As the year is ending, it’s the perfect time to plan for the future. Most businesses begin the year with plans and hopes for improved operations and growth. Much of how a business operates depends on technology, so it makes sense to look to your IT for areas of optimization.

A year-end technology review provides an opportunity to examine and evaluate several areas of your IT infrastructure. The goal is to take time to focus on improvements you can make to boost your bottom line. As well as what tactics to take to reduce the risk of a costly cyberattack.

A recent study by Deloitte looked at digitally advanced small businesses. Small businesses that make smart use of technology are well ahead of their competitors. Some of the areas in which they excel:

Earned 2 times more revenue per employee

Experienced year-over-year revenue growth - nearly 4 times as high

Had an average employee growth rate over 6 times as high

The bottom line is that companies that use technology well, do better. They are also more secure. According to IBM, businesses that have an Incident Response Plan (IRP) reduce the costs of a data breach by 61%. Using enhanced security, AI, and automation can lower costs by 70%.

This year-end, take some time to do a technology review with your in-house IT department or Managed IT Services provider. This will set you up for success and security in the coming year.

Considerations When Reviewing Your Technology at Year-End

The goal of a year-end technology review is to look at all areas of your IT infrastructure. Security, efficiency, and bottom-line considerations are the keys to driving future initiatives.

Technology Policies

Technology policies tend to become outdated faster than most company policies. When they become obsolete, people stop following them. Review all your policies to see if any of them need updating to reflect new conditions and technologies. For example, if you now have some staff working from home, like most companies, make sure your device use policy reflects this.

When you update policies, keep your employees in the loop. This provides them with a refresher on important information. They may have forgotten certain things over time.

Backup & Disaster Recovery Plan

If you don’t have a written Backup & Disaster Recovery Plan in place, you are just treading water until you are hit with a disaster you cannot hope to recover from. When is the last time your company did an incident response drill? Do you have a written list of steps for employees to follow in the case of a natural disaster or cyberattack?

Take time to look at disaster recovery planning for the new year. You should also put dates in place for preparedness drills and ongoing training in the coming months.

Pain Points & General IT Issues

Do not go through a big hardware/software upgrade without considering employee pain points. Otherwise, you might miss some golden opportunities to improve staff productivity and wellbeing.

Survey your employees on how they use technology. Ask questions about their favorite and least favorite apps. Ask what struggles they face. Let them tell you how they feel technology could improve to make their jobs better. This will help you target improvements that will have the greatest positive impact.

Privileged Access & Orphaned Accounts

Audit your privileged accounts. Over time, permissions can be misappropriated. This leaves your network at a higher risk of a major attack.

Everyone does not need access to everything. You should ensure that admin-level permissions are given only to those that need them. The fewer privileged accounts you allow, the lower your risk. Compromised passwords for privileged accounts open the door to more damage than standard user accounts.

Look for orphaned accounts. When an employee leaves, this part of the offboarding process should be automatic – if it isn’t you need to demand answers from your IT support. Leaving these unused accounts active poses a high Cybersecurity risk.

IT Upgrade & Transformation Plans for the New Year

If you make IT upgrades and decisions “on the fly” it can come back to bite you. It’s best to plan out a strategy ahead of time, so you can upgrade in an organized way.

Have a vulnerability assessment performed. This gives you a list of potential problems your company should address. Eliminating vulnerabilities improves your cybersecurity. Planning ahead allows you to budget for your upgrades and avoid unplanned expenses.

Cloud Use & Shadow IT

Review your use of cloud applications. Are certain apps hardly used? Do you have redundancies in your cloud environment? A review can help you cut waste and save money.

Also, look for uses of shadow IT by employees. These are cloud applications that are being used for work but did not go through approval. Management may not even be aware of them. Remove this security risk by either closing the accounts or officially approving them.

Customer-Facing Technology

Don’t forget to look at the customer experience of your technology infrastructure. Go through your website and contact process as a customer would.

If you get frustrated by things like site navigation, then your customers and leads may be too. Include optimizations to your customer-facing technology in your new year plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is backup and disaster recovery?

A:  Backup is the process of frequently copying and saving your data in several secure locations (locally, but not connected to your working network, and in the cloud): your Managed IT Services company should have at least these two backup locations in place and tested regularly for reliable data retrieval.
Disaster recovery is what happens after an emergency – man-made, like a Ransomware or data theft attack, or natural, like a fire or earthquake. Once the network is stabilized, possibly with all affected workstations and servers wiped clean (as in a Ransomware attack response), the IT services team will retrieve and replace all the backed-up data to the network system.

While cloud backups are available through platforms such as G Suite, Google Workspace and Microsoft Office 365, the backup and ensuing disaster recovery plans will not set themselves up. An IT support service should be consulted to oversee the plan setup. If you prefer to go it alone, Wired Magazine offers some noteworthy tips, but be forewarned – this has far more at stake than say, trying to replace your vehicle’s brake pads yourself. Let an expert do it.

If you are a small or startup business and have no real IT support, reputable firms can be found simply by Googling ‘IT Support Los Angeles’. Be careful to choose an accomplished firm with the resources to setup and execute an iron-clad backup & disaster recovery plan – too many free-lance ‘IT guys’ do not have the resources or knowledge to perform this task adequately.

Q: How do I create a backup and recovery plan?

A: The 5 main components are:
1) Remote data backups
2) Recovery time Objectives
3) Recovery point objectives
4) Accountability chart
5) Thorough plan testing.

Compuquip lays out hand, specific details HERE.

Q: What is meant by the term shadow IT?

A: Gartner describes it in simple terms: “Shadow IT refers to IT devices, software and services outside the ownership or control of IT organizations.” It is any information technology an employee uses without IT approval.

Q: What is an example of shadow IT?

A:  Examples of shadow IT are Gmail, Drive and other Google Suite elements, Dropbox, Box and other peer-to-peer collaboration tools, Apple AirDrop and other Bluetooth-based sharing tools, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, and other messaging apps. Any of these are shadow IT if their use is not approved by your company.

How secure is your network?

As a reputable member of the IT Support Los Angeles community since 2002, IT Support LA offers a FREE, no-risk network and security assessment. It is a non-intrusive scan that allows us to deliver a comprehensive report that is yours to keep. No strings, and no obligation to ever use our Managed IT Services.

The best defense is the best Cybersecurity to protect your data from theft, and a top-notch Managed Services Provider (MSP) to ensure continued reliability and defenses against newly emerging threats.

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o  3 Years awarded Best IT by the Small Business Expo
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o  Listed as one of the world’s Top 501 Managed Services Providers by CRN and in the top 250 in the ‘Pioneer’ listing
o  4 years listed as one of the Top 501 Managed Services Providers in the World by Channel Futures
o  Globee 2021 Bronze Award winner for Chief Technology Officer of the Year
o  Globee 2022 Gold Award winner for Chief Technology Officer of the Year
o  Named one of 2022’s 50 ‘Best’ businesses in California by UpCity
o  Named Best of IT winner for 2021 by UpCity
o  Winner of Local Excellence Award for 2021 by UpCity
o  Named Best of Cloud Consulting winner for 2021 by UpCity
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