The worst IT problems in your small business are always the ones that you don’t know anything about, since these are the hardest to detect, and if you don’t know that you have them, they could be causing any amount of damage without you being able to react at all. Here are a few such problems.
Having secure connections is more important in some areas as opposed to others. While you can farm out some of these problems to managed services, it’s also possible often solve these problems on your own. For example, if you’re in a Skype call with a client, it’s often actually less secure than you might think, partially due to the fact that you might be used to more traditional phone services that tend to be more secure due to the fact that they tend to be more secure due to the nature of landlines. But since a call over a VoIP is going over the Internet, security is definitely an issue. This is especially the case if you’re using unsecured WiFi at a hotspot in a local coffee shop or other location that offers this for free. It’s also a good idea to use a virtual private network to rout the traffic through so that it’s more secure, especially one that has decent encryption. Windows 8 has a built-in function for this, though you’ll need to find a network to use.
Another common problem that often tends to leave small business owners behind is the problem of possible data leaks of sensitive information. If you entrust information to other parties, they can always leave out their business computer where it shouldn’t be, or otherwise be less than careful with it. One good solution for this is to allow Bring Your Own Device solutions, or BYOD. This means that you let employees use their own gadgets for accessing information, but you keep that information in a place that isn’t stored on the actual device. This is where you can solve the problem by using cloud storage options. That way, the information stays secure on your server, and your employees can access it when they need to do so. You can set it so they can only modify it internally, without actually take any information out, and you can have the sessions expire after a while so that if they lose the device, the information doesn’t end up in the hands who shouldn’t have access to it. Overall, it’s a good idea to try and watch out for these problems yourself rather than relying on an IT service to bail you out.
Another common issue that often flies underneath the radar of some business owners is the use of illegal software. If you just tell someone to get something like Microsoft Word for a variety of computers, they may end up with illegal versions if they aren’t being careful. There are a number of news stories every year that outline the fact that you can get in a lot of trouble for not having properly registered software.
Know in advance that this will not be a fair and balanced article. I have no special patience for the various arguments in favor of exploiting loopholes in the law. They exist, certainly. People will sometimes go to great lengths to justify that which they know to be unethical, but I can't quite bring myself to call it anything other than what it is. Unethical.
Sure, you can give yourself a pat on the back for being clever. You can, rightly, point out that since said loophole exists, you're not technically breaking the law, and of course, you are technically correct. But the reason that word appears in quotation marks, is because we all know what the intent of the law was. It's just an unfortunate, and all too human,oversight that allowed an imperfect law to be created.
I've even seen people trot out the argument that the way loopholes get closed is by people exploiting them. This draws attention to said loophole, which prompts further action. Thus, in a way, the justifiers say, their act of exploiting the loophole is a kind of public service. It's amazing, the things that people will tell themselves in order to feel better about actions they know to be unethical.
Excuses and faux justifications aside, at the end of the day, there are three reasons that such activities are a categorically bad call:
1) The people doing it know it's unethical
That's the reason for the justifications. If it was an ethical move, no justification would be needed, and the topic wouldn't even come up in conversation. For some reason, some people find it hard to simply do the right thing.
2) Public perception
Like it or not, your business needs customers to survive. Customers form "the public," and "the public" tends to take a dim view of those who try to skirt around the edges of the law. If I'm a competitor of yours, and it comes to light that this is what you're doing, I'm going to beat you to death with it. My marketing people will have a field day running over you. Sure, you might be able to pay yourself on the back for saving a little money in the short run, but when I walk away with 25% of your long term customers, ask yourself if it was worth it?
3) You're only hurting yourself
This can best be illustrated by an actual example from a few years ago. A manufacturing company had some waste by-product from their manufacturing process. A sludgy, nasty liquid that would have been expensive to store and ship off. Since there were no specific laws governing the disposal of this particular substance, the company owners took a shortcut and dumped it in the river that ran next to the factory.
The problem? The river was an important part of the town water supply. People started getting sick, including many people who worked at the plant. Insurance claims went up, absenteeism soared, and the plant struggled to remain profitable. In the end, Federal investigators were dispatched, existing regulations were edited to include the nasty substance, and the company never recovered. By trying to save a few bucks, they wound up losing money by making their own people sick, and completely alienated the community they relied on. It never ends well.