As a small business owner, you know that small things can add up quickly. Emails go unanswered longer than you’d like, and administrative tasks take longer than expected – leaving little time to tackle other tasks. It’s no wonder then that thousands of small business owners tend to overlook or avoid the often complicated burden of keeping technology in line with business needs. And yet, one slight technology mishap can lead to critical data loss, hardware failure, or security breaches.

 

Why learn the hard way? If you’re equipped with the right information to avoid these common pitfalls, you can protect your business and prevent catastrophic events. This two-part series will deliver just that. Read on for the first five of the Top Ten Tech Mistakes – part 2 follows next Monday.

 

Mistake #1: Leaving back-up on the back-burner

An astounding 70 percent of small firms that experience a severe data loss go out of business within one year.*  That’s not to say that data loss alone can bring your business down, but the point is that data loss is expensive - and recovery can be excruciatingly time-consuming. To put it in perspective, it can take 19 days and $17,000 to recreate just 20 MB of lost sales and accounting data, and 42 days and $98,000 to enter in engineering data that’s been lost.** And that’s not even counting lost productivity and revenue, along with damage to a company’s reputation when it can’t meet deadlines or fulfill obligations.

 

If your PC is equipped with Windows 7 Professional, you already have built-in protection. By simply setting up the Backup and Restore tasks, your PC is automatically protected. Once you select which files, folders, libraries, and drives you want to back up - and at what intervals - the feature works automatically. You can also decide whether you want to store data on a network location, such as your company's central server, network attached storage, or another computer on your network.

 

* Contingency Planning, Strategis Research Corp and DTI/Price Waterhouse Coopers. (2004.) Cited in multiple sources. See www.datacentresols.com/news/articles-full.php?newsid=5455

** National Computer Security Association. (2010.) Cited in multiple sources. See http://site-press.com/antivirus/antivirus-news/small-business-backup-data-loss-statistics/

*** Elliot, Christopher. “Top 6 Technology Challenges for Home Business.” http://ask.officelive.com/smallbusiness/wiki/articles/top-6-technology-challenges-for-home-businesses.aspx

**** AVG. Whitepaper: “Why Traditional Anti-Malware Solutions Are No Longer Enough.” (October 2009.) http://download.avg.com/filedir/other/pf_wp-90_A4_us_z3162_20091112.pdf

 

Mistake #2: Skimping on security

"The web has become the attack vector of choice,” says a chief research officer of a leading security software development company.[1] And unprotected PCs can become infected within eight seconds of being connected to the Internet, according to one BBC report.*

 

Clearly, the costs of an exposed PC extend far beyond the initial recovery expense. You face locking down infected PCs to erase every last thread of the virus, while also checking out the PCs that don’t appear to be contaminated. All of that leads to crippling downtime for your entire organisation.

 

And what if the data - like sensitive client information - becomes compromised? According to one study, 30% of the companies surveyed said that a major security breach had the potential to put them out of business entirely.**  To make matters worse, you can also be held liable for any information that leaks out - even if you’re not directly responsible.

 

With Windows 7 Professional, you gain advanced data encryption with the Encrypting File System (EFS). When you encrypt a folder with this feature, all of the files stored or created within that folder will be automatically encrypted - and if unauthorised users gain access to your PC, they won’t be able to retrieve your protected files.

 

* Kelly, Spencer. “Ex-hacker warns on computer security.” BBC News. (April 8 2005.) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/4423733.stm

** Waring, Becky. “How to Stop Laptop Theft.” PC World. (January 2008.) http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/141388/how_to_stop_laptop_theft.html

Mistake #3: Losing sight of what you own

Can you name how many software licences or PCs you have in your organisation? If you’re like most small business owners, the answer is likely ‘no.’ And that can lead to serious problems, such as the inability to qualify for a loan and other financing (most small business loans are secured by business assets*), or simply not being able to accurately estimate costs or plan an operating system upgrade at the right time.

 

 For many service-based businesses, such as those working in the financial, legal, or healthcare industries, increasing regulatory measures may require that business owners monitor assets like network infrastructure more closely than ever before. As Jane Disbrow, an analyst for Gartner, says, “If you don't know where all your laptops and software are located, how can you tell regulatory bodies that customer information is being kept private?"**

 

Asset management is a critical small business task. Depending on your size, there is a range of approaches, from simply using a spreadsheet to track assets, to investing in a software program that allows you to easily aggregate, sort, and update your business-critical inventory. 

 

Once you do have all of the right data compiled and stored, remember to back it up (with Windows 7 Professional Advanced Backup and Restore) and encrypt it (using Windows 7 Professional Encrypting File System) for additional security and easy recovery.

* My Own Business, Inc.  http://www.myownbusiness.org/s8/

** Bailey, Thom. “The Importance of Asset Management.” TechTarget. (2005.) http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/generic/0,295582,sid7_gci1074328,00.html

Mistake #4: Failing to tailor technology

Choosing the right technology for your business isn’t always simple, but spending the time to ensure what you buy and use will pay off.  It begins with having a fundamental understanding of what you and your employees need to complete tasks as quickly and effectively as possible.  How much processing power do you really need? What are the most important features in the laptops you’re buying for your sales people?  Will a touch screen help employees get work done faster and therefore save time and money?

 

As Brian Roach, president and CEO of Evolve Technologies suggests, “Buying equipment is just like buying a house.”* That’s because technology purchases are an important investment - which require careful consideration of not just the costs, but also how the benefits will help you maximise productivity. For example, graphic designers may find that more processing power, high-end graphics and even touch screens are worth the ticket price, while a financial services firm might choose processing power and a bigger hard drive but skip the graphics and touch screen.

You can leverage online forums and tools to help understand what options are available so you can make an informed decision. Take a look at our How To Buy section on the Windows 7 product page, which will help you search for a PC pre-loaded with Windows 7 Professional.

* Roach, Brian. “The Top 12 Technology Mistakes Small Businesses Make and How to Avoid Them.” Manta. http://www.manta.com/tech/12_mistakes_032409

Mistake #5: Wasting time with inefficient training

Having the right technology for your business is important, but if your staff doesn’t have the proper training on how to perform routine tasks, productivity can suffer and customers might not receive the kind of support and service they need.

And because training takes time, it can become a lower priority. According to one Tech Republic article, “It’s estimated that office staff understand less than 20% of the available features in the software applications they use. That means 80% of the features, time-saving capabilities, and cost-reducing functions remain unused.”* When bringing on a new employee, this issue can be magnified as there’s a lot to teach in a short amount of time. 

Windows 7 Professional is an intuitive operating system that’s easy for new users to learn, which means you can seamlessly transition your team over to Windows 7 Professional. And with Steps Recorder, a feature included in Windows 7 Professional, you can reduce the time you spend training employees how to execute everyday tasks. Steps Recorder enables you to record interactions with programs and applications, annotate and save them, and then share the information with employees. Case in point: When Matt Lun from staffing and recruiting firm Elite Personnel needed to find a way to show employees how and where to save resumes, he leveraged Steps Recorder and gained “a tool to create reference materials very quickly.” In other words, with Steps Recorder, your employees get the training they need, while you are free to maintain your focus on your business.

* Eckel, Erik. “10 tech mistakes small businesses make (and how IT consultants can help clients avoid them) .“ Tech Republic. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=531