Reviewing your small business IT for 2017

In this piece, Andy Hinxman discusses why reviewing your 2017 IT infrastructure now is important for small business owners.

At the beginning of a new year, many small businesses will be thinking about their infrastructure and operational needs for the coming 12 months. It is a good time to look at your IT systems but it can be difficult to decide whether what you have actually needs updating. I recommend that any small business owner asks themselves, ‘Is what I have modern, secure, and does it promote employee productivity?’ If the answer to any of those questions is no, then it’s time to consider upgrading.

For example, some businesses might be using Office 2007, the support for which has expired, making it a security vulnerability. They might notice a difference in speed, reliability and integration with other software, particularly when working remotely. Some might resort to using their own devices with more up-to-date programmes, but if the business doesn’t have a robust ‘Bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy, then this can create more problems and pose a security risk.

Security continues to be a massive issue for SMEs, and this year we expect phishing scams to become more innovative and sophisticated than ever. As well as recommending the basics to protect your business, such as keeping security software up to date, there are some impressive new security features to look out for in the year ahead. For example, facial or fingerprint recognition will start to become more commonplace. Windows Hello uses this technology to log into a breadth of devices and is a great way to authenticate users across your network.

The evolution of cloud

Cloud technology has also continued to evolve, with developments last year including Microsoft Azure, a growing collection of integrated, enterprise-grade cloud services including analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage and web. In the year ahead, businesses using the cloud can expect more server farms to be created in the UK, which could prompt price increases, although with increased data protection laws being enforced this is seen as necessary. In house servers, although the traditional means of accessing shared drives and controlling network access, are phasing out, and more businesses will be reliant on cloud storage and disaster recovery over the coming year. If you don’t use cloud already, it’s worth considering things like SharePoint and OneDrive which are replacing the server shared and home drives. These cloud infrastructures are subject to constant improvements and updates to improve their functionality too, and this happens in a far more streamlined way than with previous versions.

Finally, after reviewing your software and infrastructure, take a look at your hardware. Is it over four years old, and most importantly, is it causing inefficiency in your business? If the answer is yes then consider replacing it with items that have a good specification, lots of memory and a good processor. Hard Disk Drive (HDD) space is becoming far less important with Cloud technologies, and Solid State Drives (SSD) are becoming increasingly affordable. These are formed of no moving parts and are significantly faster than a typical HDD.

Although it can feel like reviewing your IT systems will result in significant financial outlay, think about the efficiency savings your business could make by implementing new systems, software or hardware. It might not be necessary to replace or upgrade absolutely everything, but making even one important change can increase productivity, position you for future growth, and make your business more secure.

Andy Hinxman is founder of Keybridge IT Solutions

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