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Mistake #1: Having a Set it and Forget it Mentality

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I was recently asked by a new prospect what I thought were some of the most important things to keep in mind when dealing with technology for a small business.  Immediately, my mind went into a flurry of thoughts - from backup to security to over extending life-cycles to under-funding to over-simplifying requirements.  I was a whirling dervish before I sat down and documented all of my concerns.  So far I've come up with a Baker's dozen of "mistakes" negatively impact technology that we see over and over again when we take on a new client.  I thought this would make for a great series to share, so (and in no particular order) here's "Mistake" #1:

Having a "Set it and Forget it" Mentality

This is probably the most common mistake small businesses make with their technology and probably one of the hardest habits to break. Make no mistake about it: hardware and software require routine and regular maintenance.  Without it, it's only a matter of time before something bad will happen.  Unfortunately, small business owners bring their consumer mind-set when viewing their technology.  Because most small businesses start out as a one or two person shop, they're still carrying around the mentality of a single, home user.  Unfortunately, it's hard to shed this mentality as the business grows and the technology needs grow with it.  As a consumer, they've been sold all along that their computing needs are the same as the cell phones they carry in their pockets.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every large business knows this.  Unfortunately, it usually takes a serious blow to their systems before it trickles down to the small business owner. 

Think of your IT infrastructure as you would your car. If you forget to put oil in it or keep up the regular service, your engine will die. Servers, workstations, and related software applications need continual care and maintenance so that they can perform at optimal levels. Similar to a car, the more time and energy you spend in caring for your systems, the better they will perform and the longer they will last.  This has been proven time and time again.  Unfortunately, too many small business owners are penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to their IT.

Success From Failure

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Talk about proof of concept. While there's always stress when a server crashes, this week we clearly saw proof of concept both with regards to our BDR Solution as well as our Managed Service approach to IT management and support. The hard part is seeing the positives during the stress of dealing with a crashed server. Now that the dust has settled a little, we can see success from failure.

A little background - this week, the Exchange Server at one of our clients crashed (they're about a 30 user company with 2 locations). It was a complete hardware failure (the motherboard failed and needed to be replaced). The timing of this couldn't have been more interesting - we were in the midst of the project to replace their server. If we had started the project a week earlier, we wouldn't even be talking about this. So, here's how it played out...

The first success - the server crash occurred after working hours one night and our monitoring system alerted us to the fact that the server was down. Our on-call staff sprung into action immediately responding by reviewing the situation and then calling the client via his emergency contact number and letting him know that there was a problem and we were on it. We performed some initial triage that night and then first thing the next morning we were out there dealing with things.

The second success - luckily (no, not luckily, but actually due to proper planning), we had implemented our BDR Solution for them about 6 months ago so not only were we able to restore the Exchange Server, we had a complete image of it and had it back up and running ON the BDR server within 4 hours that next day. Now keep in mind, this was a 200GB Information Store! For those of you who don't know, this is HUGE! A majority of our clients run Info Stores less than 35GB. Our's is about 70. Historically, this would have taken us easily two days to get it back up and running if we had to do a manual rebuild of the server and restore of the Info Store. Before the BDR, I can't remember EVER getting a crashed Exchange Server back up and running in production the same day! While the server was significantly slower than we anticipated (mostly due to the size of the info store), it was running and the client was functional. At the same time we were dealing with this, our procurement staff were dealing with expediting the replacements parts for the downed server. Two days later we had the parts, the Dell technician had replaced everything, the server was back up and then we transferred the active image back onto the server (with minimal downtime).

The third success - since this client is one of our Managed Service clients at our "ProtectIT" service level, all of our time involved in this response was covered! This means it didn't cost them anything more than their standard ongoing monthly fee. From a customer happiness standpoint, this is a huge win.

While it's understandable that the client wasn't happy having to go through a situation like this, and there are always things we can improve on our side, they do have piece of mind. This piece of mind comes from knowing that the decisions they made months ago to implement the BDR and go with our Managed Service approach prevented this situation from being significantly more painful, more costly, and certainly more impactful to their business. Seems to me this was a great example of success from failure. Proof of concept indeed!

IT vs. Health Insurance

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How much is your technology worth to you?

What I mean by this is I see clients spending tens of thousands of dollars on technology infrastructure, software, systems, and recurring software license fees all the time. Yet when I talk to them about the need to proactively manage and maintain these very assets they've spent so much money on, they look at it me like I'm crazy. "Why do we have to pay anything at all to maintain them?" they ask. "I spent all this money on a new system. Nothing should go wrong. I'll just pay you when something breaks." We all know something will.  It's just a matter of when and to what degree. 

There are so many "hidden" costs when running a business. And one of the biggest is lost productivity due to inefficient systems and down-time. I seriously don't get it. Do they treat their bodies this way? Do they treat their teeth this way? Do they even treat their cars this way? No way.

I posed this question to a recent client, "how do you value your employees?" When I asked this, they were perplexed by my question. I probed further and asked, "how valuable are they to you?" I asked, "what's it worth to keep them happy and productive?" Again, still perplexed. "Of course we want them to be productive and happy, but I can't really put a dollar amount on their value." (actually, you can - but I didn't go there) So, I simply asked, "Do you provide them health insurance?" "Of course I do", they responded. "I have to. Otherwise, I can't compete". The "aha" moment didn't fully come till I put it in terms of dollars and cents.

Where I was going with this is - it's ok in almost every business owner's eyes to spend $200 - $400 a month on health insurance per employee, but spending even 1/2 of this to make sure THE most important tool EVERY one of their employee uses EVERY day to ensure up-time and consistent productivity is too much to ask. Personally, I don't see it this way. And neither do all of our clients under our Managed IT Services.

So, I have to ask - how much are you spending on health insurance? And how much is your technology worth to you?

About the Author
Craig Pollack
Craig Pollack Blog Profile Image Craig is the Founder & CEO of FPA Technology Services, Inc. Craig provides the strategy and direction for FPA, ensuring its clients, their business owners, and key decision makers leverage technology most effectively to achieve their business objectives. Craig focuses on ensuring that the technologies implemented by clients are "business centric" and key components of their businesses' success, and that this approach is shared by every staff member of FPA.
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