After the Christmas shopping and party madness dies down, I always find the holidays are a good time to reflect on my business. I will usually review the past year and think about my priorities for the coming one.
While I generally don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I set goals and make plans for the New Year. For our clients and friends (and anyone else that will listen to me), there are 7 technology-related plans I will be urging all of you to consider.
1. Leverage Cloud-Based Technology
This is one of the biggest opportunities for major productivity improvements for businesses and non-profits. We are well behind U.S. companies in our use of Cloud technology and it’s hurting our competitiveness.
There are many ways you can use the Cloud, but the biggest bang for the buck we’ve found so far is migrating to Office 365 for hosted email and Microsoft’s productivity suite. The benefits of having your email in the cloud (fewer servers, less IT risk, business continuity, cost savings) are a good enough reason alone to do this but it’s a slam dunk once you consider the other applications you can use as part of Office 365.
Many organizations are seeing the benefits of implementing SharePoint, Lync, OneDrive and OneNote for file-sharing, internal communication, meetings and overall efficiency improvements. Your company will be more future-ready utilizing Office 365 as there are big improvements coming, including Microsoft’s integration of Skype into Lync, which will be renamed Skype for Business in the New Year.
2. Implement a Multi-Layered Security Approach
Criminals don’t need to break into houses or steal cars any more, there is much more money being made online. Ransomware viruses like Cryptolocker have proven this and these security threats will only get worse next year.
All businesses and non-profits should have a multi-layered approach to security, which includes:
- Strong gateway security to your network with a unified threat management firewall device
- Hosted anti-spam protection to eliminate email-born threats, the most common cause of viruses
- End-point anti-virus and anti-spyware security for computers and mobile devices
- Ongoing user education because your staff can be the weakest link in your IT security
- Rock solid backup system to protect your data in case your network gets compromised
3. Outsource Non-Core IT functions (if you haven’t already)
There are some big benefits to having IT and technology knowledge in-house, however it is rare this is the case when it comes to end user support and IT infrastructure management. Many successful businesses build internal technology knowledge in areas that give them a competitive advantage, such as business analytics, custom software programs for service delivery or specializing in line of business applications that drive productivity and service improvements.
It is rare that the time, focus and investment needed to develop an internal help desk and systems administration capability pays off in giving your organization a competitive advantage. Usually this approach leads to poor results, distraction, higher costs and lower productivity for staff.
Outsourcing these non-core IT functions can give you a big business level of proactive support and management, at a small business cost.
4. Inventory Your IT Assets and Develop a 4-year Plan
One thing that sucks about information technology is getting surprises dumped on your lap, especially if they cost tens of thousands of dollars. There doesn’t need to be big surprises with your technology if you take a proactive approach to assessing your current IT assets and putting together a budget.
This is a key part of what our Client Success Specialist helps our clients do. There are great tools and information available that will allow you to plan IT capital and operational expenses for the next four years and eliminate unnecessary surprises.
5. Get Rid of That Old Phone System
Many businesses are still using outdated telephone systems in their offices simply because “they work.” I can understand this but you’re missing out on some great opportunity with IP phone systems, especially hosted ones.
Our business is currently moving to a completely hosted IP phone system because it:
- Is easily scalable
- Allows seamless ability for our team to work remotely
- Improves our business continuity plan
- Is cost effective with limited upfront capital costs
- Includes many functionality improvements that will boost productivity
6. Upgrade Your Connectivity
Everything is online now and the more your business leverages cloud-based technology the more important it is that you have great connectivity. You don’t want your internet connection slowing down your team so it’s worthwhile to spend a little more on a fibre connection if it’s available in your building.
7. Make Sure Your Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan is Rock Solid
Last but definitely not least, you need to have a rock solid backup and disaster recovery plan for two reasons. First, without your data you do not have a business so you need to invest in protecting it. With the quality of backup software and cloud technologies available, you have no excuse not to be protecting your data properly. Unfortunately many businesses are not doing that.
Secondly, a trend we’ve seen over the past year that will continue is many customers or partner organizations are asking those they work with for information on their backup and disaster recovery plans. If you are doing a big RFP and can’t confidently describe your backup and disaster recovery plan, it could hurt your ability to win a big deal.
If you need help with any of the above 7 recommendations for the year, please give us a call or fill out one of the forms on our web page. We’re happy to help!