In small businesses, I often find people who look after their own computers, or have staff who are responsible for looking after the computers in their “spare time”. While a business is in the micro stage, using what is essentially home computer technology, this can work. But, as a business grows, more help is required as systems take on new dimensions. Staff become busier, and simply don’t have the time or expertise required to cope with greater complexity as new servers are added, phone systems are thrown into the mix, and so on.
As a business continues to grow, yet more technologies are added and business systems become even more complex. These technologies include: internet security, printing, servers for multiple tasks, remote access devices, mobile phones, email servers, and more.
Pretty soon it takes a wide variety of skills to support just one office of staff. Very quickly, a single internal or external resource becomes stretched as they try to master all the different technologies.
Think about it this way – if you were to send one of your team to training on Microsoft servers, Email servers, Firewalls, Printers, Server hardware, Virtualisation platforms, PCs, Windows 7, VOIP phone systems, and all the other key applications in your business, you could have them out of the office for 30 to 50 days each year just to stay up-to-date!
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Yet, it is common for small businesses to expect one person to pick all of this stuff up on the fly, and work across multiple levels of the IT environment. Check out poor Bree’s all-too-familiar comment on one of my earlier blogs here.
So, this is not a training problem – it is a breadth problem. Symptoms of a breadth problem include:
- Running a sub-standard email system that does not offer shared calendars or shared public folders.
- Not running an intranet to share company information.
- Poor filtering of spam and viruses.
- No firewalls, or firewalls that are too old to defend against modern threats.
- Developing an in-house database to solve a small business problem (it’s usually better to source an off-the-shelf product with no hidden costs).
- Poor backup systems that have not been tested for data recoverability.
- No off-site backup for disaster recovery.
- Running old versions of operating systems that are at end of life.
- Aging PCs and Servers (more than four years old).
- High numbers of servers relative to staff, needing high levels of attention.
- Regular outages of critical systems.
- Slow performance of business systems.
- Slow response to technical issues once they arise.
All of the above problems may occur to a greater or lesser extent even on a well-managed network. It’s how many that arise, and how often, that will lead to you requiring a broader solution. I suggest you think about it like this – when IT gets to a point where it is IMPEDING the growth of your business, you should look for a team of people who have current training in the relevant technologies, and a training plan to ensure they stay up-to-date. If you’re at this point now, there are two options:
1. Hire new staff and set up your own training regime; or
2. Find a trusted advisor with a team of technical resources you can tap into, as you require them.
There are many Managed Services Providers (MSPs) around Australia who offer such services, and can step in directly or remotely to solve many issues promptly. In MSPs, it is not uncommon to send each staff member to five to 10 days of training each year, and to spread the training load across the whole team to ensure a great breadth of knowledge is held and skills are kept up-to-date.
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David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.