Smartphone coffee

Cloud, on-premises, hosted app rollout. Do any of those terms cause you confusion? Making technology decisions can be difficult for IT departments, but when you don’t have technical expertise and have to make these choices, they can be downright scary. You know that investing in this area will help your business, but where do you start?

There are so many different tools claiming to be the best, brightest or fastest, so you need to know what really matters when buying technology. There are five areas to focus on that will help you obtain the efficiency you need as you start on your quest for new technology.

Where is technology crucial for your business?

You know, as do most businesses, that you need to invest in technology, but it’s hard to articulate exactly why and where. Ask yourself questions such as ‘which parts of my business need to work better?’ in order to narrow down your thinking. Beyond email, most people use applications differently, so figuring out your areas of need can prevent you from wasting your funds.

Additionally, consider your demands for technology. Do your employees only need systems from 9-5 with minimal to low usage outside those times? Did you know that certain applications, especially those that deliver services directly to customers, always need to be on? Understanding your needs helps you know whether to seek guarantees about downtime.

These may seem like technical areas, but really they’re business questions – and that’s the key to buying technology.

How can the people in your business work better?

Once you know the systems that you need, you should work out how your employees will use them. Are they typically remote workers, or do they spend all of their time in the office?

Managing a mobile workforce requires different tools than managing one that occupies desks. Either form of management can be done with equal simplicity for you if you have the right tools in place. But you need to get the design right--from the technology infrastructure down to the specific applications.

One of the crucial things to think about is the level of control that you want to maintain over authorised mobile devices, such as phones and tablets. Specifically, how do you plan to maintain a level of security over your important documents? Mobile Device Management (MDM) applications let you have a final say over the information on a device, including remote wipe if you think that it’s been lost or stolen.

How important is access to and storage of your information?

This may seem like a strange question, but actually the laws around document management, security of information and cost are all affected by the answer.

Knowing how often you need to access or backup your documents will determine what type of storage you need. If you have paper documents, would you put it in a safe or a shoebox? Would you keep it in your office or in the garage? You can apply this same type of logic to determine what type of digital storage you need. Maybe you can store important documents on-site and store other not-so-important documents in the cloud.

Then there are legal requirements for document storage: seven years for bank statements, three years for payroll, etc. You may also have industry specific laws, if you’re in financial services or the legal sector, for instance. And just one document missing could cause hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage.

How can you make the most of your spending on technology?

This seems obvious, but it’s not just about watching the pounds now--it’s watching them in the future. Don’t rush out and buy all the kit, as a lot of what you need is available on-demand.

‘Cloud’ solutions, whether they’re stored somewhere else or operated by someone else, are accessed over the Internet and give you flexibility of use, ownership and cost. Pay for what you use, no up-front investment, and add new people when you need to. Most importantly, you stay up to date. You don’t have to replace your investments every six months; instead, the cloud provider executes the updates.

Operating this way also helps you save on your day-to-day resources. When someone else owns and operates the majority of the technology, you don’t have to pay someone to maintain it. With support coming from the cloud providers, your technology burden is eased.

How can you avoid being ‘that company’ in the news for security breaches?

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Security threats are everywhere – and worryingly, 95% of data breaches have human error as a factor. It’s not just the likes of national governments or multi-national corporations, like Sony that are affected. The vast majority of hacks and breaches are small…sometimes unnoticed. But over the course of time the impact is significant.

Email is one of the easiest ways for a hacker to get into a system, so make securing it a high priority and don’t take it for granted.

Equally, make sure to instill security into the consciousness of every employee via single sign-on identity management, for instance. Employees don’t need multiple passwords to remember, so keeping the system secure is much easier. Security is a big deal, so check out the credentials of anything before you buy it.

Taking the first step

There is a lot to consider, but part of investing is knowing the right questions to ask. And there will always be someone to help you if you know your parameters. The ‘one-stop-shop’ type of technology companies can simplify the implementation, so check out the range of what a provider can give you before you commit – and your new technology will bring you huge benefits.

By Richard Walters, General Manager and Vice President of Identity and Access Management (IAM), Intermedia