Why Small Business IT often stagnates (and how to avoid it)

Most business owners wear many hats as the expert in all things business: marketing, sales, client relations, financial management and IT to name just a few areas.

IT plays a vital role in the success of small businesses, providing benefits including increased efficiencies and productivity, and more recently connectivity and mobility. Yet many operators tend to put technology investment on the back burner until their computer, printer or other gadget breaks down. 

While there are several barriers that deter IT investment in a business, there are several reasons to bring it to the forefront. Getting the right technology, both hardware and software, and learning to make the most of it to maximise your and your team’s effectiveness can do wonders for your small business.

‘I’m not technologically savvy’
The perceived lack of knowledge about, or time to spend researching, IT matters is likely to be one of the top mental hurdles for small business operators. The first step is always to understand your own needs – what are you trying to achieve? Then focus on the business benefits that can result from addressing your needs, and determine the technology required to gain those benefits.

It’s not as daunting when you do a bit of research (try business technology websites and forums), and seek advice from IT consultants, financial advisors and your peers to help make more informed business decisions. You can also have peace of mind by going with established, profitable and trusted technology providers, especially those that offer training services, helpful resources and 24/7 support. 

In essence, selecting hardware and software should be based on:

  • application and use
  • size of business with consideration for growth plans
  • customer and staff needs and preferences
  • infrastructure already in place
  • longevity
  • budget, and
  • return on investment of time and dollars spent installing it in the business.

‘It’s too expensive’

This is a common reason for avoiding IT outlay especially if you don’t have a large amount of cash in reserve, but costs don’t have to be prohibitive. The $6,500 small business instant tax write-off for new assets can assist in the investment of equipment that improves business productivity, team satisfaction and cash flow.

More small businesses are streamlining day to day operations by moving aspects such as their accounting software, email, office applications and file storage to the cloud, as many cloud-based IT solutions avoid the need to spend money upfront but bring immediate benefit. They also reduce the number of IT issues you need to deal with in-house.

There’s plenty of free online applications and social networking tools to help your business operate and grow too, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, community forums, blogs and more.

'If it isn’t broken, then why fix it?’

It’s a typical notion that delaying the replacement of older IT equipment = a prudent cost-saving strategy. However, in the long run, the rising cost to support aging equipment will begin to surpass any savings made by delaying the purchase of a replacement—and could even cost your business more money. Upgrading to the latest hardware or software will provide an efficiency boost, either through better (faster) hardware or through enhanced software that provides additional functionality.

Here’s an example: most reputable online accounting solutions such as MYOB LiveAccounts and AccountRight Live securely feed your business bank transactions directly into your data file, saving you hours in manual data entry and saving your accountant time spent fixing mistakes.

‘So, about this cloud computing…is it safe?’
The security of data is often quoted as a barrier to cloud adoption amongst business, and the reality is that the threat to data is real and there are attempts by nefarious parties to access data stored in the cloud. We have all read stories about online banking hacking attempts and the like. However, professional cloud providers employ high levels of both physical and electronic security to protect their clients’ data.

When considering a cloud solution, it is important to check the provider’s security policies and procedures are robust. This includes physical security of the server facility with 24 hour a day, 365 days a year video surveillance, strict personnel access control, firewalls, anti-virus protection, spam filters, disaster recovery and independent auditing and testing.

Despite this, many small business operators choose to remain with their existing IT set up because they perceive it to be easier or safer or they feel they’re not informed enough to make the right decision. Isn’t it time to take advantage of what better technology can offer for your business, so you can spend less time on admin and more time on doing what you do best… whether that’s at work or at play?


Angely Grecia

Public Relations at MYOB

Angely Grecia is MYOB's public relations editor. At MYOB she carries out editorial content-creation, media relations and assists the PR team on implementing strategic PR programs


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Phil Khor

Phil Khor , Founder at SavvySME

Great article Angely, it has touched on some really pertinent questions for us. Thanks for sharing, and keep up the good work at MYOB. :)

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan , Director & IT Specialist at Adept IT

A good example of where I see small-to-medium businesses struggling is with the acquisition of personal hardware, whether it be a desktop or a laptop. Far too often I see a business go out at the last minute and buy something from JB Hifi or Officeworks, and usually the cheapest option. Invariably, they come with Windows Home operating system, not the business one, and with a 1 year "back-to-base" warranty. The hardware specs are also fairly low when you look at the expected workload of the employee it's provided to. I mention this for three reasons: 1. If your hardware fails (and in one organisation, out of 30 of these laptops, I've seen 8 failed hard drives, across various vendors) you need to send it back to the manufacturer to get it repaired. This could take days, or weeks, resulting in either lost productivity, or the need to purchase a new (again, super-cheap) laptop and put the old one in the cupboard. So just on the warranty factor alone, if something goes wrong, it costs you money. 2. Many of my clients run Small Business Server, or other windows-server based networks. Whether it's because it's the best solution for where they are, or because it's what's been inherited and there's been no need to spend more money yet. This is important because the Windows Home computers can't be fully connected to these networks. Sure, it can connect and access things, but the Business versions allow you to use central logons (meaning an employee should be able to logon to Any computer, at any time and have settings there) and, crucially, central management. By central management I mean the ability to rapidly set given settings, such as firewalls, or control the installation of software packages, or indeed remotely install sfotware, from a single location, without needing to touch all the computers. If you've got 20 computers and 1 server, the time to deploy, say, a new version of Microsoft Office, if all the computers are Windows Professional, can be reduced to one small step on the server, less than 2 hours potentially. If you've got twenty slow, underpowered computers, and thye take an hour to install software each, that's 20 hours of time for your IT specialist to install that software. 20 hours, vs 2 hours. 3. Underperfoming. The Cheap & cheerful laptops work well for 3-6 months. After that time, performance drops (and I see this not only in anecdotal evidence from employees, but in the background monitoring I do) and I start gettting calls to "speed it up" and "make it go better." Sure, there's afew things that can be done, but it comes at your business's time and expense, for not huge gain. Usually, you're back again asking the same thing in another 3-6 months. So, on top of your initial purchase cost of $500, add another 2 hours or thereabouts of maintenance to make it perform better, you've already spent over $700. That's ignoring the lost productivity while the employee waits for the computer to be worked on, and ignoring the potential for if you need a warranty replacement. Now compare that same laptop with the added on costs to a business-grade hardware, whether it's Dell or HP, with a 3 year, next-business-day, onsite warranty. Sure, you might spend 1100-1300 instead, but you'll get better quality hardware, hardware with a known genesis and warranty support from a company that maintains all the necessary parts and will send someone out to fix it. You pay a bit more at the start, but the device will have a longer lifespan and perform better for the employee, so you get increased productivity gains. We have a term for it - it's called Total Cost of Ownership. Small business owners should be looking at what the total cost of owning an IT asset would be, over the full lifecycle of that device, and not just what it costs up front.

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