Basic tech guide for SMEs: usability and security

Originally published by The Telegraph.

For SMEs with little or no IT expertise, the process of choosing the right technology can be daunting. This handy tech guide will get you started.

Focus on usability

For small businesses operating on a tight budget, digital technologies can be a crucial way to find workflow efficiencies and increase staff productivity. Management must first take the time to identify common problems that employees are facing, or time-consuming tasks that can be simplified.

Every office knows the pain of an old printer that keeps getting jammed, or requires constant fiddling to work properly. Buying a new printer may seem like an unnecessary cost if the old one still functions, but time spent dealing with equipment issues – even if they’re familiar – is a constant drain on productivity.

Similarly, temperamental Wi-Fi can reduce efficiency. Upgrading the office router or buying a Wi-Fi extender could drastically improve the reliability of your business’s connection to the outside world.

Adopt cloud-based solutions

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways for companies to improve their digital infrastructure is to move their files and software from computers in the office to servers managed remotely.

“Many small business owners might think ‘the cloud’ is just a buzzword, but actually it provides SMEs with the same virtual infrastructure that the biggest companies in the world have,” says Jamie Purser, category manager at PC World Business.

“There are so many benefits: through third-party services, you can connect with your colleagues wherever you are, on almost any device, and easily access all of your company’s calendars, documents and services.”

Pay attention to security

SMEs are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks because they can rarely afford the highly skilled staff needed to secure their IT systems independently. But there are cheap and simple measures that smaller companies can take to protect themselves.

“There are some basic housekeeping things to keep on top of. For example, every business owner must ensure they’re using up-to-date antivirus software,” says Mr Purser.

In addition to protecting computers from viruses, it’s important for businesses to ensure that passwords and logins are kept secure. One simple way to do this is by making sure staff vary the passwords they use across different platforms and that each staff member is using their own, rather than company-wide, passwords.

"Business owners must make sure their set-up keeps pace with the times"

“Security is a hot topic and there will continue to be high-profile security breaches that grab the headlines,” says Mr Purser. “Owners of small and medium businesses can’t be complacent and think it’s only larger businesses that are targeted. All businesses are susceptible to security breaches.

“Where there's customer data or other confidential information, measures such as two-step authentication are important,” he adds.

Simply put, two-step authentication is an additional security measure offered by online services such as Google or Amazon. Instead of simply entering a password, users are also sent a verification code, usually to their phone, to double-check that they are who they say they are. This extra step makes it much more difficult for anybody to log in to your accounts without permission.

It’s easy to get left behind by the rapid development of technology these days, but for business owners it’s crucial to make sure your set-up keeps pace with the times.

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