5 common IT mistakes small business owners make

Equipping your business with the proper IT tools and solutions right from the get-go can make all the difference to get your business processes running smoothly and efficiently. Nowadays, there are very affordable solutions out there, allowing SMEs to be equipped with the best software systems. Unfortunately, not all SBOs take the proper measures when it comes to their business’ IT needs.

common IT mistakes

As an IT consultant and provider, I have seen my fair share of IT mistakes made at companies of all sizes. One company in particular will always stand out for me as they made not one but several of the mistakes I have listed below. An owner of a successful printing company came to me, a few months ago, stressed, worried and confused as to what to do to simplify and streamline his business processes. When he told me what his business runs on, I was truly surprised and worried for his company’s future.

This company only uses one software package and that is for their accounting department. For all other business operations, his employees manage and track everything on loose papers and spreadsheets. Important documents and company data are left open to human errors, miscommunication, potential to be lost, stolen or forgotten about and in turn, can bring about poor decision-making and inefficiencies.

How can this company grow and contend with better-equipped competitors? How do all the different departments communicate effectively with each other and with clients, suppliers or vendors? If their offices flood or burn down, how will this company survive?”

These were some of the questions that popped up in my mind right away. The worry and stress in this owner’s eyes proved to me right then and there how essential the adoption of the right IT solutions is for a business’ processes, employee productivity and for an owner’s peace of mind.

Here’s a look at some common IT mistakes that I’ve witnessed many small business owners make first-hand:

1. Rely on traditional backup methods

Traditional backup and restore methods are very common in the business world. These traditional methods consist of a software program that works along with a backup tape or external hard drive. At a pre-defined time, the software agent kicks off and begins to copy data files to the media interface. Unfortunately, as I’ve seen many times with clients making this common IT mistake, this method is quite unreliable and many possible dangers are associated to it:

  • Tapes or drives can only backup files and folders
    Traditional methods do not have the capability to backup images of machines, open files, databases or entire exchange servers like a Business Continuity solution can. Unfortunately, all they can do is backup data files and folders, which creates a long and inefficient backup process.
  • No ‘Cloud’ backup
    “In the Cloud” has been widely talked about in the business and IT world over the last several years. Many software solutions are now being deployed in the cloud, allowing systems to be easily and securely accessible from anywhere and from any device. Unfortunately, many SBOs do not take advantage of this as much as they should. More often than not, traditional backup and restore software cannot synchronize backed up data to be pushed off-site, in the cloud. This can eliminate potential disasters of tapes and drives being damaged in a flood or fire, where all crucial data is lost.
  • Long backup and recovery processes
    Of course, businesses cannot afford to have long downtimes if a disaster does strike. They need to be up and running as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, with traditional methods this cannot always happen. In order to backup your entire database, it can take several hours and then even more time to recover it all if a disaster occurs. With a long recovery, downtime costs can get quite high.
  • Tapes and drives are not reliable and can stop working at any moment, without warning
    Far too many times I have seen clients encounter a disaster and then try to recover their data from their tape, only then to realize the tape hadn’t been working properly for several months. This can cost a business quite a bit as they have just lost months’ worth of data. With traditional methods, it is crucial to constantly verify and validate if the backup is working properly, which then takes up more of your time and effort.

The latest solution on the market that is fast replacing traditional methods is called Business Continuity. A Business Continuity solution, like QBR, allows the backup of entire ‘virtual machine’ snapshots on a continuous basis throughout the day on a device on premises as well as synchronized off-site in the cloud. When disaster strikes, there is little to no downtime, since the quick recovery process entails immediate access from the device or even retrieved from the cloud. This solution was designed to eliminate all the shortcomings of traditional methods and provide the safest backup and recovery process to eliminate downtime. As for the company mentioned in my story above, they can truly benefit from this solution.

2. Use multiple software systems

Many years ago, it was unheard of for small businesses to implement high-quality, fully integrated, efficient ERP software systems. They were normally implemented in large enterprises due to their expensive price tag. However, times have changed and technology has advanced quite a bit over the last few years that software systems have become affordable for all companies of any size. Unfortunately, many SBOs have gotten too used to implementing multiple software systems from various vendors. This common IT mistake prohibits their company from being completely integrated and allowing all departments to interact and communicate efficiently.

