Doing some IT support for a firm earlier this year, I was amazed by how old a few of their systems were. I first went in to fix up a printer that would not play ball with the system that it was meant to be fixed to. I managed to get it working via a back door route, but the essential issue was that the software they were using was really outdated and was struggling to cope with something that was far more modern.
I was called back a few days later when the company owner’s machine crashed quite considerably. It took an age to fix, eventually needing a total rebuild but we got there in the end and I realised that the situation is not atypical. Aside from their accounting programs, they had no IT support at all which left them exposed and meant that their IT systems had fallen further and further out of date. And this isn’t unusual with smaller firms in the Black Country that are so focused on their primary function that the support work was taken for granted.
This in itself is not an issue, you do not have to have the most modern systems, upgrading and renewing every six to twelve or even every couple of years, but operating systems and essential software should be checked for upgraded every three years at the most. Because some suppliers, partners and customers, especially the bigger ones, will upgrade and as a matter of everyday business they will send and receive files and data and eventually, these files will not be usable as the formats will be amended. For instance, somebody working with Microsoft Office from the mid to late 90’s (and plenty are in my experience) will not cope with a file sent from Office 2010 and when it does, everything to do with that partner and data will be frozen. What if it’s an invoice or a big order? That could be very expensive.
The same can be said of SEO for companies who put their trade online with an expensive and well constructed website, which looks great, works perfectly and is scarcely visited by people looking to do business that could be going to that company. Let us say a Black Country steel firm is in need of a new lathe and would like to get one from a company close by the vicinity, but are unable to find a lathe manufacturer on the web as all their online searches list businesses who are better optimised. Our lathe manufacturer may not even be lodged with the search engines in which case the best search in the world is not going to find them and they might as well not keep a website at all. It could be they know about SEO which, I will confess, has a poor public image sometimes, and they regard it as an untrusted cost. But proper SEO does work, is worth the money and how hard is not getting that lathe order?
Small firms have to focus on their core business, of course they do. But they need to be kept up to date with their back office systems which means good IT support, SEO as well as the more obvious such as anti virus software. To let them slip behind too far will one day make the feared expense a self-fulfilling prophecy instead of an aid to profitability.
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