One of the things we constantly hear complaints about in Ireland, is the lack of country-wide, high speed and reliable broadband infrastructure. Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, even commented on the poor state of Ireland’s broadband infrastructure in the last couple of days and how it could affect economic growth. But while we are quick to criticise the country’s broadband, have you looked at your own in-house network lately and how ready is your network infrastructure to handle all the new wireless devices and associated volumes of traffic that are coming down the line in the next couple of years? I recently worked with two educational organisations who wanted to create wireless networks to support the many and growing number of wireless devices being used in the education sector. The first organisation have installed standard wireless access points which have to be managed separately and require each wireless device to be registered with each and every access point. There is no facility to segregate traffic for security of performance reasons. The second organisation have installed a much more comprehensive meshed wireless network that will allow devices to register with the network as a whole rather than with each access point individually.
Several times over the last few months we have been called in to businesses that were having major performance and communications issues. The Accounts/ERP Systems people were saying it was a Network Problem. The LAN/WAN people were saying it was a Citrix/Remote Access problem. The Citrix/Remote Access people said it was a Broadband/Bandwidth problem. The Broadband people said it was a CCTV Remote Viewing issue. I could go on, but the net result was the customer was left “Holding the Baby” and the problem was dragging on for weeks, causing huge disruption and making the IT Systems unusable for a large proportion of the working day. Because the company had no In-House IT resource or an Independent IT Professional who had no vested interest to call upon, the individual suppliers were able to quote technical terms at the customer and blame everyone else. After looking at the problem and talking to all the suppliers we were able to establish that the problem was caused by a number of issues; The Security company was inadvertently streaming CCTV from the customer site 24 Hours a day using large amounts of bandwidth. We were able to get them to only stream video based
Last Friday I attended the monthly Build your Business Network event which is held on the first Friday of every month by Gorey Chamber. Each attendee gets to highlight their business or service and meet like minded business people in North Wexford. At last Friday’s meeting Michael Doyle of Doyle Associates cave a very practical presentation on how small businesses can take practical steps to manage their money in these tough times. If you are in business in North Wexford or South Wicklow these events are worth attending.
With the snow and ice causing havoc all over the country, the conditions are putting pressure on businesses that are already hard pressed during the current recession. People cannot get to work and are sitting at home doing nothing. Somebody said that there was no point in trying to get in to work as none of the customers or businesses they deal with would be in either. But there are always many admin and management tasks to do, that you don’t normally have time for, If you could get to the office or If you could get access to your computer systems. Well you can very easily get remote access to your computer systems and indeed communicate with your work colleagues. The only thing you require is a Broadband Internet Connection. To access your computer systems you can either; Access your existing computer systems using a secure remote connection such as GoToMyPC. This is a hosted implementation of Citrix, which is a well established system used by many larger businesses to access their systems remotely and can cost as little as €12 per month. The second option is to consider using Software As A Service (SAAS) for your main systems.
With all this talk about floods and Disaster Recovery, it has only highlighted one of the key issues facing SME Businesses and that is where and and how securely is your companies data stored. Time and again we come across companies who are only backing up a small proportion of their data and that is not because they are not doing their daily backups, it is because they are unaware of where their data is being stored. Most small businesses do not have a full time IT person, instead the function is covered as a secondary part of somebodies job description or by their IT Provider who is usually only called when when there is a problem and doesn’t have time to look at the overall systems. As a result for most small businesses, their computer systems have evolved in a haphazard way rather than grown in a planned structured and documented way. This is not necessarily a problem when you are dealing with a small number of computers, small quantities of data and everything is going fine, however when something goes wrong or a computer breaks down then this can be a real issue. In a well structured small
I came across and advertisement today by eircom for their Online Software or Software as a Service. While I along with others may have issues with eircom’s monopoly position in the Irish Telecommunications Infrastructure Market, Software as a Service (SaaS) is something that SME Businesses should be evaluating. When your business is small and you are starting off in business it is very easy to keep track of all your communications with your clients and for that matter communications between employees, but as you grow and start to expand your business that’s not so easy any more. That’s when some things start to fall through the cracks and you don’t keep in contact with your customers quite so often. Studies have shown that the main reason customers stop doing business with you is that they perceive that you don’t care or don’t value their business. This is where a good CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) system comes in. A good CRM system will allow everyone in your organisation too maintain those contacts with your customers and not only retain customers but grow the business. Similarly in these recession times your employees can be spread much thinner on the ground and particularly