There was a time not so long ago when small business owners did not have to worry about being tech-savvy. Back then, business was still just about business. But not today. These days it is vital that anyone owning, running or working in a small business be as smart about IT as they are about business. Yet sometimes, that is easier said than done.
Here then are the five most common tech mistakes that small businesses make, and how to avoid them:
1. Looking Small: Of all the great things the Internet has brought to small business— and the ability to sell anytime and anywhere is just for starters— maybe best of all is that there is no need to ever look small again.
No matter the size of your business, the Web has leveled the playing field. You may be small offline, but online you can look every bit as big as your biggest competitor. And you can create a great-looking, professional, robust website for very little cost, which makes it all the better. If you do not already look big online, then it’s time to remedy that. A world, literally, of opportunity is waiting.
2. Lack of Proper Security Software and Policies: Of course you know that you are supposed to have computer security software in place to thwart potential online dangers and scams. Maybe you even have some basic software. But arming your business against threats requires a lot more than downloading some no-name, off-brand, free program.
Your data, customer lists, account numbers, passwords, contracts and other vital documents are the lifeblood of your business. Yet far too many small businesses don’t keep these documents as safe as they should. Consider: According to the FBI, in the past few years cyber criminals have begun to target small businesses and have illegally transferred more than $100 million out of small business bank accounts. How? The victims were hacked because they typically lacked security systems.
And not only do you need security software, but you also need policies for how laptops are to be handled, how to properly download software updates and how to secure all smartphones utilized by your employees. Implementing policies and procedures in addition to utilizing proper software will help you create your first line of defense.
3. Not Scheduling a Regular Data Back-up: You know the drill by now: “Back up your data!” But do you? This simple step can prevent major problems, but not surprisingly, small business owners only do it once in the life of any business. After all, you only need to lose, say, your customer list one time before realizing that regularly backing up your data is not just a good slogan, but a good idea too. So, whether you back up manually or use an online, scheduled service, the important thing is that you do it regularly.
4. Falling for Social Media Scams: Say you are on Facebook and you see a post from a friend that says, “Check out this cool video!” You click it, but are asked to upgrade your software to be able to watch it. You do. You also may have just gotten hacked. Maybe your company’s Twitter account will suddenly start tweeting gibberish, or your Facebook update will request that your friends send you money because you are stuck in London.
Social media scams are growing exponentially because the bad guys go where the eyeballs are. So you must create guidelines, policies and procedures for your office that dictate how to properly and safely use social media so that this doesn’t happen to your business.
5. Not Monitoring your Online Brand and Reputation: Do you know what people are tweeting about your business? What do their blogs and Yelp posts say? Not knowing the answer can be a huge mistake. Sure, they may be saying great things about your business, but then again, they may not. People can even be saying things about you that are untrue. And since many people now check out a business online before actually patronizing it, these posts can have a major effect on the growth of your customer base.
The solution is to monitor your online brand, and intervene when necessary. Set up a Google alert (or a few!) for your business— this will let you know whenever there is an online mention of it. See what Twitter is saying about you. If something bad is tweeted, you can then step in and fix it.
In this digital age, running your business right means handling your technology issues smartly. By avoiding these sorts of mistakes, your small business will be much more successful and prepared for the changing technological environment.
What technological innovations are you making this year? Please share below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.