If your business is one of the 30 million or so small-to-medium-sized businesses in the country, you know all about the challenges you face with technology and cybersecurity. 

From hiring the wrong person to buying inadequate hardware and software, early mistakes can cost you big down the road. We designed this guide to help you get a handle on the basic IT and cybersecurity needs of your business.


1. Don’t underestimate the cost of a bad hire. 

You may think hiring top-notch IT personnel isn’t in your budget. But instead of asking whether you can afford to hire people with the right skillset, ask yourself whether you can afford not to. 

Consider this from forbes.com: “According to the U.S. Department of Labor the price of a bad hire is at least 30 percent of the employee’s first-year earnings. For a small company, a five-figure investment in the wrong person is a threat to the business.”

And this statistic doesn’t even include the lasting impact of the inefficiently deployed technology that a person may have configured: poor customer experience, time lost by employees dealing with malfunctions, the cost of fixing the bad solution, and so on. Lesson: do your research and hire a pro. If you don’t have the time or the technological know-how, find someone who does


2. Your tech solution is all about the data.

The way we see it, any technology solution should be driven by the data: what it’s used for, how it’s stored, how it’s accessed, and how it’s secured. So, determine what kind of data your business needs to perform. It could be customer data, product information, employee data, financial information, and so on. 

Once you figure out what type(s) of data you need and where it’s stored, the next step is making sure employees can access that data efficiently and securely. That means implementing the proper end-user and server infrastructure.


3. Avoid skimping on network hardware and software.

The first part of implementing the right end-user and server infrastructure is your network hardware and software products. Unsurprisingly, this is where most businesses compromise the most. That’s because there are hundreds of wired and wireless network brands touting fast and cheap solutions. But be aware, these are often a case of “you get what you pay for.” 

For one thing, low-end devices can leave your network environment too exposed due to their lack of security and management capabilities. Another problem with going the cheapest route is that many times those solutions leave little-to-no room for growth. As your business grows, your technology needs to grow with you. Tech that can’t scale to your needs just isn’t a smart investment. 

Pro tip: You can get help choosing network hardware and software products from a number of managed solutions providers at low—sometimes zero—cost. Some MSPs may even be able to offer discounts on products purchased through them. 


4. Keep your server and cloud infrastructure current.

Since your server and cloud infrastructure is where your data resides, it should be the most highly protected part of your network environment. After all, the security of your data has a direct impact on the profitability and success of your business. 

Most businesses are willing to spend more on this segment of their network, but many don’t realize how quickly this technology is changing. Getting a top-shelf solution at the outset is a good start, but keeping up with data storage and compute and cloud technologies require constant training and high-level IT skills. Consider engaging a solutions provider to design and maintain your server/cloud environment. 


5. End-user data access can be hardware- or software-based.

End-user access to data usually goes hand-in-hand with the network infrastructure. As long as the network and security systems are designed properly, both hardware- and software-based access can work well. It all depends on your business requirements and your IT budget. This part of your environment could be designed and maintained by your in-house IT staff unless you’re seeing the needs of your business growing or changing too rapidly. 


6. Take security seriously. 

Every type of business is held accountable to security standards, either mandated by an external organization or determined by their own IT security staff. You probably don’t need to be reminded that the consequences of lax security can be severe. 

Small businesses usually start with firewalls and antivirus software, and that makes sense. What doesn’t make sense, however, is choosing the most-advertised products based on name recognition alone. Many times those solutions are neither the most cost-effective nor the most secure. For the best fit for your business—you guessed it—get some help from an expert.  


7. Consider using an IT solutions provider. 

If you’ve avoided engaging a managed services provider because you either don’t think you don’t need one or don’t think it’s in your budget, it may be time to reconsider. 

A good managed service provider will be able to offer customized solutions, pricing analysis, unbiased recommendations, long-term support, and top-notch security—all while staying current in a fast-moving industry. The best MSPs will be considerate of your budget and the needs of your business now and going forward. 

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