As your business grows, it’s important to not lose sight of the technology side of things. You may take your online presence and the underlying infrastructure for granted; however, the moment it fails, you’ll quickly realize how important it really is.
Connectivity has two sides. Internally, you need a robust network and internet connection to ensure that you and your employees remain connected to the outside world. Very few businesses today can operate without internet access. Even most phone systems today require a data connection. If your network fails or your internet connection goes out, productivity will be essentially zero.
Many companies lose sight of the fact that as your client base grows, you add new staff and perhaps expand your office space. The additional staff, real estate and workload places stress on your network. An internal network designed for 10 people isn’t going to work well or at all with 50 people.
The other side of the coin is the infrastructure that serves up your online presence to the outside world. This consists of your website, the servers that it runs on and data related to any services that you offer. As your popularity grows, you’ll have additional traffic on your website and any data sources that you use. At some point, a limit will be reached and one or more components in the process will fail. Failure in any of these areas means that your customers can’t access you or your products. Nearly all consumers use online media when making a purchasing decision. If you online presence is down, you customers will end up at a competitor.
With something so critical, how do you ensure that your systems don’t fail when you need them most?
The first and perhaps the most important step is to simply be aware of the issue. You should know, at least at a high level, how all of the pieces fit together. You should also know the companies that provide these services for you. If there’s a problem, you don’t need to waste precious time calling service providers that can’t help you.
The level of knowledge required to manage this process is dependent on your business. If your internal network or external presence is at anything more than a basic level, you should strongly consider hiring an IT professional or at least find a member on your team with some IT skills. If either of these isn’t an option, you can also hire an an IT service management firm. These firms provide many of the classic IT functions, but without the cost of a full-time employee.
Project and Prepare for Future Growth
Just as you prepare other areas of your business for growth, plan your digital growth as well. Have a firm understanding of the limits of your infrastructure. If you don’t know, call your service provider and ask.
When internal or external factors reach 80% of your network and server limits, you need to upgrade your capacity. Don’t wait until you hit 100%. As you near the limit, one spike in activity will cause outages. Don’t risk that just to save a few dollars in upgrade costs. You need to ensure that your online presence keeps up with growth.
Don’t Neglect Security
As your online presence grows, you become more exposed to security breaches. Internally, there are more people with access to your sensitive data. Externally, the larger you are the bigger target there is on your back and you don’t have to be very large to become a target. Nearly 50% of small businesses have been hacked. Not only should you have security protocols in place to prevent security breaches, you also need backups in place in the event that critical data is lost.
The technology firm Spectrum Business states, “No internet security system is totally safe, that’s why it’s necessary to use a cloud backup system to automatically store copies of a business’s financial records, inventory, client lists, and human resource documents away from office computers. These files can also be manually downloaded on a weekly basis to offline, offsite storage devices.”
Even the best systems are subject to data loss. You need to have local backups as well as off-site or cloud-based backup systems. You need to plan for data loss from both malicious parties and natural disasters. Multiple copies of data in multiple locations is the only way to be fully protected.
The expansion of the digital side of your business is no different than expansion in any other part of your business. You should be investing the same amount of time and resources into your digital assets as you do your physical assets. Be aware, be prepared and be secure, ensuring that the digital future of your business is safe.