Andy Hinxman reveals a five-point technology plan for small companies to aim for this year.
If, like me, you are one of the millions of people who make (and sometimes break) new year resolutions then it is worth adding IT to your to-do list. It is good to review your IT needs both for cost and effectiveness every once in a while. There are always offers available (don’t forget to read the small print) and as your business grows and changes you may need more of one thing rather than another.
To help you I’ve drawn up a list of five key new year IT resolutions which are a must if you are going to keep your business IT savvy in 2015. We’ve walked some of our own clients through them but they are simple enough for you to do yourself and they’re not expensive.
1. Upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8
Yes there are still people out there using it. Yes you can still use it and yes it does still work. But Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows XP which means hackers could exploit the system and you will struggle to get any help to put it right. The support actually ran out in April 2014 but can you honestly say you read that email? More importantly, did you act on it? Microsoft is still supporting XP for the government and the banks but not for small businesses. Office 2013 doesn’t run on XP either so again another reason for updating. One other tip – don’t upgrade an older PC to Windows 7 as you will need a computer that is 64-bit capable and veteran versions may only be 32-bit.
2. Understand the cloud
This is the year to replace or upgrade your IT with cloud services. The cloud is so many things and is capable of being so many things. Embrace it and make it work for you. Cloud desktops enable you and your staff to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud can give you hosted file storage with a range of sizes and suppliers – Apple/Dropbox/Office 365. Hosted desktops are available which ultimately mean you will have a better disaster recovery if things do go wrong. You will save money on servers by going to a cloud-based system whether hosted or not and there are minimal or no upfront costs.
Start simple. Microsoft Office 365 provides cloud storage as well so it is a sensible way to start. Even if it is just photos you don’t want to lose, then the cloud is a good solution. By the way, support for Windows server 2003 ends in July this year so now is a good time to think about its replacement.
The number of viruses are on the increase. Why these people haven’t anything better to do I don’t know but do review your internal security. Look at your email spam filtering system. Is it doing the job you want it to do or is it too powerful and some of your customers/suppliers are complaining that you haven’t received their emails? Malware or spyware is important now too. This is a good opportunity to review the cost of your security too. Do you have your anti-virus with one company and your malware protection with another? Is this costing you more than with one provider?
Many antivirus systems are annual payments and it is easy to forget to renew them. (I bet you have also forgotten the password)! So you might want to consider MAV (managed antivirus) where software is installed on your computers – generally about 2KB – and a company, like ourselves, monitors and deals with attacks as and when they come in.
4. Internet supply
Is your internet as good as it can be? Has your business changed and you do want different things from your supplier? Asking yourself these questions again could save you money in the long run as internet speeds have and keep increasing. You don’t want to be paying x amount for one speed when you can get something faster for the same price.
Fibre broadband is much cheaper now than six or seven years ago. You could look at £500 a month for 100 Mb now for a fully dedicated fibre line into your building. ADSL lines can be expensive in comparison when you think you end up paying for two services – one is internet and the other is a phone line and the bandwith is much, much lower and is contended…so value for money is really becoming better when considering dedicated fibre connections. With Fibre you get superfast broadband and also VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which is effectively using the internet to make phone calls which can be free or low cost to anywhere in the world. With Fibre, you have much more scope to use other internet cloud services. Fibre gives you the ability to cancel your old BT phone lines/ISDN lines and use VoIP services over your fibre internet connection, thus reducing call costs and other BT/telephone costs.
5. Landlines vs VOIP
As mentioned above, VOIP allows you to make free or low cost phone calls over the internet. It may be that as a small business you rely on mobiles but it does always look better to have a landline number too. If you have a good internet connection then VOIP may be a useful option rather than using the normal providers. With a VOIP app you can link your work phone system to your mobile. You can hand off calls from your mobile to your office phone without interruption (and vice-versa). If you are abroad you can call the UK and it is free of charge to call within your company and normal UK call costs phoning elsewhere.
A couple of years ago people were suspicious about VOIP because it was expensive and unreliable and internet connectivity was also expensive and sometimes unreliable. We have moved to a VOIP system now because things have got a whole lot better. One thing to remember if you are an SME and you are currently using a BT line for phone and internet, you will need to keep it for ASDL, unless you move to a dedicated fibre connection.
Andy Hinxman is owner and founder of Keybridge IT Solutions.