A question of IT Support

  SDJ 02:36 24 Jan 2006

I have just finished up with a research project into IT failures and contingency plans. One area that came back with mixed results was that of IT support in small businesses.

I wonder if the good people of this forum would share their experiences in this. My main questions are how many businesses of 50 employees or less have a designated IT employee or have a formal contract with a support company or both?

my research showed that many professional businesses failed to utilize such a hierarchy and in some cases relied on staff, many of those where employed for other means.

I would be grateful for any comments on this.

  silverous 08:51 24 Jan 2006

..I think you will need to categorise companies more than just '50 employees or less'.

We have only 40 employees yet being a company in the financial sector, with systems classified as 'complex' by our auditors, we necessitate an IT Support infrastructure and by being regulated are expected (and see the need for) extensive Disaster Recovery/Business Continity plans which are regularly tested.

I suggest that you add to your criteria: i) Complexity of systems required and ii) Regulatory Status

I'm not suggesting people only have contingency plans if they are regulated but it certainly encourages people to if the FSA are asking to see it, you could read the 2nd criteria another way as companies who need contingency plans perhaps more than others because their business relies on their systems. A small plumbing firm might be able to start up the next day after a disaster with no IT systems. A small Stockbroker might well not.

  wiz-king 12:36 24 Jan 2006

I work for a small business of about 50 employees and we have a complex network that covers two main sites about twenty miles apart and also several persons who work from home. We have a outside company for network support and as we use specialist software we have the support for that arranged with the supplier, all the PCs and servers have manufactures next day support.
We lasted several years with only software support and hardware was fixed by me but the new network is beyond my computer skills! We have a network with two servers -one on each site- so that if one fails the other takes over, all work is backed up to a another hard drive every four hours and to tape off site once a day.The software supplier also has a copy of our data-base that is kept upto date once a day.
Being on two sites has forced us to have a duplicate system, even before computers we used to transfer info by fax and a daily van trip with paperwork!

  spuds 14:03 24 Jan 2006

Depending on the company and its products, I would agree with your findings, that reliance of local available staff is still much the normal way. A friend of mine owns a company that employs 48 staff with use of 19 computers for design work.Most of his requirements of setting-up and maintenance, are undertaken by himself and a couple of lads from the shop floor.

He did bring in a consutancy firm last year, but due to expense and wrong information, he returned back to the old methods.

  SDJ 23:30 24 Jan 2006

Some very good points and some familiar ones too!
The research was specifically for businesses with 50 employees or less (a requirement).

I am interested in the FSA regs, something that was not covered by my research.

Thanks all.

  SDJ 23:45 24 Jan 2006

One of the firms surveyed was an Accountants, they failed to mention any regulations imposed by the FSA. Could you possible point me in the direction of some information on said regulations?


  De Marcus™ 23:48 24 Jan 2006
  Sir Radfordin 23:49 24 Jan 2006

I have done some ad-hoc work for some small businesses (2/3 people) mostly in the automotive trade. The logic of these people has nearly always been if it doesn't make me money I won't spend money on it. It is very hard for them to spend a couple of hundred pounds getting very good backup systems in place when they have never seen the need for it, or think they will benefit from it. The nature of these businesses has been that stock is nearly always bought using a bank loan and so there isn't money for anything else.

The other issue that has faced small companies I've worked with is that they've got so far using an ad-hoc system/network but the next step will cost significantly more and it is very hard to justify in their minds the cost/benefits.

No doubt (in my mind at least!) one reason why people don't put a formal agreement in place for IT Support is because they don't know enough to make a good decision or know where to get independent advice. In the same way you or I have to decide which plumber/mechanic/builder to use a small business has to do the same for it's IT support.

I guess there are a signifcant number of small businesses run by people who aren't of the 'IT generation' and so don't even think about the risks that go with not having backups etc. There needs to be a whole change in culture and perception before that one will be addressed.

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