5 Ways Small Businesses Can Make the Most Out of Their IT Partner
As the world moves faster and becomes more digital, small businesses are becoming more and more dependent on technology for their everyday operations. Where many used to keep paper records, today it’s all PDFs and spreadsheets. Those who used to balance their accounts in a check register now use Quickbooks. Everyone now has their own computer and email address, and, during the pandemic, many have used the flexibility of digital communication to work from home.
As that business grows into a small office space with a part-time assistant and then moves to a larger office with 2 or 3 full-time employees, their IT needs grow along with them. All this technological progress and growth has helped small businesses move faster, run more efficiently, and compete better. It has also made technology a dangerous lynch-pin.
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DIY or Hire a Pro?
A business owner may be able to solve the occasional problem on their own, but is their time well spent wearing the IT hat often? Not to mention a growing business needs more than ad hoc devices and software licenses. To stay alive in today’s marketplace, businesses need a strategic technology plan that covers all of their needs, from end-user cyber security and disaster recovery, to phone and email services, to IT leadership and forecasting.
Some businesses try to do all of this on their own but wouldn’t it be easier to expand and grow if everyone just focused on their area of expertise? Wouldn’t they be able to react faster with an expertly crafted strategic plan already in place? Once a business has 2 or 3 employees, they need to graduate to a professional IT support resource.
That brings us to the point. How does a small business make the most out of their IT partner? Here are our suggestions:
Protecting Your Staff and Assets From Cyber Crime
All this technology gives small businesses great power and flexibility. It also creates opportunities for disaster. We’re not just saying that to scare people. Cyber Crime is a very common and growing hazard. The same way a warehouse fire could threaten inventory, or an office fire could threaten years of valuable data and records, cyber-attacks can wipe out everything you’ve built or take your entire business hostage.
A great outsourced IT company should provide more than cursory or stand-alone solutions. If you’re looking to get the most of your IT partner, make sure they provide a comprehensive approach to Cyber Security that includes internal AND external threats. They should offer auditing services to analyze your entire IT environment and training to help your staff develop safe digital habits. Over 90% of Cyber Crime incidents happen because an employee clicked on a link they shouldn’t have or discloses personal information on an illicit site designed to look legitimate.
Bouncing Back From Disasters
A great IT partner should also offer both disaster recovery solutions and back-up services to make sure you always have a copy of your business data saved in a safe place. Some IT companies say those are the same thing, but there’s an important difference. Disaster Recovery is a strategic plan to keep your business operating normally in the event of an incident. Backup is a safe copy of your data to use during your Disaster Recovery. A copy of your data won’t help if you don’t have a plan for the rest of your IT system like hardware devices and internet connectivity.
Strategic Planning & Partnership
As a small business, if you’re evaluating an IT resource, you should also make sure they’re delivering more than just break-fix solutions. A truly valuable IT Partner should provide strategic planning and leadership that allows you to use your tech as a competitive edge. This includes services like IT budgeting and forecasting. While you’re focused on running and growing your business, your IT Partner should proactively send you recommendations for the next step. That way, when it’s time to take it, you’re armed with the information you need to act quickly. And when it’s time to tackle a larger project, like moving to a new office or upgrading your devices, that IT partner should be at your side, helping you plan, rather than waiting for you to come up with the strategy on your own. You’re hiring an expert for a reason, right?
Identifying Gaps and Measuring Progress
How do you know if you’re actually creating a better IT environment? If you want to get the most out of your IT partner, we recommend that you ask about their auditing and assessment capabilities. A great IT partner can give you an exhaustive audit of your entire IT environment and then use that audit to provide a detailed assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, and how to fill those gaps. This kind of reporting tells you where you are and where you’re going. Or at least, where you should be going.
Your IT partner should also conduct this sort of review regularly. It’s not enough to do it once at the beginning of the relationship. In that case, it’s just a sales gimmick. A real IT partner uses these reviews as an integral part of their service to track your progress over time and proactively identify and prioritize projects. Macro Connect’s Technical Alignment Managers (TAMs) use a lengthy report conveniently called the TAM report to do just that. These TAM reports include hundreds of questions and data points. Then we use the results of this report to determine your low, medium, and high priority projects and schedule them according to your capacity. Armed with regular auditing and assessments, you can start building a proactive IT environment, instead of a reactive one.
The Team, The Team, The Team
Our last suggestion is about the level and range of services you should try to get out of your IT partner. They should offer you access to a team of highly trained and experienced technicians and that you have access to specialists who can ensure you are following IT best practices. It’s easy to find someone who is great at one aspect of IT. But to get the most out of your IT partner, they should have a broad range of specialists who can all be available to help when needed. You should have a guaranteed Service Level Agreement in place that guarantees 24 hours network monitoring to act on any issues before they cause IT interruptions or downtime that can disrupt your staff’s productivity.
Ready To Get Started?
If you’re ready to make technology part of your competitive edge Macro Connect’s team of experienced IT professionals are ready to help. From Cyber Security and Remote Monitoring to Auditing and Strategic Planning, we know we’re giving Detroit’s small businesses the most bang for their buck. With a new year ahead, it may be time to assess your own IT needs, whether you’ve been making it work on your own, or engaging the service of a local technician. It may be time to see how you could get more out of your IT partner.
To get started, take a look at our Free Cyber Security Toolkit or our Free Cyber Security Readiness Quiz. And if you’re ready to see what a real IT partner can provide, reach out and speak with one of our Client Solutions experts today!