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Don’t let basic IT mistakes ruin your business

Published on Nov 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm in Tips & Tricks.

This post also appeared in The Tennessean, where Concept Technology has a bi-weekly feature in the Business section.

There are dozens of IT mistakes that business owners commonly make. Not purposely of course, but whether it’s insufficient security, investing in the wrong hardware or neglecting your software, it can be easy to let your organization’s information technology slip. Here are three common IT mistakes that you’re bound to come across. (We’ll cover additional mishaps in future columns.)

1. Setting insufficient security protocols

You’ve got encryption, antivirus, antispyware, a firewall and passwords set up, and you feel like your business network is secure. And it might be. On the other hand, it might not. Here’s where your security measures may be falling short:

Antivirus: Make sure you’re using business-grade (not consumer-grade) antivirus, which benefits from being installed and updated from a central control center on a company server. This gives you one place to check to see if all antivirus within your network is up to date, ran last night, etc.

Your software also should be easy to manage, scalable and offer adequate technical support. Since antivirus subscriptions renew annually, corporate software has the added benefit of renewing all at one time.

Firewall: Your business also needs an intelligent internet firewall with current licensing from a security vendor such as SonicWALL, WatchGuard or Cisco. Too many business owners depend on their router (Linksys, D-Link, NETGEAR, etc.) to secure their network. While your router contains firewall components, it isn’t enough to protect your computers.

Passwords: Password policies are tricky.

They should be stringent enough so passwords can’t be easily guessed or subject to dictionary attacks — an attempt to beat security by simply trying common words, log-in names or passwords until one works.

But they shouldn’t be so overly complicated that your workers create workarounds to remember their passwords (i.e. password on a Post-it note), which end up drastically reducing security. A policy that requires a minimum of 12 characters and/or forces users to change their passwords every 30 days is probably too much.

Help your employees out by introducing them to LastPass, an online password manager for browser-based applications and websites that can help you remember passwords and secure your data. LastPass can be used for any cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) applications such as Salesforce, FreshBooks and Basecamp, as well as personal passwords for banking and e-commerce sites.

Since LastPass remembers your passwords, you should use complex passwords — mix of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols — and, more importantly, you should set up unique passwords for every site.

2. Buying consumer-grade computers

There’s a reason why consumer-grade computers are cheaper that commercial-grade ones: They’re made with cheaper components.

Since home users often buy the next generation computer within two to three years of original purchase, consumer products are designed to hit a price point, not to run reliably for years.

Manufacturers also can change components within consumer-grade equipment, so if you’re setting up workstations in an office, they may appear to be identical, but they actually might not be, which can be problematic in the long run.

While it will cost roughly 25 percent more to buy commercial-grade computers, it’s more than worth the premium.

3. Migrating your software

It’s important to migrate your software from one version to the next.

If your business has Microsoft Small Business Server 2008, it’s easy to buy the migration pack and upgrade to Microsoft Small Business Server 2011. It is often vastly more complicated to migrate noncongruent versions, from Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 to Microsoft Small Business Server 2011, for example.

If you want to update from Microsoft Small Business Server 2000 to Microsoft Small Business Server 2011, you basically have to rebuild from scratch because your old 2000 software has been discontinued and is no longer supported.

As a general rule, it’s not desired, but if necessary, you can skip one migration. But you can’t skip two.