3 Critical Tech Upgrades for Small and Growing Businesses
Improving business technology is always a balance of finding meaningful upgrades, investing at safe levels, and using that technology at peak potential.
Buying useless gear or barely using half of a big investment's potential means losing improvement money in other parts of your business. From fast processors that burn up too quickly to gimmicky, single-purpose software, there's a lot to do wrong.
These 3 critical tech upgrades will guide you to the right improvements to make sure that your tech funding pays itself off in no time.
Cybersecurity Policies Come First
Before implementing any new technology, make sure that your business is secure. It's easier to apply tech security policies before installing new systems and software, so start early.
Cyber security means more than running an anti-virus scan every once in a while. You need policies in place for passwords, specific access rules for everyone inside and outside of the business, and plans for what happens if--not when--a security breach occurs.
How secure is your network? Can anyone walk into your building and connect to wireless networks? Even with tightly-configured network security, allowing anyone to connect to a wireless network without being in view or having credentials is risky.
Network security experts can solve many of your wireless problems by limiting your wireless signal to certain parts of your business property. If you want clients and some workers to access wireless internet, a separate connection for non-secure internet can help.
What about physical network connections? Is it possible for visitors or intruders to connect a USB drive to any of your lobby computers? What if they manage to break into offices, labs, and work centers?
Make life as hard as possible for hackers by limiting USB access completely. USB ports can be disabled, requiring time-consuming techniques to break through your protections. Either specific code or physically removing storage drives will be necessary.
The world is years past pretending that any system is unhackable. In addition to hardening your systems against attacks, does your business have a set of systems to shut down, stakeholders to contact, and backups to implement when cyberattacks happen?
If you have data that could jeopardize the privacy or financial security of others, be sure to have an agreement with a data breach insurance provider. Their services usually provide protections for credit monitoring, legal challenges, recovery, and improvement.
Take the time to review the basics as well. Bring in a cyber security team to provide business tech security courses, implement safe password policies, and consider securing your data assets with two-factor authentication (2FA).
Modernizing Physical Workstations
Upgrading computers has always been the core of business IT. Managed IT services provide a wide range of maintenance, improvements, and new devices sales to help you here.
Although there are new device options and better capabilities, the general concepts have been the same for a few decades. Faster processors, more memory, bigger storage drives, energy efficiency, and cooling are at the core of workstation choice.
Here are a few component details to help you understand what matters and where you stand now:
· Processor. 8-core processors have become the norm. While many businesses use 4-core processors, the multitasking capabilities of 8-core are undeniable.
o Design programs such as Adobe Illustrator are becoming more common in general offices and are no longer just for artists. If your programs perform a lot of calculations, you need better processors to stay productive.
o If your team requires multiple browser tabs or windows to perform better, both the CPU and Memory must be powerful—but not so excessive that overheating burns away your investment.
· Memory. More apps, more tabs, and more multi-tasking. While a faster processor is necessary to stay relevant, opening more tasks means having more memory to feed to more programs.
o 16GB (gigabytes) of memory is quickly becoming the bare minimum. That's fine for computers running productivity software such as Microsoft Office, but any design, engineering, or audio apps will need more.
o If your employees open more than 4 or 5 browser tabs at once, giving them an extra 8GB stick of RAM for a total of 24GB can do wonders. Anything more is a specialized machine.
· Storage drive. Terabyte (TB) drives are the norm, and you're harming your business by getting anything lower in most cases. Your main drive (usually C on Windows systems) is an exception.
o Although solid state drives (SSDs) allow faster boot-up times, it's not necessary to buy a massive C drive. Most Windows and Linux-based computers will function well with a 500GB SSD.
o You can add 2-4TB of hard drive--not solid state drive--space after that. Hard drives are hardly dead technology; outside of highly specialized industries, the speed difference between SSD and hard drive data access only matter for starting the computer and starting applications.
o If your team needs to store big data on the local computer and not the network, a big hard drive for miscellaneous files (often called a scratch drive) and a smaller main SSD is the way to go.
· Graphics. If your business creates images, animation, or video, a graphics card of some sort is necessary.
o Graphics processing unit (GPU)--also known as video cards or graphics cards--are like small computers on a board. These computers are dedicated to calculating or rendering the data required to create visual data.
o This affects everything from high-definition video to images with deep, large, detailed files to gaming. There are specific cards for gaming and graphic design, but with economic pressures from COVID-19 and cryptomining, these cards cost a premium.
o Wait for prices to drop below $500 for current cards. Prior to COVID-19, cryptomining pressures made it difficult to find new GPUs below $200. The new normal is still unclear as of 2022, despite lowering prices.
o If your business includes streaming on platforms such as YouTube, Twitch.tv, Facebook Live, or other platforms with professional cameras instead of phones, video capture cards are often necessary.
Automation Consultation and Conversion
How often does your team enter the same information on multiple forms?
How often does your team have to go through repetitive digital tasks, or repeat the same patterns? Do you have better tasks for them?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, it's time to look into automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The age of AI is already here, and just like the conversion from paper to digital, it's better to get started now than when upgrades are required for survival.
Current automation is a mixture of pre-programming specific tasks and recognizing patterns. Automation experts can design specific instructions for your most repetitive tasks so that work can happen automatically in mass batches, while AI can learn some parts of the work.
With pattern recognition, AI systems can identify images, sounds, and data for similar information. For example, healthcare AI can identify specific traits of cells or other medical injury to identify certain medical conditions such as cancers.
It can be used to record data about colors, sizes, and distances as well. Construction companies can calculate details about their projects by taking pictures and videos, and factories can automate analysis of their products for quality control.
The technology only gets better with practice, and the good news is that you can start out small. Repetitive administrative processes can be a proof of concept, and advanced AI techniques can be added to other departments and tasks alongside human workers.
Upgrading technology is always a work in progress, but the right upgrades in the right place and at the right time can streamline business while maximizing profit. A managed IT services professional will help you get the hardware, software, and policies in place.
Contact a business technology modernization expert to discuss specific areas of improvement for your business. Consultation and scalable installation will boost your productivity and give you access to easier tech in the future.