There’s a tremendous amount of great new technology available to small and medium-sized businesses these days, but most SMBs have limited resources to devote to this area. It’s important that they invest strategically for the growth of their business, so it makes sense to start with a technology audit before making decisions about how to maximize those resources.
“When taking stock of your IT infrastructure, it is important to look at the value of your existing assets and determine where your investments may be falling short,” says Doug Oathout, vice president of channel partner, alliances, and OEM marketing at HP. “Keep in mind your company’s business requirements and the goals and the technology you’re using to satisfy them–both internally and for your customers.”
Oathout suggests that technology audits and subsequent purchase plans be based on four key focus areas:
- Increasing productivity. Automating business processes can help control costs, simplify management, and boost performance. Productivity-increasing solutions include servers, networking products, and collaboration and communication tools.
- Growing business. “SMBs can break away from the pack with technologies that help them acquire and retain customers. A strong IT environment lets them push business applications to their full potential, so they gain deeper insights about customers and make smart decisions more rapidly,” Oathout says. Tech solutions in this focus area include storage and business intelligence products.
- Reducing costs. Shrinking costs and reducing complexity can help SMBs enable growth. Virtualization and management technology can help by automating tasks that drain staff, time, and money.
- Business continuity. SMBs and their customers depend on a reliable network to keep them up and running. Adequate bandwidth, data security products and services and backup and restoration tools are technology solutions that can help in this area.
New York Computer Help, an outsourced computer service company, performs a technology audit every time it starts providing support to a new customer. “It is important to do this in order to analyze the current status of the customer’s technology and to assess what network shortfalls need to be corrected or amended,” says company owner Joe Silverman. Whether you are conducting it yourself or using an outside provider, these are the key bullet points he says you should look for in a technology audit:
- Stable internet. Ensure primary and backup internet service is set up as a fail-over strategy, both with strong firewalls and that your network has enough bandwidth to keep your business running smoothly.
- Reliable wireless. Make sure wireless service for both computers and phones is strong and secure throughout your office or facility. Separate your employee and customer wireless networks.
- Regular backups. All data should be on a routine backup schedule, at least nightly.
- Archive management. Optimize file archiving/saving/storing processes for onsite and offsite procedures.
- Desktop support. Assess availability and accessibility of set-up, maintenance, and repair services for all hardware (computers, smartphones, printers, etc.); make sure all operating systems and software applications are being updated regularly and are running the latest version; assess strength of cybersecurity measures (anti-virus, spyware detection, and removal) and confirm regular updates.
- Network support. Ensure firewalls, switches, internet, and all network equipment are working to support daily operations and that your internet is scalable.
- Email support. Ensure all email programs are functioning properly for both outbound and inbound communication.
- Software support. Confirm all software and apps are running successfully and on the latest version.
- Inventory management. Document computers/servers/devices and software to see which may need updates, RAM installs, or other upgrades. All upgrades should be transparent and shared.
- Opportunity areas. Identify functions/processes where productivity could be increased through new technology or upgrades to existing technology, including hardware, software, network devices, internet service, and Wi-Fi.