Business Workshop: Get unbiased IT advice

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Two recent surveys show that small businesses often need to do a better job managing their information technology resources.

The first study, by The Hartford Financial Services Group, found that small businesses do not consistently follow some standard practices for keeping their data and IT systems secure.

Only 48 percent of small businesses use firewalls, password protection and data encryption. Just 47 percent update systems and software on a regular basis, while only 44 percent have a privacy policy.

These statistics seem to contradict the concern small businesses have regarding IT security, as nearly two-thirds believe that a data breach would harm relationships with customers and employees.

Another recent survey by Panasonic suggests that many small businesses have been slow to keep up with new technology for reaching customers.

Panasonic found that almost three-quarters of all small businesses have not designed a version of their website for smartphones.

With 84 percent of smartphone users now regularly accessing the Internet by phone, small businesses risk falling behind their larger competitors in marketing to the growing number of smartphone users.

Businesses of all sizes have IT systems embedded in many aspects of operations: internal communication, sales processes, inventory control, customer relations and risk management.

With technology rapidly changing, it is critical that a company evolve its current technology platforms and strategically incorporate new ones.

Small businesses can't afford IT departments, and typically rely on consultants for counsel and product recommendations.

While some consultants also sell IT products, a small business is typically better off using a consultant who is brand and product neutral.

For example, many business associations have IT programs that help growing companies evaluate all IT solutions, and select the best one to meet strategic goals and budgetary constraints.

-- Robert A. Stein
Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence
rastein@katz.pitt.edu

businessnews

Business workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business. To contribute, contact Business Editor Brian Hyslop at bhyslop@post-gazette.com.


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