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Common IT Mistakes Made by Small Businesses  

Small business office workers

When starting a new business or attempting to grow a small business into a larger one, there are many things to think about and the attention of the team is often pulled in multiple directions. Building your product or service offering obviously takes highest priority, as well as marketing it to the right people and managing new clients or customers. For smaller businesses, it can be easy to overlook areas that are essential to your growth and prosperity – IT being one of the most important yet frequently sidelined areas in start-ups and small companies.

If you’re a small business owner or manager, and you’re concerned about the setup of your IT systems, here are some of the most common mistakes made and how to avoid them.

Using obsolete hardware and software

Obsolete hardware and software can jeopardise a small business by making it vulnerable to security breaches, as outdated systems often lack the latest security patches. They can also hamper productivity due to compatibility issues, reduced performance, and frequent crashes. Additionally, the longer a business relies on outdated technology, the more expensive and complex the eventual upgrade becomes. Furthermore, the lack of support for older systems means that when issues arise, resolution can be time-consuming, leading to extended downtimes. In essence, relying on obsolete technology poses significant operational, financial, and security risks for small businesses.

Not having any cybersecurity measures in place

Smaller businesses often lack cybersecurity measures due to limited resources and the perception that they aren’t primary targets for cyberattacks. Many believe that cybercriminals only target large corporations, underestimating their own vulnerability. Additionally, small businesses might prioritise immediate operational costs over long-term security investments. The absence of in-house IT expertise can also contribute to a lack of awareness about the evolving threat landscape and the necessary protective measures. This combination of factors makes them more susceptible to cyber threats, even though implementing basic security measures could mitigate many potential risks.

Failing to adhere to data and security compliance regulations

By not having any cybersecurity measures in place, small businesses inevitably fail to meet compliance standards. Smaller companies that are non-compliant with data and security regulations face significant risks including hefty financial penalties and legal actions. Such non-compliance can lead to data breaches, jeopardising sensitive information and eroding customer trust. The subsequent damage to a company’s reputation can result in loss of clients and business opportunities. Additionally, non-compliance can hinder partnerships or dealings with larger entities that demand regulatory adherence. Over time, the costs associated with addressing breaches, legal repercussions, and reputational repair can dwarf the initial investment needed for compliance, potentially threatening the company’s viability and long-term survival.

Lack of regular maintenance

Another area that can sometimes land smaller businesses in trouble in terms of both compliance and staff well-being is the maintenance of IT systems. Regular IT maintenance is crucial for both small and large businesses to ensure operational efficiency, security, and data integrity. Regardless of size, businesses depend on their IT infrastructure for daily operations. Maintenance tasks like updates, backups, and security checks help in identifying and addressing potential issues before they escalate into significant problems. These preventative measures also ensure that the systems are running optimally, protecting against data loss, cyber threats, and ensuring compliance with various regulatory requirements. Moreover, a well-maintained IT environment can adapt more easily to evolving business needs, thus supporting growth and sustainability.

A DIY approach to IT

Small companies with poorly maintained IT systems are often in such a place because they have taken a DIY approach to its management. For example, it’s common to see smaller companies elect the person with the strongest IT skills to manage the setup of laptops and devices, despite not having any specialist training in IT.  Ultimately, attempting to address IT issues without adequate knowledge will result in longer downtimes, disrupting operations, and diverting attention from core business activities. DIY IT may be ok for companies with just 2 or 3 members of staff, but for growing businesses a DIY approach will lead to higher long-term expenses, reduced productivity, and potential reputational damage from avoidable missteps.

Lack of investment in training

Investing in IT training for employees is vital for small businesses to enhance productivity, reduce operational errors, and safeguard against security threats. Trained employees can make better use of technological tools, improving efficiency and the quality of their work. Moreover, many security breaches occur due to human error or lack of awareness. By ensuring employees are knowledgeable about best practices, risks like phishing attacks or inadvertent data leaks can be minimised. In essence, IT training empowers employees to contribute positively to the business’s technological ecosystem, promoting a secure and efficient work environment.

What are the key steps to improving the IT setup for a small business?

In summary, then, here are some of the most important steps smaller companies need to take to ensure they avoid costly IT mistakes that will likely disrupt operations and the reputation of the business.

  1. Implement Regular Backups – Ensure data is backed up both locally and off-site, allowing for quick recovery in case of data loss or cyberattacks.
  2. Prioritise Cybersecurity – Adopt a multi-layered security approach with updated antivirus, firewalls, and secure password policies. Regularly educate employees on security best practices.
  3. Upgrade to Modern Hardware and Software – Use current and supported systems to benefit from the latest performance enhancements and security patches.
  4. Migrate to the Cloud – Utilise cloud services for scalability, remote access, and efficient collaboration. This also offloads some IT maintenance to cloud providers.
  5. Engage External IT Expertise – Consider hiring or consulting with IT professionals to periodically review and optimise the IT setup, ensuring best practices and identifying areas for improvement.

At help4IT, we have many years of experience in the SME sector, helping small to medium-sized businesses streamline their technology requirements and improve their scalability. Visit our small business IT support page for further details, or contact our team to discuss an audit of your IT setup. 

Tom Finnis

Tom Finnis is responsible for the delivery of IT support services and projects to help4IT's clients, as well as the development of the company's cloud infrastructure and related products. Tom has overseen the growth of the Help4IT technical department from 3 to 12 full-time staff, with additional contract workers, creating the systems and procedures to enable the efficient provision of the company's high level of support. More recently he has led the design and deployment of help4IT's multi-site cloud infrastructure.

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