29/07/2010

By Roland Nowak Nova IT Solutions

Today’s small businesses use extensive information technology to function successfully — yet data released from IBM Information On Demand suggests that 91% of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) believe they need to restructure the way their organisations work.

The IBM team notes that the systems we use within our office environments may hold a great deal of data, yet are not used to produce so-called ‘cross-enterprise information’ — for example, relating to the assessment of various strategies within a business. In simple terms, this could relate to the accounts team assessing how successful an investment was; the marketing team exporting a database into a desktop spreadsheet formula, in order to create a mailing list; and the new business team using the company or organisation’s latest news stories, to attract new business online.

Here are some tips for maximising the success of your small business:

Create a detailed database

Edit or create your database with marketing in mind — you should be able to use it to easily identify your most and least profitable customers. You can then use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to liaise with your customers and improve your offering, for example, with a telephone marketing programme. Speak to an IT expert about what database solution may suit you.

Always remember to back up your data using a secure, remote back up service, for peace of mind; a very easy way to provide a cost-effective, efficient and automated backup regime is to use USB external hard drives, in conjunction with off-site back ups. The average amount of data requiring off-site back up for small businesses is around 40GB per month.

Shield your email

Ensure you have the best possible protection in place — phishing and computer virus attacks are becoming increasingly more common. (PhishTank, a popular phishing tracking website, estimates that an average of 600 unique phishing attacks are reported daily. Meanwhile, computing.co.uk reports that one in ten of all PCs are infected by malware controlled by cybercriminals using the ‘Eleonore’ exploit toolkit, according to AVG Research. Of 12 million worldwide users visiting compromised web pages, AVG Research says the toolkit had a ten per cent infection success rate that could enable so-called ‘cybercriminals’ to infect and monitor around one in every ten potentially compromised PCs). Prevent these scams as best you can by talking to an IT expert about shielding your email systems.

Make the most of the web

Even small businesses should make the most of the web — ideally, chose an IT solutions provider that can organise solutions for all your web needs, including web hosting, web design, google promotional and search engine optimisation. Use your website to maximise information about your products or services, and track the website’s hits and users with a web analytics solution.

Monitor your systems

Ask your IT solutions provider about pro-active server monitoring and to audit your desktops, laptops and netbooks - hardware could be holding back your staff’s productivity.

Assess your telecoms

Look at alternative telecommunications in order to improve phone-based customer service, and check the organisation’s broadband provision for cost, level of service and actual speed of service. Consider this practise annually, particularly of your business is fast-growing.

In summary, if you plan your IT business strategies successfully, your company’s IT systems will work for you to maximise your business, not against you.

Roland Nowak is co-director of Nova IT Solutions, and offers seven days a week computer support for UK entrepreneurs and small businesses, from a mouse to a multi-site network. Visit: www.nova-itsolutions.com or call 0800 019 4525.