Tech Connect: The fallacy of IT self-sufficiency

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Small businesses try to save money wherever they can. When it comes to IT, they very frequently rely upon a well-intentioned relative, friend or employee to install computers, printers, networks, etc.

That is the way many small businesses get started. But decisions made like this could lead to higher hardware costs, lost productivity, lost information and, potentially, a lost business.

A major consideration is whether the information used to run the business will need to be shared among employees. Sharing information without having a file-sharing network, even if for two people, rapidly can become a problem.

It is not uncommon at all for a document to be “lost” because the document’s name was changed, accidentally moved, written over or accidentally deleted. You easily can see how problems like this can cascade and seriously interrupt a business.

If file sharing is needed, then an investment must be made in a file server. A server costs more, but with a well-specified computer, it can start at a lower price point and then be scaled upward with the growth of the business.

Licensed server software is required and is an added expense, but it too can be scaled upward as the growth occurs.

As the business grows, there is a great temptation to buy inexpensive computers “on sale” at a big-box store or on the Internet. This is usually a costly mistake.

We have had customers who have purchased computers on sale, and then find that they need a different operating system to put the computers on the network. This meant buying the right licenses and hiring us to de-install and reinstall operating systems.

It also meant higher total purchase costs.

As it is nearly impossible to conduct business without being on the Internet, this means that there is a layer of complexity that is often not understood, or is underestimated. To conduct business using the Internet means that there must be an understanding of what all is needed, and then how to select, install and monitor all the equipment on the network.

Another overlooked need for business networks is a consistent supply of power. Servers in particular must not be shut down except under controlled conditions.

Servers that are shut down by loss of power are often damaged and data loss results.

Too often it is assumed that power strips protect against power fluctuations. They usually provide some protection against power spikes, but they will not protect against power drops.

Power drops are what crash computers.

A simple but frequent problem occurs when a server and related equipment are added to a circuit that may be easily overloaded. If a circuit breaker is tripped, and the server is not on an adequate battery backup, then it will shutdown improperly.

That nearly always leads to long downtimes and increased expense.

So, obviously battery backups are required for servers. There is just no avoiding it.

Protecting a computer system is a matter of risk management. It is like buying any other kind of insurance for protection against unpredictable problems.

And then there is your data. Your data is your business.

This data can be lost due to hardware failure, software corruption or human error. This means that businesses must have some form of daily backups — another kind of insurance.

These are just the basic essentials in having a computer system that will support a company’s growth.

Others include spam protection, virus protection, software selection, phone communications, integration of mobile devices, printer selection, scanning, and many others.

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