When you’re a growing SMB (small-to-medium sized business) you want technology to help you move faster, not hold you back. Here are 5 essential bits of advice to help you turn your IT from a drag to a boost.
1. Prioritise security and backup
‘Security and back-up’ is a well-worn phrase, but it’s never been more crucial for SMBs to be alert and protect their assets. This is because hackers have shifted their focus from big business to yours:
- In 2016, cyber criminals targeted UK SMBs on a massive scale, with company firewalls getting hit by more than 1,000 attacks a day
- Ransomware is an industry now. Hackers are targeting SMBs because ransomware threats have worked in the past - so they know business owners are likely to pay up if they don’t have backups
While a security incident can happen to anyone, the best defence is to align security with strategy. If you’re thinking of outsourcing or considering managed IT services, go with a trusted advisor who knows your industry and is up to date with trends.
2. Educate, train and listen to your employees
Having robust security is essential, but this isn’t a substitute for training your staff. Despite this, more than a quarter of UK organisations say their staff aren’t aware of basic cybersecurity procedures.
Map out an IT security policy and make it visible to everybody, and give everyone (particularly new or less ‘tech-savvy’ employees) the training and support they need. Without this, you risk long-term productivity issues, data breaches and potential backlash from clients.
Equally, if you think your IT systems and processes aren’t holding up, turn to your employees and ask for their input. Remember they’re on the frontline, so they can give valuable insights into running your business effectively.
3. Understand how SEO is changing
SEO (search engine optimisation) is the art of getting found on Google. Even if you’re not in a marketing role, understanding how the SEO landscape is changing is important IT knowledge for anyone in business.
In an age of consumer cynicism, one of Google’s most important algorithms is EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness). While you should still optimise your pages and content, site-level factors are increasingly important. Think about:
- A reliable hosting service. If yours has a slow load-speed, a lot of down time or hosts too many spam websites, it will reflect badly on your overall SEO and give your visitors a bad experience. Test your site with Google’s PageSpeed tool or HubSpot's Website Grader.
- Migrating to HTTPS - the S stands for secure. This is the green padlock you see in the corner of a secure website and is now increasingly a requirement for Google and a factor in search engine ranking. For website visitors, seeing an SSL certification and the word ‘Trusted’ in a browser is an important mark of confidence. If you don’t have an encrypted website, you need to get one before Google starts warning visitors to stay away from your site.
- Getting mobile ready. Most sites get more visits from phones and tablets than from traditional computers. If your site isn’t mobile-responsive, you could be irritating your visitors and Google may penalise you when it comes to search engine rankings. Check if your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s test app.
Getting these right doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, and will give you competitive advantage as a trusted advisor with the future in mind.
4. Optimise internal data sharing
As well as SEO and content distribution, think about how you’re sharing data internally. Are your comms processes long and time-consuming? Do you spend too much time on emails?
To boost productivity (and attract the next generation of talent) many SMBs are now turning to unified communications technology to share data more efficiently. According to a study by PwC, nearly 100% of SMBs plan to adopt this type of tech by 2020.
Think about your IT applications in line with your future business goals and sustainability. If you think you need to update, run through an application upgrade checklist first.
5. Get help from the experts
It’s common for SMBs to reach the point where there IT becomes unmanageable if they’re growing quickly. If this is you, don’t panic. Things are solvable and delegating is the first step. You can’t be the IT guru as well as everything else!
Often, you just need a fresh perspective on how your technology is functioning. Then you’ll see how to get it in the same direction as your business without any headaches.