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From Chiswick to Hackney and Clapham to Islington, London’s small businesses are the lifeblood of the city. However, there is a dangerous school of thought gaining prevalence among the city’s small business founders that IT is easy.
As tech has become more user friendly, thanks to Google, Microsoft and friends, the thinking is that a DIY approach is the way to go. Hiring in professional IT services is a corner to cut.
In this blog post, I’ll argue that this approach overlooks many risks and missed opportunities in areas such as the cloud, connectivity, and cybersecurity, which is holding London’s small businesses back.
For full disclosure, my company provides professional IT services, so I’m clearly biased, but I hope you will hear me out.
The Outsource Dilemma
When you’re weighing up how to handle your business’s IT, it boils down to three choices: 1) keep it in house (either by doing it yourself or delegating it to your most competent employee),
2) outsource it all to a professional, or perhaps most common,
3) a combination of the two (to balance your budget with your time).
Depending on what your business does, and your goals, outsourcing different technology processes will have different levels of value — and the impact on your operations and the benefits of insourcing or outsourcing each of these will vary.
For example, technology used to manage and track interactions with customers (for example, a CRM system) is something that’s clearly best owned and controlled by you.
But outsourcing seemingly minor tasks such as the management of your IT hardware (how many laptops do you have, who is using which laptop, are the laptops secure from cyber threats) let alone the larger tasks like your internet connectivity, hosting and infrastructure management, which can be a more complicated time sink with higher consequences for mistakes and can present a more compelling business case.
Then of course there’s cybersecurity, data breaches and ransomware, where the threat to SMBs is genuine. According to Hiscox, one small business in the UK is successfully hacked every 19 seconds.
Big global corporations with big IT teams and budgets struggle with cybersecurity so it’s totally understandable that busy SMB owners have nowhere near the time, focus, and expertise to deal with the intensity of the security challenge they face. Research from cybersecurity platform Arctic Wolf suggests more than a third (39%) of small business owners feel overwhelmed by the volume of security alerts their business receives (which is up to 75 alerts a day in some cases).
Cybersecurity is something that needs continual management, improvement, and investment. Unless website security is your strong suit, this crucial task nearly always benefits from being outsourced to a seasoned expert who can develop a cybersecurity and business recovery plan, support compliance requirements and provide valuable insight into your risks and requirements.
Problems at Scale
As the recent six-hour blackout at Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram goes to show, even the big companies can get their tech very wrong. Monday 4th October was an absolute stinker of a day for Facebook. What was initially rumoured to be a malicious denial-of-service (DoS) cybersecurity hack turned out to be an IT configuration issue that caused the main servers to go offline for six hours. Not only did this prevent millions of people from using the platforms (losing Facebook huge revenues). The outage also caused a nightmare for its employees with reports of them being unable to use company computer systems or even access buildings.
While an outage at your business probably wouldn’t make front page news on all the world’s global newspapers and media outlets, the relative impact to you would likely be just as stressful and damaging.
As any business grows and becomes more IT dependent, off-the-shelf tech becomes less useful. Little niggles quickly turn into aches, and aches turn into headaches. Before you know it, a data breach is sucking up all your time and your headache is a full-on migraine.
As a founder myself, I would argue that our time, passion, and energy is best spent leading our business forward, not firefighting and getting distracted by the IT issues holding us back. That’s a job best left to the professionals.
I also get that nobody really relishes the prospect of buying in IT support services. If you’ve not done it before, it can be daunting, if you have, it can be frustrating.
Whatever your level of experience and type of business, this straight-talking technology services buyer’s guide will give you an unusually helpful and unbiased framework to properly assess and benchmark your options.
- Augi (pronounced Oggy) Woo began his career in IT in 2000 when he undertook both in-house and freelance roles for large media production companies in central London. He founded Techsolve in 2006 with the vision of taking IT headaches away from London’s small businesses. He is a highly approachable and friendly guy who can convey technical information without drowning his audience in jargon.