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Mar 12, 2012

Managing Your IT Needs as a Small Business Owner

In today's business environment, every company - whether small or big - uses some kind of technology. Computers, laptops, smart phones, iPads, printers and a whole host of other gadgets are designed to make doing business easy. Unfortunately, they often create challenges for the small business owner. This is especially true when a small business does not have an IT department to handle the technological issues. Small businesses need to take IT management seriously as there is a financial risk involved with using technology without a plan.

Fortunately, there are solutions for small businesses to consider. Options, for example, might include an IT consulting service and/or a shift to cloud computing where much of the IT management is handled off-site.

Why a Small Business Needs IT Management

Small business owners may not believe that they need a formal department or service to manage their information technology needs, but the reality is that almost all businesses do. 

Employees need to access information stored on a server or a network in order to do their jobs well. If a network goes down because of improper maintenance (more so since there's no IT department maintaining it), this can cost more than just time and money. The company may also lose customers if the downtime results in poor customer service. Further, when problems do develop, it will be difficult for them to get taken care of quickly. Without an IT department, it can take much longer to get things back up and running and can lead to extensive costs for the company as outsiders have to be rushed in to handle the emergency.

Other Problems with a Lack of IT Management

Without an IT department, small business owners may not have the software they need to maximize productivity, since may not know exactly what to buy. They may not keep their software or hardware updated properly, which can increase the chances of problems developing and thus impede productivity.

Employees may not be properly trained on software use, which can lead to even further inefficiencies.  Worse, employees might do things such as download viruses that may cause harm to the systems and / or tap sensitive information. Security breaches and loss of data can also result in the absence of someone in charge of implementing and monitoring controls.

Of course, all these things can occur even when someone tries to manage the IT needs of a company if he or she is not equipped to do so. For instance, simply asking a staffer to order new computers or to keep an eye out for problems may not be effective unless someone with knowledge about information technology is formally assigned such task.

Options for Small Businesses

Small businesses can avoid these problems by having a plan in place for strategic IT management. This may mean migrating to cloud computing- the use of applications provided by a remote data provider- so that most problems are handled off site and there is a limited need for in-house IT help. Hiring IT consultants can be another good solution, as can a full-time IT person on staff to help manage all IT needs. It all depends upon how extensive the company's technology needs are and what their IT budget is, but the bottom line is something always needs to be done. 

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