Business spending on IT increases every year, thanks to the growing significance of this area in the overall success and development of companies. From the smallest start-up to corporate enterprises, every business has a requirement for IT services in some form or another. 2018 looks set to be no exception to this spending trend, as business owners make the most of the huge benefits investing in IT can bring. What’s your IT focus for the coming year?

Improving System Backup & Recovery

Backing up is an essential for any business, not just those holding a lot of customer data. Common issues with backup and recovery solutions are that they may not be simple to monitor and offer a single pane of glass across all backup devices. Many industry standard backup solutions require a full backup at least once per week and with the size of data these days, this window can eat into the working day, affecting performance and effectiveness of the backup strategy. Equally, full restorations in a disaster can take days with needing to piece together all the backups.

Onsite backups are starting to get better but backups to NAS, if not correctly setup with security in mind, are susceptible to encryption by ransomware. With a number of common strains of Ransomware sweeping the globe, a backup to NAS share could also be rendered useless, meaning your data and backup data could both be lost.

Backups onsite are one problem, another is how to get your data offsite, as quickly as possible so that in a disaster you have a safety net to bring your years of accumulated data back from. Backup to tape was a traditional method as it’s relatively cheap to buy tapes and they have a small footprint which can be stored for archive purposes, however there are numerous potential issues with this now-outdated solution.

With internet connections becoming cheaper, faster and more reliable than ever, with the right onsite backup solution, replicating data offsite doesn’t have to take hours. With always incremental backups, inline de-duplication and only changes going offsite, your backups and replication offsite can all happen during your nightly backup window and that window can be much smaller than in previous years.

New IT Hardware

Refreshing IT hardware regularly and ensuring equipment is up-to-date is something many businesses fail to do. If equipment is currently working and ‘getting the job done’ adequately, it can be tempting to save money and make it last until it’s no longer usable. However, this can often be a false economy. Struggling on with old, outdated or underperforming equipment can dramatically affect the productivity of any business. Old hardware can fail suddenly and without warning, which could result in lost work or data, not to mention the time lost and expense incurred sourcing replacement equipment.

As a general guide, you can expect to upgrade PCs every 3-4 years, whereas servers and network equipment might need to be replaced every 5 years on average. In upgrading and replacing equipment before you’re forced to do so by system failure, you’ll be benefiting from new features and faster processing, along with the peace of mind of a well-functioning system.

Adopting Cloud Computing

A growing trend these days, particularly amongst small and medium-sized businesses, cloud computing has many benefits. Instead of buying and owning server hardware and software licensing which is depreciating from the day of purchasing and requires a capital investment, cloud services are subscription based, paid for monthly and can be treated as an operational cost like utilities, cars and buildings.

Subscribing to online software such as Office 365, for example, ensures you always have the latest version, so you do not need to pay for upgrades every 3 years when a new Microsoft Office suite is launched. Having your emails hosted on Office 365 means you don’t need to pay for expensive server licensing or additional on premise server performance. In addition, having your servers in the cloud through a service such as Azure or AWS means that you get far more resiliency and disaster recovery options than would be cost effective to provide in your owned infrastructure.

Cloud computing is highly scalable and is billed on usage. If you have a campaign that runs for 1 month then you can have more power for that month and the rest of the year pay for less power. If you own servers, you would need to pay for a high performance server, even though you wouldn’t be using its capabilities for the majority of the time. Similarly, if your business doesn’t need certain servers in an evening or at a weekend, with cloud computing you can power them off and not pay for them. On-premise servers not only require capital investment but they use a lot of power and require air conditioned rooms, making cloud computing a much better option for the environment as well as for your budget.

 

Increasing Network Security and Improving Protection Against Spam Emails

In shocking statistics, over 90% of UK businesses were hit by an attempted cyber-attack of some form in the past year. Of those 77% have been hit more than once, and 50% of cyber-attacks were against small and medium-sized businesses. Cyber-attacks can come in many guises, such as malware, phishing attacks, denial-of-service attacks, viruses and ransomware. If your business is affected by cyber-crime, the consequences could simply be some lost time and productivity, but in a worst case scenario your data, software and even hardware could be compromised.

Cyber security is a big issue for businesses of all kinds. The technology used by hackers and cyber criminals is constantly evolving, and so, too, is the need for anti-virus software, firewalls and other methods of protection to evolve to keep up. Blocking rogue emails, having a secure firewall to protect against attacks and making sure all staff using your network are fully aware of security and safety is vital.

In May 2018, the UK will introduce a new EU Regulation as a replacement and updated version of the current Data Protection Act. The GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, will apply to all businesses handling personal data, and how it is stored and encrypted. From 25th May, if your business is subject to a security breach and you are not GDPR compliant, you could face a hefty fine. This change in the law is prompting many businesses to review the way they handle personal information, that of their employees or customers, and ensure that they are following best practice in terms of security.

Strengthening Staff Passwords

A strong password is essential for everyone who uses a computer or online applications for any reason, whether business or personal. The best and most secure passwords a long, containing a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers, with no links to your personal information, and no ‘real’ words. While this is the ideal, a password that complies to all of those conditions is, by definition, difficult to remember, especially when you also add into the equation that passwords should be changed regularly, and that a different password should be chosen for every site or service you use. This is why many people take risks with their online security through inadequate password management.

Thankfully, there are a number of solutions available which negate the requirement for employees to remember numerous and complex passwords. From apps that do the remembering for you to physical devises that will lock and unlock your workstation according to your proximity, there’s really no excuse for leaving your files vulnerable.

Outsourcing The IT Function

Many small or medium-sized businesses choose to outsource all of their IT requirements rather than having one or more employees in-house responsible for IT. In doing so, businesses benefit from having an entire team of specialists on hand, often for less expense than a single employee. The breadth of experience that can be achieved with a team is far more than a single person can possibly have, with the added benefit of constant availability, fast response times and the ability to manage several issues simultaneously.

This isn’t an option for every business, and some still opt to have a dedicated person ‘on the ground’ to manage everything from printer jams to server failure, but it’s definitely a consideration in businesses that want to free up their internal resources and pay a fixed monthly fee that covers all aspects of their IT.

 

 

We asked business owners what their priority focus for IT would be in 2018. The majority of survey participants said that improving system backup and recovery would be key for their business, unsurprising given what a major part this has to play in recovery time after a data loss. Many businesses are still using old and outdated methods of backing up their data, and with such vast improvements in the technology available, and the increasing significance of data, it’s no wonder this is so important to business owners. Adopting cloud computing and investing in new IT hardware also rated highly amongst survey respondents, demonstrating how businesses are beginning to look to the future and make the most of advancements in technology and infrastructure.