It's the start of a brand new year, and you may be thinking about new technology projects to help your small business grow in 2013. To help you along, we’ve compiled a list of worthy – and achievable – tech projects for your IT department in the coming year.
10 Small Business Technology Projects
1. Backup. Backup. Backup
If there’s one perpetual issue that plagues both SMBs and enterprise businesses, it's the loss of critical work documents due to the lack of timely data backups. You have the power to prevent this business threat by simply setting up software to perform automatic data backups. Alternatively, you can use an online storage service, such as SugarSync, to sync your data to the clouds in real-time.
A diligent local data backup routine will obviously consume a lot of storage space, which may in turn necessitate additional capacity. Fortunately, a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device offers a quick and easy way of adding more storage. You can read this Quick Guide to Buying a NAS for your SMB for more information on the topic.
2. Consider Ultrabooks for Portability
Remember Netbooks? These clunky, low-priced laptops took forever to start and to launch software. Don’t let that memory put you off Ultrabooks though, which are lower-priced ultraportable laptops that deliver on both looks and processing oomph. Instead of replacing ageing machines used in lower-end roles with similar non-portable desktops, consider replacing them with equally affordable Ultrabooks.
3. Deploy a Wi-Fi Network
Even barring the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon, a powerful Wi-Fi network in your business is no longer optional. Wireless networks today serve a large number of devices including smartphones, tablets and laptops. Moreover, wireless IP cameras and printers are also making an appearance on business networks. If you’re at a loss at where to start, check out 4 Wireless Networking Tips for Small Businesses for more information
4. Embrace Virtualization
Server virtualization can offer tremendous cost savings and improved IT efficiency to small businesses willing to embrace it for their operations. Indeed, the greater number of tried-and-tested hypervisors means that SMBs can rest easy when it comes to their reliability. On the same note, Symantec predicts that small businesses that are "100 percent" virtualized will become "more common" in the year ahead.
5. Encrypt All Data
In the absence of data encryption, swapping the hard disk drive out of a workstation or laptop effectively allows an unauthorized person to access the data. While it used to be a messy affair to get disk encryption working, BitLocker in Windows Vista opened the way to a reliable, easy-to-use encryption technology that secures the entire disk drive. If you haven’t done it yet, make it your goal to implement BitLocker on all PCs in the New Year. And yes, you should even encrypt data backups, too.
6. Explore Multiple Monitors
Various studies attribute the use of multiple monitors as an effective way to improve work productivity. Having at least two displays of reasonable size and screen resolution is definitely a huge plus. Moreover, the low cost of LCD monitors means that deploying multiple monitors doesn’t have to take that big a chunk out of the IT budget.
7. Bone-up on BYOD
While you can’t understate the security threat from rampant BYOD use, there are also clear advantages to employee-owned mobile devices, including the fact that employees are likely to take better care of their gear. We wrote extensively on this subject in How SMBs can Take Advantage of BYOD.
8. Beef Up Your Small Business Security
While you hear about new malware and novel attack vectors regularly, you rarely hear small businesses talk about improving their security beyond upgrading to a new version of anti-virus software. Instead of relying solely on endpoint security in 2013, why not take additional measures to beef up on your small business security?
For example you could adopt an advanced cloud-based email filtering service to defend against phishing attempts. Or companies with Wi-Fi networks could use multiple SSID and a virtual LAN, or VLAN, to create two Wi-Fi networks: a secure office Wi-Fi network for employees and a separate, segregated network for visitors or vendors.
9. Say No to Windows XP
Still have machines on your network that run on Windows XP? Get them replaced as soon as possible, as Microsoft will no longer support the decade-old operating system as of April 8, 2014. That works out to less than one and a half years before Microsoft stops issuing monthly security updates, which means you'd be foolish to even think of using Windows XP machines at work.
10. Tap into Social Media
Instead of relying only on conventional marketing approaches such as in-person meetings and trade shows, why not explore the use of social media in the New Year? Top social media networks include Facebook and Twitter, followed closely by Pinterest. Of course, it is important to understand that marketing via social media does not mean free, since the time inherent to this approach does translates into money.
What projects do you plan to take on for your small business in 2013? We'd love to hear about them in the comments section below.
Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.
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