GETTING IT RIGHT: FINDING BEST SOLUTIONS VITAL FOR BUSINESS ; How do businesses manage their IT, from data storage to security? ANYONE who uses a tablet, a mobile phone, a laptop or a desktop computer for work will know the importance of IT to modern business. Most of the time we take 21st-century technology for granted, perhaps marvelling at the speed at which it is revolutionising our lives.
It's only when something goes wrong that we appreciate our dependence on it.
From major corporations right down to one-man-bands, in the last 20 years IT has become an integral part of every business.
And according to Ryan Jones, of Ashton-based IT solutions firm
"Businesses do really need to think about future proofing," he says. "Before too long, everything is going to go to fibre broadband and if you don't prepare yourself you will struggle.
"I'm not saying that everyone needs to change what they've got right now but it needs to be in their plans and thought processes.
"For example with phones - there are great efficiencies in the functionality of new technology which will mean businesses don't need to miss calls which are potentially new customers. "This technology starts off at
"But even the smallest companies will have bigger clients which they need to keep pace with and if you're not operating on the same level then you risk losing the contract.
"A good thing to do is set a target market and a vision for the next three years, and look at what you need to EPB-E01-S4 implement in terms of technology to get there."
Many of us will balk at the idea of having to shell out large sums of cash on IT, in a time when businesses face a challenge making ends meet.
"Not all of the solutions have to be really expensive," he says.
"You can have a balance such as keeping mission-critical data on- site on your own servers and back-up data stored every week off- site. That way you don't need so much kit on-site and it keeps the costs down."
Whether a company's IT consists of a couple of PCs and a printer, or a host of bespoke systems, cloud-based servers and databases - the question of whether to do it in-house or to outsource still applies.
Many sole traders and small businesses won't have the need for permanent in-house IT staff and will outsource their requirements to one of many small IT companies which offer business support.
Either that, or they'll have a member or staff - perhaps a director - who knows a bit about IT and, while spending most of his time actually doing the job, helps out with the computers when something goes wrong. The problem with this approach is that said member of staff may end up spending a disproportionate amount of time on computers, to the detriment of the role he was actually employed to do.
Strategically, it's not a sensible solution and the company will usually end up with an inferior IT system which may actually hamper the Trust is crucial for non IT-literate company heads Case study ? COLIN White doesn't profess to understand IT. And he wonders whether the fact that he can now work at weekends with his new home workstation is a good thing, or a bad one.
He employs a small team of four staff at his
But he still realises that IT is responsible for significant aspects of his business, from the in-house email server to the link up with the parent company systems.
But lacking expertise in computing means that trust in his IT consultant -
"I'm not a big user of IT systems but I realise they're important," he said. "What's important to me is that it is explained to me what is being done.
"A little while ago Andy from Jireh told me that our Windows XP systems were going to stop being supported and that we needed to replace them with Office 365.
"That was fine but I wanted it done quickly. I couldn't see why it would take very long.
"Andy told me it was like trying to replace the foundations of a house without taking down the walls. That made sense to me.
"I'm sure there are a lot of IT literate companies out there these days but there are also an awful lot that aren't.
"I don't need to know what's going on inside the box - I just need to know that my IT consultant is acting in the best interests of my business. That's what's really important."
? RECRUITMENT firm Opus is growing quickly. The firm started in 2013 with 30 employees and finished it with 50.
Along the way it moved to bigger offices in Castlemead, close to Cabot Circus in
Such growth could be an IT nightmare but Opus lets someone else worry about that.
Business development manager
The firm's IT is handled by
"If we have a problem there's a helpline and they can access our systems remotely, both here or in our
"We do invest in IT, our At our size, it makes sense to outsource Case study business is cutting edge so we need to have the latest software upgrades, but we invest in that rather than an in-house IT team.
"We are specialists in recruitment, not in IT.
"Using Bristol IT Company gives us access to more expertise from their team than we would have if we employed one or two people in- house. If we need new computers, new user licences and so on, we just call them."
Opus also outsources its telephone system and website platforms through other firms. It's a model the firm finds successful.
Sam added: "At our size, it makes much more sense to have experts on call than bring in our own team."
growth of the business.
So for small, owner-managed companies, outsourcing the IT is definitely worth doing.
It's one classic example of letting go an aspect of the business, enabling you to spend time more productively on turning over some revenue.
But as they grow further, most com- panies will find that there is a point at which employing an IT engineer in-house becomes more cost effective. Permanent staff will be able to work instantly when required, with first-hand knowledge of machines and a proximity to the problem which an outsourced solution wouldn't be able to manage.
But there are other issues to consider. What functions will a relatively lowly qualified in-house engineer be able to carry out and which will be beyond his capability? What about sickness, holiday cover and training? The solution, then, tends to be that many SMEs use a combination of IT support, employing a small IT staff permanently for day-to-day management and out-sourcing the bigger issues to a company with more expertise.
For example Gregg Latchams, a city centre law firm with a team of 55 staff, has an IT manager,
"Especially with a law firm where data confidentiality is so important.
"So for example the
"They can't be in the US. "Nexus built our system so they know it inside out and help us out if there are any problems with the server. They're so big that they can either do it remotely or send an engineer out at very short notice.
"They're great at providing cover when I'm off and sometimes we need a little more expertise than I can offer, so they're there for back-up as well."
So what are the key issues facing a company which wants to avoid getting left trailing in the wake of the digitally empowered? According to Ryan Jones, getting good broadband links is crucial: "Connectivity is the key thing - it's really key for a company to understand how they connect to the outside world, both in terms of speaking to their own staff and clients," he says.
"It affects everything - phone calls, sending files, email - it can have a massive business impact if you're only on traditional ADSL broadband. "Often we see that companies find a great property for an office, which suits their business plan, but they overlook connectivity and they move in before they realise that they're going to struggle with the inferior service which is there.
"Within a business, internal networks are important too. You can have the best grade cabling in the world in your office but if you send it to a bad broadband connection then you've wasted your money.
"So a business needs to assess how much they are using networks internally and externally to then understand what's worth investing in IT and telecoms infrastructure."
The other issue is data hosting - where a business stores often sensitive records and information. Again, times are changing. "Servers have come on a lot now and you don't necessarily have a PC or a laptop on every desk," says
"A lot of companies are quite apprehensive about having their data hosted off site - it's a natural concern and it's not going to go away overnight. But security concerns aren't confined to external sources - they can happen on your own premises as well.
"In an ideal world you would have everything backed up off-site. That EPB-E01-S4 way you're protected if something goes wrong at your site and your business doesn't have to stop.
"If you don't plan something like that then you really are putting your business at risk.
"But people see the expenditure like an insurance policy - they think accidents will never happen but if they do, it can be a disaster."
It's a great deal to consider and of course many businesses can survive perfectly well for the time being without indulging in the latest technology. But times are moving fast and for a company which wants serious growth in a digital age, there's no hiding from the fact that IT is a critical factor to take into consideration.
Ryan Jones, of IT solutions firm
Ryan Jones of
GETTING IT RIGHT: FINDING BEST SOLUTIONS VITAL FOR BUSINESS ; How do businesses manage their IT, from data storage to security?
ANYONE who uses a tablet, a mobile phone, a laptop or a desktop computer for work will know the importance of IT to modern business. Most of the time we take 21st-century technology for granted, perhaps marvelling at the speed at which it is revolutionising our lives.