You’ve invested in computer equipment, IT networks, data storage solutions, security systems and other technology assets, and they’ve all been successfully implemented and integrated into your company’s operations. But your investment shouldn’t end after the install. To get the most out of your IT budget, you’ll want to ensure your technology assets get regular upkeep to function effectively over the long term and generate a positive return on investment for your company.
On-going maintenance and expert consultation not only prolongs the life of your equipment, it also ensures maximum uptime. And when it comes to maximizing your IT budget, regular upkeep is one of the most effective ways to get get the most bang for your IT buck.
If you’ve invested financial resources into your IT equipment, computer networks, data security and storage, it pays to ensure you get the most out of them. Here are five ways to maximize your IT budget.
1. Do Regular Back-Ups
The statistics on data loss are sobering. And yet, according to the Contingency Planning and Strategic Research Corp, 96 percent of workstations do not get backed up. Further, one quarter of PC users lose data every year (Gartner Group), 15 percent of all laptops are stolen or suffer hard drive failures (Gartner Group) and 7 out of 10 small companies that experience a major data loss go out of business within one year (DTI/PriceWaterhouseCoopers).
The consequences of data loss are bad news for business. A Verizon report says that small data breaches — those with fewer than 100 files lost — cost between $18,120 and $35,730. And even worse, according to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93 percent of businesses that lose access to their data for 10 days or more file for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.
Backing up data from your company’s desktop workstations, laptops, mobile devices, and data storage devices is the easiest and most cost-effective way to ensure business continuity and prevent loss of valuable and sensitive company information. And yet, most companies don’t do backups. Why? Aside from assuming the worst-case scenarios couldn’t possibly happen to them, the likely reason is that backups take time and effort to set up, monitor and test. But not taking the time to set up and monitor backups could end up costing you a whole lot more should disaster strike. And the chances of disaster striking are pretty high. Every week, 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States alone.
2. Keep Your Anti-Virus Software Up-To-Date
Keeping up with evolving cyber-security threats is becoming more and more challenging for businesses. Nearly a million new pieces of malware are released every single day.
Malware consists not only of viruses that can disable your computer. It also includes many types of malicious software programs such as worms, trojan horses, ransomware, spyware and other malicious programs that can be used to obtain logins or passwords, financial information or other sensitive data.
Malware can be installed via email attachment, or by visiting infected websites. But many people think that by simply avoiding suspicious-looking emails or websites, it’s possible to steer clear of malware infections. The fact is, malware may be hidden on reputable websites and in legitimate software.
The best protection against malware is an up-to-date anti-virus program and firewall. But according to a 2017 study by Forrester Consulting, 90 percent of security professionals “experience organizational challenges that impede them from securing data effectively.” It can be challenging to keep all of your company’s IT secure from malware. But ensuring your anti-virus and firewall software is updated regularly is key to keeping your workstations and networks protected from the new-release malware with the latest security updates and patches.
3. Have A Computer Usage Policy
It’s common practice for employees to use their work computer for personal tasks — particularly if it’s a laptop or mobile device that is easily portable. And recently it’s become almost as common for employees to use their personal devices — particularly smartphones — for work purposes. According to Gartner, 40 percent of employees at large companies use their personal devices at work.
Both practices can be equally dangerous for your company.
Without technology usage policies in place, you may find that your IT assets and company
Information are being used inappropriately — or even dangerously. For example, without a specific policy in place, companies that provide employees with mobile devices may find that they’re being used without password protection or regular backups, putting sensitive company information at risk in the event of the loss or theft of a device.
Every company should have a comprehensive computer usage policy in place that covers the following:
- Technology Usage: Detailed rules for the acceptable use of the company’s computers, internet, email, and mobile devices.
- Security: Guidelines for creating highly secure passwords, rules around network access permissions and strategies for malware protection.
- Data Backup: Details around frequency and methods of data backup and guidelines about location and length of storage of data copies.
- Technology Purchase Standards: Guidelines that outline the type and quality of hardware, software and network systems to be purchased and implemented. This should also include a list of programs and apps that should not be purchased or used on company equipment.
- Documentation: Guidelines around documenting passwords, network configuration settings, permission levels for employees, software licenses and updates.
4. Know When To Use Cloud Services
Cloud computing allows businesses to access software and IT infrastructure on an as-needed basis, without having to invest in costly equipment.
The average company uses many cloud-based services, including platforms like Facebook for social media sharing, Office 365 for document collaboration, and Dropbox for file-sharing.
The advent of cloud services has meant many benefits for businesses, from faster access to necessary resources, to cost savings, to enhanced backup and disaster planning to the ability to scale quickly and efficiently.
Nearly any software application or IT infrastructure solution is now available in the cloud. But just because it’s available, doesn’t mean you should opt for it over capital IT investments.
Evaluating which cloud services make the most sense for your company is essential to effective IT management. While it might be a no-brainer to put your email in the cloud, you may want some outside expert opinions on whether specific software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) options are right for your business.
5. Put A Monthly Maintenance Contract In Place
Keeping your IT investments safe, secure and operating optimally means keeping up with regular backups, implementing the latest anti-virus and firewall updates, creating policies and procedures that protect your equipment, software and data, and investing in the most appropriate technology offerings for your company.
To get the most out of your IT budget, consider putting a monthly maintenance contract that takes care of all these budget maximization strategies. A maintenance contract means you’ll never have to worry about whether you remembered to install the latest malware patch, or whether you completed last month’s backup. Your contract will ensure it’s all covered for you, so you can focus on your most important work.
There are many benefits to hiring an outside IT firm to manage your IT maintenance:
- Resource planning: IT costs can vary wildly from month to month, particularly if you’re working in crisis response mode. Switching from a putting-out-fires approach to a stable monthly maintenance approach allows you to budget your IT spending appropriately and plan for larger investments over the long-term.
- Regular upkeep: Stop worrying about whether your team remembered to install the latest malware patch or changed their passwords after the last big security breach. A monthly maintenance contract means your malware protection will always be up-to-date, your usage policies will reflect the latest best practices and your IT assets will function effectively.
- Reduced downtime: Downtime can be costly, but if you wait until your equipment breaks to call an IT services firm, you may be looking at a significant outage. A monthly service contract will help to prevent downtime altogether by keeping your IT assets in top functioning form. And if something does break, you’ll have up-to-date backups at your fingertips.
- Up-to-date knowledge: Outsourcing your IT needs to a professional services firm means you’ll benefit from a skilled team that understands industry trends and best practices, and can recommend the most practical, appropriate and cost effective IT solutions for your business.
Learn more about our Three IT Support Plans.