As an outside IT consultant to small business, I am frequently tasked with balancing user needs, security and very reasonable budgets to resolve problems or handle growth. Sometimes the answer to the problem can’t be handled easily or inexpensively, but there are other times when moving some IT tasks to a DIY solution is a good compromise. Rather than spending a boatload of money to purchase and configure an in-house solution, which usually requires on-going attention, sometimes it makes more sense to use a wheel already invented! One big problem with this approach is you want to make sure it solves your issues with a good product, something that has some kind of track record behind it….a known entity. The last thing I want to do is create a problem where none existed before. So, that is the rub: finding good, stable DIY products that meet the needs of growing clients, while making sure to choose things will solve the problem, be user and security friendly, and not cost an arm and a leg to the client.
What is this DIY IT you speak of?
In geek speak, when I say “DIY IT” I’m really just talking about using widely available cloud services to let small businesses have some of the same resources that big businesses use, scaled down, at an easy to digest price point. Usually the price is low(ish) and the office doesn’t have to deal with problems that come with having your own hardware or software. You can buy according to what you need, by the gigabyte or the user depending on the service. (Heck, some are even free if you’re really small.) Being able able to buy this way allows a much smaller office to scale their needs with their growth. Make no mistake, there almost always comes a time when an office experiencing growth will need to make the transition to bring some of these things in-house, but during the transition DIY IT is an excellent way to go.
When should I use DIY IT?
The answer to this varies for every company and depends on many factors. In general terms I can tell you this: when something isn’t working for your users, it’s time to start looking at proven services to ease your pains.
For instance, before working anywhere but at the office became so widespread (am I showing my age??) it was pretty easy for an office to share documents-either by using a workstation that was underutilized or putting in a small server. Heck, waayyy back a long time ago we even carried docs back and forth on a small square disk…..I know I just lost the kids. These days though, a setup like that might not be enough for a remote worker, or, even someone who just likes to catch up on those spreadsheets at home. While having a server could make remote working possible, there are many reasons why this might not be a good solution for a small office. Giving outside access to inside information brings a whole new set of problems with it.(As an aside, it definitely isn’t “set it and forget it” and please for the love of everything, don’t treat it like it is. But, that is a post for another day.) Many of my clients have regulations that dictate what must happen if they are even connected to the Internet, let alone if they want to open up some part of the inside to the outside. Enter Dropbox! Dropbox provides a safe, secure way to save work documents to the cloud, access them at home to make changes and then open them up, changes intact, back at the office.
Now this isn’t an advertisement for Dropbox, they are just a very well known example. Slack for integrated communication, hosted Exchange email for management and sharing, GitHub for code versioning and forking-all excellent examples of tried and true DIY IT solutions that might be helpful to your small business woes.
How do I know what DIY solutions are trustworthy to solve my IT issues?
Well an excellent IT provider will be familiar with many things that are out there and should have the knowledge to implement these ideas for you, but I’m not going to sugar-coat it: there are waaayyy too many good (and bad) solutions out there for anyone to know all of them. When I am looking for the right answer to a problem, I often find that my clients are an excellent avenue to find new resources for good DIY IT solutions. I find that folks will hear about or accidentally stumble across something and put it on their home machine. Next thing I know, they’re calling me to get it spread company wide! If it’s something I am not familiar with, I do my due diligence, then let them know if I think it’s a good or bad solution. If I run across something that is even better, I suggest trying that as an alternative. Then the next time I have a client with the same or similar issue, I can confidently suggest this or that DIY IT solution as tried and true as I’ve been using it with a client for x amount of time.
If business is growing and you’re feeling the pains, you might benefit from some smart DIY IT. It’s very important to remember, even these solutions come with some amount of risk. When proper security is already sorely lacking at many small businesses, the last thing you want to do is make it worse. It’s very important to have a trusted IT partner to advise you when making these decisions and to make sure that your small business is implementing these services, not only to the fullest, but with your security in mind. Let us help you!