Famed fitness expert John Basedow preaches, “Turn obstacles into opportunities, transform problems into possibilities.” Striving to make your small business more resilient is just that: an obstacle that ultimately can be an opportunity to prosper.
Several months ago, CDW, a leading provider of information technology solutions, released the Report on Small Business Resilience based upon a survey of 613 small businesses nationally. The study identifies factors contributing to business survivability and examines how small businesses deal with the ebb and flow of the economy. As a result of the survey findings, CDW suggests a few starting points for small businesses to consider in their fight to get fit.
Prepare to Avoid Surprises
1. Implement a knowledge-management system to ensure that essential company information is on file and accessible. Knowledge management is a fashionable term for any systematic approach identifying valuable information and insights from key personnel; and then preserving, sharing and leveraging those insights throughout an organization
2. Design a Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) plan to protect your employees and to maintain critical functions and information. A BC/DR plan contains processes that help organizations prepare for disruptive events — whether the event is a hurricane, a power outage or a key person leaving the company — to ensure that mission-critical functions can continue during and after a disruption. When a crisis or disruption shuts down your business or damages your information infrastructure, you are only as strong as your BC/DR plan.
3. Equip employees with a virtual private network (VPN) for remote access. It provides greater productivity and enhanced security, especially during an unforeseen event. If you’re running a small office and can’t afford a VPN, use tools such as LogMeIn software to access or control your computer from a distance. Similarly, PDAs, smartphones and other mobile devices can become virtual offices in employees’ pockets. To get the most out of a mobility solution, you need more than just a cell phone; you need e-mail, mobile telephone, text messaging, Web browsing and other wireless information services.
4. Find vendor partners you can trust to help support you gain quick access to information and, if applicable, fast delivery of equipment and resources during a crisis. Vendor contacts often help ensure priority replacement of critical telecommunications equipment, personal computers, servers and network hardware. This is especially important for small- and medium-sized organizations that may lack the resources larger companies can tap in an emergency. Remember, every minute your system is down your competition gains ground.
Reinforce Your Small Business IT Infrastructure
Your company’s core IT strength is key to its resiliency and survival. Consider the next four tips the Eight Minute Abs portion:
5. Use a company-wide computing network to preserve, protect and control vital information resources.
6. Back up your data center and data storage frequently to an off-site location. There are several options for efficient and cost-effective storage solutions, and your internal IT team or outside technology partner can help ensure the solution you choose best fits your needs.
7. Enhance IT security by restricting employee access to high-risk Web sites; Web filtering solutions are ubiquitous and very affordable now, and while they do not eliminate all risks, they are effective at eliminating known risks. Also, enforce policies regarding software downloads, and administer new passwords periodically.
8. Security should be layered and planned in advance, rather than added as a reaction to a problem. One security strategy will not cut it; critical components needed to effectively prevent data and identity theft include the following:
- Data Encryption: Allow security attributes to travel with the data itself
- Server Security: Implement network access control and comprehensive security policies along with patch management policies and solutions
- Email: Implement complete antivirus, antispam, antispyware and encryption protection on every desktop system
- Web-Content Filtering: Treat malware detection and content-based filtering as a priority. Look to technologies with advanced content and behavior-based analysis capabilities, which will filter out malware based on common characteristics, even on the same day it’s launched by the bad guys
In addition to these eight steps, the CDW Report on Small Business Resilience finds that the longest-lived and most consistently profitable small businesses are more likely than their peers to have defined marketing budgets, a comprehensive client database and a diverse clientele that reduces business risk intrinsically — with their top five customers generating less than 30 percent of their total revenue.
By following these steps, you are on your way to a fitter, more healthy business that is better suited to handle whatever the market throws your way.
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