Why managing the Internet of Things is important for small businesses

Here, Peter Low, director of field and lifecycle services at CORETX, analyses the importance of the Internet of Things for SMEs.

The way we work has changed with a growing number of businesses adopting a far more flexible approach to working practices. Business tech has supported that change, with employees no longer restricted to a desktop computer. The average employee now uses three or more different IT devices every day, including laptops, tablets and smartphones, thanks to the expanded Internet of Things. It’s no surprise that managing this influx of new devices effectively and maximising ROI from each asset is an increasing burden for many businesses.

Unlike the consumer market that pushes users to upgrade every couple of years, the lifecycle of a workplace device typically lasts much longer. According to research we recently conducted with independent research house, Vanson Bourne, the life expectancy of most workplace PCs or laptops is five years or more, and it is likely to have been used by multiple employees.

Managing the full lifecycle of a device, from purchase to maintaining to final retirement, requires a clear device management strategy to ensure employee productivity and company security is maintained, and that the business achieves the best value from its investment.

Responsibility for device management will most likely fall to the IT department. According to our research 80 per cent of businesses rely on IT to deliver this service. However, an alarming number of IT managers lack the specialist device management knowledge required to oversee their devices. Thirty-two per cent of the IT managers we spoke to don’t believe they have enough resources to manage their organisation’s devices. Twenty-two per cent feel they lacked the required skill-set to effectively manage the devices they own. As a result, generalist technicians are left to try to ensure devices are working efficiently, manage security and handle an increasing amount of device support requests.

The vital role that these devices play in supporting and enabling business growth and objectives should not be underestimated, but if they are not effectively managed, they have the potential to turn into the weakest link in the technology infrastructure. Here are four key points to consider to ensure a business achieves maximum return from their device investment:

Extending life

You might assume that once a device has passed a certain age that it’ll be on its last legs. Keeping an older generation laptop or tablet operating effectively can be a challenge, but as long as it’s subject to appropriate maintenance and management its working life can be extended. A business needs clear procedures and processes in place to monitor hardware performance, software compliance, employee misuse and any security issues to extend the life of a device and keep it operating productively.

Performance

Almost all hard working devices will develop performance issues over time. This will not only impact an employee’s ability to work effectively, it will also take up the IT helpdesk resources.

Our research found that on average SME employees raise 21 IT support tickets for device issues every year, and the bigger the business the more times employees tend to call for help. We found that 36 per cent of IT managers said that IT users were the most challenging part of managing devices.

To keep employee disruption to a minimum, businesses should consider using discovery and management software. It allows businesses to track and monitor device performance, as well as examine and repair devices from a remote location. This is especially ideal for businesses who have a mobile workforce or multiple sites, as the costs of sending device for diagnostics and repair would soon mount.

Compliance

Worryingly, according to our research 35 per cent of IT managers don’t know what employees are downloading to their devices. Having no visibility of what is being downloaded puts companies at risk of breaching regulations, as well as software licensing terms and conditions.

Failure to manage this could leave a business exposed to fines, not to mention the reputational damage that comes with breach of contract.

Keeping tabs on all company devices is a good starting point and businesses should enforce a company compliance policy with random spot checks to ensure that devices aren’t being misused.

Redeployment and disposal

When an employee leaves the business or gets a device upgrade, it’s essential that the old asset is retrieved from the user so it can be redeployed. Our survey revealed that this is a challenge for businesses, often because they lack basic information about where each device is. We found that over a third of IT managers don’t have accurate information on where devices are, and a fifth find it difficult to get them back from employees.

Having accurate records of the locations of devices is important and so is creating a culture of employee responsibility and careful ownership. Implementing an asset database to give an overall view of devices within the business and how they’re used will provide the information to ensure businesses understand where and how they’re being used.

Once a device is retrieved successfully it’s important that it is checked for defects and repaired if necessary. Stored data needs to be removed and wiped so that the device is ready to be configured and delivered to the next user.

If a device has reached the end of its life it must be securely disposed of, which can create a new set of challenges. While there are a number of global and national regulations that require devices to be disposed of in a certain way, our survey found that a third of IT managers were unaware of their legal obligations. Having a disposal policy can help ensure that everyone in the organisation is aware of the commitment to waste and recycling to avoid breaching regulations.

As technology continues to develop, and new devices are often accompanied by an increasingly hefty price tag, putting a device lifecycle management process in place can help companies save money and ensure that they get the most out of their investment. Not only can you improve the performance of the technology, it’s possible to keep it running for longer without productivity being impacted. Remember, age is just a number.

Peter Low is director of field and lifecycle services at CORETX

Further reading on the Internet of Things

Related Topics

Internet of Things - IoT

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