining their tolerance for I.T. risks. Ask yourself, “How much downtime can my business operations withstand?” and, “What is the cost of my technology being unavailable?” The answers should help you define your business goals, as well as to prioritize which risks you invest in mitigating and at what expense. For example, consider the possible failure of physical hardware – to mitigate that risk, there are disaster recovery options, cloud computing, or high availability virtual infrastructure options. If you need to be able to quickly recover data lost to corruption, accidental deletion, etc., there are a variety of backup solutions. If constant connectivity is a priority, there are various redundant circuit options that can provide a seamless fail-over. While adding additional equipment, services, and/or circuits comes at a cost, not all of these risks are of concern for every business. Make technology choices that help your business succeed.
- Michael Heller, Director of Project Management