Assessing and Fulfilling Your Business’s IT Needs: A Practical Guide

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Whether you’re a solopreneur or running a burgeoning startup, your business’s IT system is the backbone of modern operations. Therefore, the only way to keep things running smoothly is to run repeat checkups (or assessments). 

Plus, due to recent tech innovations, like cloud computing, AI-driven analytics, and advanced cybersecurity measures, you always have to ensure your systems are up to date. Otherwise, you may lose on important advantages, like data safety or speed of operations, that keep you in front of the competition. 

Ignoring your IT infrastructure can lead to costly downtime, data breaches, and lost opportunities. So, it’s beneficial for your business to be proactive about regularly assessing your IT needs. 

In today’s guide, I will walk you through actionable steps to audit and provide tips on enhancing your tech setup based on your findings. You’ll learn how to run an audit and what to do with the results to keep any threats and problems away.

Step-By-Step Tech Assessment of Your Business

The main role of an assessment is to uncover hidden vulnerabilities, outdated software, and inefficiencies within your IT infrastructure. It sounds like you’re going out of your way to look for trouble, but this strategy helps you identify issues before they escalate into major problems.

So don’t let yourself be swayed by the negative feelings associated with the idea of an audit. The benefits far outweigh the temporary discomfort.

Step 1: Conduct an Internal Audit

Begin by identifying which parts of your IT infrastructure need evaluation. Typically, this includes hardware, software, network security, and data management systems. Clear boundaries help streamline the audit process and ensure nothing gets overlooked.

Once you’ve decided on the areas you want to include in the assessment, follow these steps:

  • Inventory Current Assets: Start by cataloging all your existing tech assets using tools like Spiceworks or Lansweeper. These platforms provide a comprehensive overview of everything from servers to individual devices on your network.
  • Evaluate Software Licenses & Compliance: Ensure that all installed software is licensed properly and compliant with legal standards. Outdated or unlicensed software can lead to hefty fines and security risks.
  • Assess Network Security Posture: Examine your firewall configurations, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and encryption protocols to identify vulnerabilities in your network’s defense mechanisms.

You’ll gain insights into your IT environment’s current inefficiencies and potential threats by applying thorough investigation methods.

Step 2: Recognize Your Pain Points

Once the audit is complete, you’ll have a broader view of your IT systems and how they interact with other departments. You should also have a clear view of your cybersecurity weak points and possible points of entry that must be strengthened.

Here are some common pain points that most small companies must be aware of:

  • Insufficient Backup and Recovery Plans: Many small businesses lack robust data backup and disaster recovery plans. This vulnerability becomes apparent when examining how data is stored, protected, and restored in the event of a system failure or cyberattack.
  • Lack of Scalability: Outdated servers or limited cloud solutions can hinder expansion efforts and agility.
  • Poor Integration Between Systems: Disjointed software systems that don’t communicate well with each other lead to inefficiencies and data silos. This problem often surfaces during audits when businesses realize they need more integrated solutions for smoother operations.
  • Weak Endpoint Security: With the rise of remote work, securing endpoints—laptops, smartphones, tablets—becomes critical yet often overlooked in smaller setups. 
  • Inadequate User Training: Employees might not be fully trained on best practices for cybersecurity or utilizing new software tools efficiently, leading to errors and vulnerabilities within the organization’s IT environment.

As you can see, many of these pain points are connected to cybersecurity. This is because many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have been attacked in the past couple of years. 

Considering the fact that, worldwide, the average cost of data breaches was around $4.5 million in 2023, it’s best to invest time and effort into identifying weaknesses before they become problems.

Step 3: Decide If It’s Time To Outsource Support

You’ve performed the internal audit and identified the main pain points. Now is the time to decide whether it would be best to outsource the corrective measures to a team of seasoned IT consultants or keep everything internally.

If you’re on the fence about it, here are some key signs you might need external help:

  • High Downtime Frequency: Frequent system outages disrupt operations, leading to lost revenue and frustrated customers. If downtime is becoming a norm, it’s time to consider professional support.
  • In-house Expertise Limitations: Small businesses often lack the diverse IT skills required for complex issues. External experts bring specialized knowledge that your team might be missing.
  • Cost Efficiency Analysis: Maintaining an in-house IT team can be expensive with salaries, benefits, and ongoing training. Compare these costs against outsourcing to determine if a managed services provider (MSP) offers better financial value.

Plus, outsourcing IT support can help you reduce the annual operational costs by up to $15k while enhancing system uptime and reliability. Meanwhile, you and your team can focus on core business activities without constant tech disruptions.

Implement Solutions for Your Findings

Whether you hire outside support or put together a team, one thing is clear: you must take action! After all, an assessment aims to uncover and resolve small issues before they escalate into major problems. 

Updating your current systems and procedures is also a way to boost your business and demonstrate to your team that you’re committed to long-term success.

In this spirit, here are some of the most common actions small businesses consider after a thorough audit:

Implement Scalable Solutions for Future Growth 

Cloud-based solutions like AWS or Azure are the best and most affordable IT solutions that allow you full flexibility. Cloud platforms can handle increased loads seamlessly as your business grows, eliminating the need for significant hardware investments.

Prioritize Cybersecurity Measures 

If you don’t have a robust cybersecurity system with layers of protection and various procedures, don’t wait any longer! Talk to a specialist and design a plan to keep your data, employees, customers, and business partners safe.

Also, think about implementing extra security measures like Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) across all critical systems to add an extra layer of security beyond just passwords. It also helps to integrate frequent penetration tests into your future audits to identify and fix vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them.

Leverage Automation Tools For Operational Efficiency

Do you know that redundant tasks, like searching for information to put together an email, ensuring the archive files are organized, or putting together a meeting, can take up to 40% of an employee’s time?

Fortunately, we live in the age of automation, where smart tools like UiPath or Zapier can automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as data entry, invoice processing, and customer support ticketing.

For instance, setting up automated workflows in UiPath can handle tasks like extracting information from emails and inputting it into databases without human intervention. This reduces errors and speeds up operations. Similarly, integrating Zapier with your CRM or marketing tools streamlines data synchronization across platforms.

Automation also ensures consistent task execution 24/7, boosting productivity even outside regular business hours. For example, automated social media posting tools keep your online presence active around the clock.

Provide Training for Employees

Technology is quite dynamic and moves forward at an accelerated pace. Therefore, your employees will need up-to-date skills to leverage new tools and systems effectively. Through adequate training, you make sure your team can utilize the latest software, cybersecurity measures, and automation solutions, enhancing productivity and minimizing errors.

Well-trained employees are also more confident in handling tech-related tasks, reducing dependency on external support. This boosts operational efficiency and allows quicker adaptation to technological changes.

The best part is that you don’t have to hire outside specialists or pay for expensive classes. You can still keep your staff up to date with the latest developments through reliable platforms like Coursera or Udemy. LinkedIn Learning is also a good option as it provides a vast library of tutorials tailored for professional development across various tech domains. 

Investing in continuous learning through these resources ensures your team remains proficient with cutting-edge technologies that drive business success.

Conclusion

Investing in your business’s IT infrastructure isn’t just about preventing crises—it’s about setting the stage for growth and innovation. From conducting thorough audits to implementing scalable solutions and prioritizing employee training, these proactive steps ensure you’re not just keeping up but leading the way. With robust cybersecurity measures, efficient automation tools, and well-trained staff, your small business can navigate technological challenges confidently.

Remember, the goal is to transform tech pain points into opportunities for improvement. Ready to elevate your IT game? Start now and future-proof your operations for sustained success!

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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