Seven Lessons That SMBs Can Learn from Big IT

Tips for running ypur business like the big guys...

Just because you don't have a large enterprise doesn't mean you can't run your IT operation like the big guys. Here are seven ways to help your SMB--a small or medium-size business--implement some of the lessons big IT operations have learned over the years. Using these tips, you should be able to improve productivity, cut costs, and keep your business running smoothly.

1. Standardize on Desktops and Mobile Phones to Reduce Support Differences

This is not as easy as it sounds, because even if you buy multiple quantities of the same exact model of PC, the systems could still have subtle internal differences that can come back to haunt you when you have to fix them. Carey Holzman, an independent reseller, ran into this problem. His company ordered a particular model of computer that contained specific parts meeting the corporation's strict requirements. Yet when he received the PCs, he found that the systems contained two revisions of the ATI video card, one of which caused an incompatibility with the mice the company used.

And unfortunately for Holzman, the PC vendor was of little help. "The vendor refused to acknowledge any responsibility for the video card incompatibility. We started ordering the computers without video cards after that--until the next problem cropped up, and eventually, [we] switched vendors entirely," he says.

To keep incompatibilities to a minimum, you should try to stock hard drives from the same vendor, and to standardize on the same model of peripherals such as printers, mice, and keyboards, too. You can also make use of Windows Inspection Toolkit or similar utilities to keep track of the specific configuration of your systems. Finally, use drive imaging software such as Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost to make copies of your basic system installation, so that it can be recovered easily in case of virus infections or other problems.

Many IT shops also buy spare PCs and use them for replacements. "The problem is that you are tempted to use it as new workstation, instead of as a replacement, and then you no longer have a spare," says Holzman. "You need to put it in the closet and use it only to help you through temporary IT emergencies." Besides keeping several spare PCs, it's also a good idea stock a spare laser printer and network hub in case yours go south.

Holzman also recommends retainer support contracts with a local technician, so you won't have to scrutinize the invoices trying to interpret the work that was done and whether the tech was being fair and honest.

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