The Total Cost Of Ignorance

Avoiding top tech mistakes

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” or so the saying goes. But when it comes to business, ignorance about technology can be devastating. Companies that lose data make headlines and suffer the cost, the embarrassment, and the loss of trust that occurs when the public learns that sensitive data has not been protected.

Jamel Lynch, a consultant at Lenovo, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based tech firm, says lack of security is just one mistake companies make when it comes to technology; the other is lack of planning. Entrepreneurs may have a killer business idea, but having a good technology plan can help many stay competitive. Lynch adds, “It’s significant for companies to be honest about what they will spend on technology solutions for their businesses.”

Says Patrick M. Gray, president of Proveyance Group Inc., an information technology consulting firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, “Many startups hire good lawyers and accountants but think technology is more about buying gear than developing a technology plan that meets their business needs.

“Basically, they dive into the details before figuring out what they actually want to do with a particular technology. A Website is great, but is it going to provide information to new customers as a sales tool, provide enhanced customer service to existing customers, or be a product in itself? Without answering those questions, debating whether a Dell or HP server is best is putting the cart way before the horse.”

Lynch champions the best practices approach for creating good purchasing and “tech-refresh” plans: Assess what technology you will need, why you will need it, when you will need it, and then ensure that you and your employees know how to use it to increase productivity. He also recommends volume purchases, even for high-cost devices such as laptop computers. For example, a small business might purchase a single laptop for $1,500 and then spend more than it’s worth to maintain it over three to four years. The owner must take into account the cost to purchase and maintain other single-sale PCs, calls to tech support, software updates, and visits from IT consultants, who typically charge by the hour.

Back Up and Secure IT
Time, money, and damaged reputations are costs that small companies cannot absorb. When Lynch consults, he shows clients how to back up data on hard drives — and how to secure that data. Doing this, he says, “reduces the cost to ship, mail, and recover.” For example, a $500 bill to ship, recover, and return a hard drive might be prohibitive for a small business that can little afford the cost in time and the potential client and revenue loss.

For Lynch, security is a two-part process that first limits “physical access” and then tracks how data gets accessed. “Not allowing everyone access protects a company from unnecessary business expenses and also from regulatory fees associated with loss of sensitive data such as Social Security numbers.”

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