The internet is a gift for small businesses: It lets them look as big as Walmart. But too many small businesses ignore tech safety and fail to keep software current.
There was a time when small-business people did not have to be geeky or tech savvy. How quaint.
Especially now, in this COVID-19 world, it is vital that anyone owning, running or working in a small business be as smart about technology as they are about business. That is sometimes easier said than done.
Here are the most common tech mistakes that small businesses make, and how to avoid them.
- Looking small
Of all the great things the internet has brought to small business – and the ability to sell anywhere, anytime is just for starters – maybe best of all is that there is no need to ever look small again. You may be small offline, but online you can look every bit as big as your biggest competitor. If your website and social presence aren’t top notch, you are leaving money on the table.
- Lack of security software
Of course you know that you are supposed to have computer security software in place to thwart hacking, phishing and other scams. And maybe you have some basic software. But protecting your business requires more than downloading some no-name, off-brand, free program.Your data, customer lists, passwords, contracts and other vital documents are the lifeblood of your business. So make sure to get proper security software. Also, put in place policies for how laptops are to be handled, how to secure mobile devices and how to properly download software updates.
- Not scheduling data backups
You know the drill by now: “Back up your data!” But do you? (Try losing two chapters of a book you are writing, said the dumb columnist, and you will.) So, whether you do it manually or use an online scheduled service, the key thing is that you back up, back up, back up!
- Relying on outdated tech
Would you use a phone on which you could not text? Or a dial-up modem? Of course not. Yet far too many small-business people think nothing of running their businesses using hardware and software that is out of date. Mistake, that.
- Never really learning the app
Most software is not unlike the brain: We tend to use only a small percentage of it. And that’s too bad, too. Tech companies make great tools designed specifically for small business. They test it, perfect it and add in tons of bells and whistles that can make your business life easier – if you just take the time to find and learn them.
- Not having a disaster plan
Unfortunately, yes, the worst-case scenario sometimes happens (see: virus, corona). And if you are not ready, that bad event can actually put you out of business faster than you can say flood, hurricane, earthquake, riot, fire, theft or pandemic.What would you do if you owned an ice cream shop and the power went out? Without a plan, your business would literally melt.
A good disaster preparedness plan might include a backup power system, as well as offline, off-site backups of critical documents; having computer security and backup systems; and having a phone and email tree ready.
- Falling for social media scams
Say your employee is on your Facebook page and sees a post that says, “Check out this cool video!” He clicks it and is asked to upgrade some software to be able to watch it. So he does. And your account may have just gotten hacked. Next thing you know, your page is posting miracle weight loss cures. Social media scams are growing exponentially because the bad guys go where the eyeballs are.
Beware and prepare.
Copyright 2020, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY