It’s 2016 – at this point most people in the business world have spent a fair bit of time interacting with and learning about technology. At the same time, the internet has democratized information to the point that nearly all of human knowledge is accessible to everyone all the time. Because of this, some businesses may find it tempting to administer their own networks and IT support programs without assistance from an IT support firm or IT support manager. But is that really a good idea?
When I was preparing to write this post I googled, “How to set up a network for small business.” This search returned a number of articles with instructions for setting up a functional network. I read through the articles on the first page of the search return to gauge the quality of the information that they provided. My first observation was that the word “firewall” didn’t come up until I got to the third article on the list. One of the first two articles recommended “securing your network” by adjusting the security settings on the router. There are security settings that can be adjusted on routers, but doing so hardly qualifies as “securing your network.”
Without a firewall, network traffic can be intercepted with relative ease. Firewalls also function to intercept viruses and malware. This sort of malicious software can do much more than crash computers – certain types of malware are able to extract information from computers connected to the network. In the case of ransomware, the information stored on your server and on your computers can be encrypted and will not be released until your pay the perpetrator of the attack some kind of “ransom.” In light of this information, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand why a firewall is a worthwhile investment for just about any business.
It wasn’t until I read through the article that was the fourth return on my search query that I found good, fairly comprehensive instructions for building an efficient, secure and well-designed small business network. It was an article on the Cisco Partner Portal. Of course, the only reason I had access to it was that I work at a business that happens to be a “Cisco Partner” with an Express Security Specialization, so I already had a username and password for the site. The takeaway here is that there is definitely information on the internet about how to set up and administer a network for a small business. With enough time to research, even a complete novice can build a network that is roughly equivalent to what an IT support company would implement. But this amount of research could take days or even weeks. Even with all that research, there is a decent chance that someone who isn’t a network engineer will make a misstep or compromise that causes the network to be unsecure or inefficient.
In our experience, many businesses rely on one or more tech savvy employees to step forward and function as the De facto IT department. The truth is, nearly any IT problem that can be encountered can be researched and resolved by anyone who is willing to put in the requisite work. Why hire an IT support firm when you or another employee can figure it out? Consider that you each member of your staff was hired to fill a role. When they perform a function that is outside of that role your business suffers. Does it make sense to task a salesperson, for example, to spend 3 hours troubleshooting an issue that an IT support specialist would probably have encountered before and would likely be able to resolve in 30 minutes?
Unconvinced? Take a look at the list below that enumerates the ways in which an IT support firm can benefit your business.
An IT Support Firm can:
1) Provide you with foolproof methods for backup and disaster recovery that ensure your businesses data is never lost.
2) Recommend equipment that is appropriate for your business needs and does not suffer from issues with bottlenecks or incompatibility.
3) Troubleshoot technical issues with much greater speed and efficiency that you or anyone that works at your business.
4) Monitor your network and computers proactively using managed services so that issues can be addressed before they actually turn into problems.
5) Look to the future and understand what your IT needs will be in the next few years so that you can budget appropriately for them.
6) Provide insight on advances in the industry, like cloud based PBX phone systems by Ring Central that deliver significantly expanded functionality at a much lower price point than traditional PBX systems.