Saving Money on IT

Small Businesses usually manage expenses carefully. Some expenses cannot be avoided, like rent, telephones, and taxes. Others can be minimized by carefully selecting vendors and using low cost providers. And then some expenses can be avoided all-together by doing it yourself. I am sure you have heard the stories of small business owners doing their own office cleaning to save the money for the cleaning services. I know a car wash owner who occasionally helps vacuum out cars rather than hire another part-time employee.

One area that is often skimped on in small businesses is IT and computer support. Good IT help is not cheap and many business owners and employees know enough about computers and networks to get systems set up and running. The other problem with IT help is that there are a lot of consultants and freelancers who will do the job, but they are barely more competent than the business owner or his nephew. I am not intending to slam the IT consultants, it's a complex world and special skills are needed to properly care for a small business computing environment. The business owners are just as responsible for any problems if they are not willing to pay the full price for the proper equipment and services.

The lack of good IT support in small businesses exposes the business to losses due to outages and downtime caused by less than optimal configuration and procedures. Those costs are the ones that most business owners look at when they decide how much risk they have by using low cost IT equipment and services. A business owner may determine that he is willing to tolerate a few hours of downtime every couple of months, if it saves thousands in cost.

The problem that I see is that most small business owners are not aware of the most devastating consequence of skimping on IT. That is the potential loss of critical data. I think the business people have a fairly good concept of how valuable the data is, and the consequences of losing it. I just don't think they realize how vulnerable they are to a permanent data loss on any given day. There are so many events and circumstances that could cause data to be lost that the typical computer user has never thought of. On the other hand, experienced IT professionals, who have experience in business environments know that any data can be lost at any time and processes and systems must be designed so that important data can be recovered when a loss occurs.

Good IT people know that data loss is inevitable and the only way to protect against devastating consequences is to store current backup copies of all critical data offsite. Data backup and recovery is not something to be left to chance. A prudent person would not drive a car without insurance because if an accident occurs the costs can be overwhelming. So why would an otherwise intelligent person, risk permanent loss of critical data that could cripple their business? Furthermore, the data loss event is almost a certain eventuality, whereas most of us will never be involved in a serious automobile accident. The answer lies in the fact that the business owner is not fully aware of the exposure and risk. Skimping on effective and competent IT is often much worse than driving with no insurance.

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