SMEs: Be alert to the risk of IT failures

SMEs are increasingly becoming truly digitised businesses.

More and more small businesses are taking advantage of technology to sell and market their products, to communicate with customers and to manage employees.

Investing in digital technology has been shown to have a positive impact on business success. Last year, research by Lloyd’s Bank found that the most digitally advanced SMEs have the most confidence in their own enterprise. These same organisations also rated themselves as out-performing their expectations.

However, with increased use of technology comes increased dependence on it. If you can’t access company databases and CRMs, or if your company website crashes, business can be seriously disrupted.

Yet, despite the very clear issues that stem from reliance on high-performing IT infrastructure, a considerable number of SMEs are not doing enough to keep IT systems safe and reliable.

Recent research by Paessler discovered that almost half of UK SMEs (42 per cent) are not using a network monitoring tool which could help them identify and prevent IT problems before they cause downtime.

Businesses not deploying this software will likely find themselves spending time fixing faults that could so easily have been avoided. Our research found that small businesses spend an average of 2.5 hours a week – more than one working day a month – solving common network issues, which represents a huge amount of wasted time and money.

Relative to the size of these businesses, this is very inefficient and counter-productive.

Don’t be a victim of your own success

A growth in staff inevitably results in a growing IT network, and increasing strain on IT systems – which is even more reason to keep a close eye on how your infrastructure is performing.

However, if a small business is expanding rapidly, its directors are much more likely to be thinking about cash flow, staffing, and marketing than IT monitoring.

Understandable though this is, neglecting your IT network can have serious repercussions for a business. Take the example of Soundcloud, the Swedish online audio distribution platform based in Germany, which experienced a database crash in May 2014 that saw the website go down for some hours, irritating thousands of users.

Similarly, when hundreds of taxi drivers protested against Uber last year, thousands of people went on the company website and app to see what the fuss was about. Uber’s systems buckled under the strain of sudden increased traffic.

Proactive monitoring

No start-up is immune from IT failure. However, with the use of a network monitoring tool, companies are able to spot weaknesses in a system and work out how to reduce its vulnerability.

IT system failure can lead to customers losing faith in your business. This would be fatal for a small business. However, with a network monitoring tool it will be able to pre-empt problems that can lead to downtime, and to resolve issues swiftly before employees, customers or clients are affected.

Regardless of the size of a company, it is clear that network monitoring can help protect your business from grinding to a halt, enabling you to maintain a productive and successful enterprise.

Dirk Paessler is CEO of Paessler, a network monitoring software developer based in Nuremberg, Germany.