One management software, that includes Accounting/Finance, Products and Inventory Management, Warehouse Management, Sales Distribution, Purchases and Imports, Sales forecast and Budget Planning and more, would give employees the ability to perform all necessary tasks in one system rather than a multitude of separate systems. Working with one interface and maintaining only one system developed by one vendor is much simpler and efficient. Some benefits include:

  • Better employee efficiency
  • Shorter process for business decision making
  • No redundancy and reduced human errors
  • Reduced time and effort involved with using and maintaining many software systems
  • Real-time data availability

3. Delay software upgrades

As an IT consultant, I have seen far too many small to mid-size businesses delay software upgrades. Many still use old expired legacy systems that prevent their company from growing and these SBOs continually dish out tens of thousands of dollars to try to reshape these old systems. Unfortunately, this is a more costly, inefficient way to go. Upgrading and replacing their legacy system for an affordable ERP solution ‘as a Service’ either in the cloud, on premises or both (hybrid), will bring about more savings in terms of efficiency, investment and quality of data and decision-making.

Delaying software upgrades

SaaS (Software as a Service) allows SBOs to host their solutions on premises or in the cloud and easily pay a monthly subscription fee. This has eliminated high investments as well as expensive implementation and infrastructure costs. Software solutions are much more flexible, as continuous upgrades and maintenance are part of this low monthly fee. SBOs won’t need to worry about having outdated solutions, or in the case of the printing company, no solution at all, that will hinder their company’s growth and success.

4. Don’t take advantage of available tech tools

There are tons of efficient and useful IT tools that can truly improve a business’ processes and increase overall productivity. SBOs don’t take advantage of tools such as Mobile Business Applications, EDI, Business Intelligence and Cloud integration platforms.

  • Mobile Business Applications: Mobile apps are all the rage nowadays and more and more employees, especially those working on the road or from home, are demanding mobile business applications that will allow them to access the company’s management system from anywhere on their smartphone or tablet. SBOs are not embracing technology as much as they should be.
  • EDI: this is the process of electronically exchanging business documents, like Invoices and Purchase Orders, between partners, vendors, etc. There are conversion tools, like EDI2XML, that simplifies this once complex communication process so that many small businesses can sell and do business with major retailers like Amazon, Sears and Wal-Mart.
  • Business Intelligence: this tool will allow for better decision-making, as it is capable of analyzing large amounts of data to detect strategic information.
  • Cloud Integration platforms: In order to streamline business processes, integration services have been developed for on-premises and cloud systems, for easy integration of legacy systems, ERP, eCommerce and EDI solutions.

5. Ignore the growing online consumer market

Most SBOs are aware of the growing online consumer market however they are not going after them. Much evidence has been released in the last couple of years showing that consumers are choosing to buy products and services through an electronic commerce store (eCommerce). However, many SMEs do not even have a company website let alone an online store. The latest craze is a mobile commerce store, or mCommerce, which is an eStore that is accessible on mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. Implementing an eCommerce and mCommerce store will expand a company’s reach, increase sales and build a larger client following.

Therefore, instead of ignoring the huge advantages IT solutions have on a business’ growth, performance and profitability, it’s time small and mid-size business owners equip their company with the best tools suited to their business needs. Avoid complications, complex processes, human errors, critical data loss and costly mistakes with the latest, affordable solutions made specifically for small businesses.

As for the printing company mentioned in my story above, I recommended a fully integrated ERP software system and a Business Continuity solution to ensure optimal efficiency and mostly, peace of mind for the concerned business owner. It’s time to make our lives a little easier with the use of business technology.

Photo credit: BobMicalavlxyz

Pierre Namroud

Pierre Namroud has been a small business owner for over 14 years. As an IT consultant and software developer, he is knowledgeable in all things IT. He primarily consults and works with small enterprise owners on their business’ IT needs. He is passionate about learning the latest IT trends that will help improve business processes. Making the lives of business executives and employees easier is his main goal. He resides in Montreal, Quebec and enjoys traveling with his family. Connect with him on Google+, and LinkedIn, and over at his company website, Namtek Consulting Services.

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