So you've finally outgrown the home office? Good for you.
Your cat will miss you. It'll feel weird for a while to change out of your pyjamas before you start the workday.
It also means growing pains with IT. Too many business owners wait to learn the hard way that what worked when it was just you and your computer, doesn't work so well anymore.
Here's how you need to up your IT game when you outgrow the home office:
Have Someone Properly in Charge of IT
Using a home computer isn't rocket science. If you automatically apply security updates, avoid suspicious emails, and choose a password that's not “password”, you're most of the way there.
The sheer force of habit can be enough to keep you DIY-ing as you grow. Or perhaps you'll delegate it to one of your non-IT staff who's “good at computers”. They may actually be great with computers - but they don't have years of professional experience keeping workplaces stable and secure.
This means certain details inevitably get skipped. Such as:
- configuring permissions to stop a malware infection from taking down your entire network and your backups,
- configuring your firewall for the best defence against hacking,
- configuring a network management protocol to warn about problems before they become urgent,
- a dozen other things.
Skipping this stuff is how minor issues become major disasters.
Working in IT support, we're called into these all the time – car crash scenarios that just never had to happen. These businesses end up spending big on IT services because they didn't spend a modest amount earlier.
Start Managing Infrastructure Lifespan
It's easy to manage infrastructure when it's just you. You buy a computer and use it for a few years until one day it either dies or runs too slow. You swear a bit and then you buy the next one.
But more complex environments are.. well.. more complex. If you bring this “let's see what happens” approach, that means that almost everything you buy will one day interrupt your work day when it finally breaks. This lost productivity adds up – as do the call out fees to configure each new item individually.
Then over the years, as you keep replacing things one at a time, your environment devolves more and more into an unplanned mess. It accumulates quick-and-dirty fixes and one-of-a-kind configurations to keep things talking to each other. It will require more and more work hours to keep it secure and stable.
It's time to start setting a date every 3-5 years for a planned migration to new infrastructure.
It's Time to Beef Up Your Backups
Consumer level cloud-based storage products like Dropbox make it really easy for home-based businesses to manage backups. You just keep all your work documents in a cloud synchronized folder and – voilà! - they're always backed up.
It takes long enough to configure a client/server network for a small office that you don't want to duplicate this work every time you restore your data. Which means backing up not just your documents, but entire hard drives of data for every single workstation and server.
This is a lot more data. Do you really want your whole business to be on hold as it trickles through your internet connection? It's especially concerning if your local telco doesn't lead the world in internet speeds.
You now need an onsite backup for the fastest recovery. But don't ditch the cloud-based backup! You need that in case the place burns down.
Disaster Recovery Plan
Here's what I did the last time my home-office machine broke:
- I got a new computer.
- I installed the software I use, including my cloud storage program.
- I loitered in the kitchen eating cheese on crackers while my hard drive synced to the cloud.
This is so simple, you don't even need to write it down (though I kinda just did anyway).
When your IT systems are more elaborate, so is your recovery process. Which systems need to be restored first? What can you do to keep your team productive while this is happening?
What if it's a physical disaster, like a roof collapse? Do you have a clear process to restore your IT environment somewhere temporary, like a coworking space?
When disaster strikes, every second of lost productivity costs you money. So it can be very expensive to spend this time working out what to do next. And it's the worst time to learn there was something you didn't prepare for.
It's time to plan your disaster recovery process step-by-step and write it down.
James Mawson DXM Tech Support