You’re a small business owner and you’ve been doing just fine without a huge staff or a dedicated IT guy. But like everything else these days, your business depends on technology: email, databases, documents and spreadsheets—maybe even software unique to your industry, like a computer-aided drafting program. So how do you know when it’s time to bring in some professional IT support? Here are 7 key signs, although we’re sure there are many more:
1. If your billable hours are down because you’ve been troubleshooting computer/printer/router problems—your business needs IT support
Many small business professionals bill by the hour, including attorneys and graphic designers. But if those billable hours have fallen off because you’re wrestling with a computer that won’t start, or an internet connection that’s spotty, then maybe it’s time to bring in expert IT support for your network — while you get back to doing those things that get you paid.
2. If your computer is down with a virus, but the neighbor kid is still at school—your business needs IT support
Maybe your neighbor’s teenage son is a brilliant computer fixer, but the law says he needs to be in school from 8 to 3, and you can’t put your own business on hold waiting for him to help you after hours or on weekends. If you consider your small business to be professional outfit, then start relying on professional IT support.
3. If you missed an important deadline because your printer malfunctioned—your business needs IT support
You waited until the last minute to print off that important presentation. Then your computer suddenly couldn’t connect to your printer. It’s time to bring in a professional who can troubleshoot your network problems. When you know your system is set up properly and is getting regular preventive maintenance, you can procrastinate with more confidence.
4. If you are ready to spend big bucks on hardware for your business, but the big box salesman doesn’t inspire confidence—your business needs IT support
Computers, servers, routers and printers represent a significant financial outlay. Sure, there’s a danger that you could spend too little, which has its own consequences. But more likely you’ll spend too much. A professional business IT consultant has the know-how to assess your business needs now and in the future, helping you prioritize your spending. Professional IT consultants also have access to custom-built solutions that perfectly fit your situation, something you aren’t likely to find at the big box store.
5. If you just tried to upgrade a crucial software package, only to find it won’t run on your computer—your business needs IT support
Adobe Creative Suite is essential software for graphic designers, but each upgrade seems to demands a lot of the computer that runs it. Maybe your profession requires certain software, and you can’t work without it. When new upgrades are released, they usually demand more memory and more speed, maybe even a new operating system. Don’t lose productivity fighting a losing battle. Call on professional IT support so you can get on with your work.
6. If your data isn’t backed up—your business needs IT support
What are you going to do when your hard drive crashes (and it will) or some sort of natural disaster strikes, and you lose all your contacts, documents, contracts, background research, reports or photos? How much of a disruption to your business will you suffer? Put a dollar figure to that, and it doesn’t take long to conclude that professional IT help in setting up a disaster recovery plan, including a first-rate backup solution, is worth the investment.
7. If you are still using Microsoft XP—your business needs IT support
What is Microsoft XP? It is a very old PC operating system that Microsoft will no longer support after April 2014. Read our earlier post, The End is Near: Support for Windows XP, for more information. If your business is still using Windows XP, merely upgrading to the latest Microsoft operating system may not be simple. Call in professional IT support to determine which version (Windows 7 or Windows 8) is best for your business, and to ensure all your other software and hardware is ready to make the transition.