By Charles Edge of JAMF Software
The return of back to school reflects a new year of learning, but we also think it’s a great time to consider your small business’ IT best practices and as well as strategies you may be missing out on. Charles Edge, a small business IT expert and product manager of Bushel, provides an A-through-Z look at some of the top things SMBs need to know in order to make the most of their IT environments.
(Photo courtesy of JAMF Software)
APNs is Apple’s Push Notification services, used to provide configuration and device management. Other vendors have also included push technology, as it helps keep data up-to-date without crushing your battery.
Backup is one of the most important aspects of owning devices. These days, backup can be inexpensive and simple to manage, or complicated and running well into thousands of dollars. Luckily for small businesses there are tools like CrashPlan and Mozy to help.
Cloud solutions continue to level the playing field for small businesses. You can tap into massive productivity enhancers without having to invest considerable amounts of money. Cloud solutions range from Google Apps and Office 365, which are simple and low cost, and typically scale well.
Dashboards are a key aspect of running any business. Putting key metrics in a dashboard so you can quickly see what you need is vital to helping you manage your business.
Email – as soon as it’s unavailable, business seems to stop. People get angry and sales are lost. To prevent this, more and more businesses are moving email off of on-premise servers and to the cloud.
Filtering web traffic is a common task in a small business network. A proxy is used restrict sites that can load (filtering) or to make loading sites much faster. The beauty of a proxy is that it can cache a lot of software updates, making your network less congested when Microsoft and Apple release big patches.
G is for Google, a company that in many ways has changed the game for small business. For example, Google Apps is a great solution for email, groupware and replacing file servers. Google continues to rethink out everyday tasks (including IT) and make them easier to do.
H is for hacker. Too many small business owners don’t secure their assets, because they believe no hacker would care about their data. That logic is false, so taking security best practices seriously has never been more important!
iCloud is a service available to people with an Apple ID and is used to purchase apps, store content, synchronize passwords, backup iOS devices and setup a personal email account. An Apple ID is a must for an iOS deployment to be successful.
J is for jailbreaking. Don’t do it.
Keep it simple, stupid. If a consultant proposes a solution that seems too complicated, it’s because it is. If you don’t understand what a technology does, then it might not be right for you and it may event cost you more down the line.
L is for lock. If a mobile device is misplaced, you can lock that device with Mobile Device Management (MDM). If someone forgets or misplaces their PIN, MDM can reset the pin for them.
Mobile refers to smart phones, tablets, and in some companies, laptops. Mobility is possibly one of the largest areas of the IT industry today. And application development, MDM and security have become massive cottage industries today.
Networks connect your organization to the Internet. If all of your services are hosted in the cloud then your network might be as simple as a single router, wireless access point and switch. Or, if you have a lot of servers, you might have multiple networks within a single network.
Office 365 and Google Apps can be huge additions to many small business environments. For those with a server, it can mean saving a considerable amount of money. By obtaining Office licenses for your desktops, you can also help streamline licensing at your small businesses.
Passcode is how administrators put restrictions around what type of passwords can be used to unlock a device. For example, you can use an MDM solution to force a four character numeric pin code on an iOS device and an eight character password that uses special characters onto an OS X device.
QoS, or Quality of Service, allows use of the same Internet connection for a variety of services, assigning each a distinct priority on a network – an example is Voice Over IP (VoIP). QoS allows you to do more with the same network that you’ve always had, or increase it nominally to do more, if it’s already saturated.
Restrictions enable you to disable certain features of iOS and OS X. For example, an MDM solution or Apple Configurator can disable a device’s camera, the App Store or even Siri. Don’t restrict too much, or your users may revolt!
SAML is a web-based technology that provides single-sign on access to all of your web services. You can enter your username and password once, and federated web security links all of your other SaaS-based services together. So once you log into Google Apps, for example, you then have access to other services supporting SAML.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). How much does each asset cost you? These days, we have so many devices. And we don’t just look at what the productivity gains are for many of them. Instead, we often just look at the TCO. Knowing how much your devices are costing overall you should help guide future purchases.
User Experience. Tons of products today make previously complicated tasks easy and they all have one thing in common: a ridiculously keen approach to user experience. Some great examples are Xero great for accounting, Bushel for device management, SurveyMonkey for sending surveys, Mailchimp for mass emailing, ZenDesk for ticketing and Taleo for talent management.
VPN is a way to secure your network. You can use VPN to allow users to create a secure tunnel into your network without opening ports on the firewall that expose all of your network services to the Internet.
W is for wipe. Because if someone loses a device, you’ll definitely want to wipe its data and contents to ensure it doesn’t get into the wrong hands to compromise your businesses.
X is for 10, specifically OS X and Windows 10. Modern operating systems are upon us and you should update as soon as you can. Both Apple and Microsoft make it simple to upgrade to their new operating systems so this is a no-brainer.
YouTube. Your company may use YouTube to host how-to or training videos, for advertising and for countless other activities. Whatever it is, it’s important that you ensure all of your social properties can be accessed by IT, and work with their owners to help define a solid strategy with the input of IT.
Z is for ZigBee and Z-Wave – two wireless technologies that are most commonly used for home and office automation. While both are competing standards, ZigBee and Z-Ware signify that a single standard may soon emerge in the office automation space. Until then, know that even sub-$1,000 purchases could save your organization boatloads of money long term.
This article is written and provided by Charles Edge. Charles is a product manager at JAMF Software, where he leads Bushel, a mobile device management (MDM) solution designed for small organizations and users with limited IT experience. He holds nearly 20 years experience as a developer, administrator and CTO, and is passionate about helping every day users manage and make the most of their mobile devices.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the author.