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How to survive your IT system in 2015

There are easy ways to streamline systems, cut costs and improve productivity in your office.

If you polled a thousand office workers in London, you’d invariably find similar IT frustrations: slow broadband and restrictive policies tend to be our biggest bugbears. And if you asked company boards, you’d be unsurprised to learn that incrementally rising IT costs, security issues and lack of visibility top their list of annoyances.
So do we just need to accept that IT is a necessary evil for a whole company – with it often feeling like more of a hindrance than a help? Absolutely not. Here are some tips to help businesses survive their IT systems in 2015.

INTELLIGENCE AND PERFORMANCE

You’d be hard-pressed to find a business that hasn’t been on a disaster video call, which is more jitter than chatter. The problem is that firms have no idea when and where their bandwidth is being used, so have no choice but to upgrade their whole communications package when performance suffers – more money, but essential so that employees can be productive.
But rather than just blindly spending, make 2015 the year that you get insight into what’s happening across your network. You may uncover a few surprises – namely bandwidth hoggers who are using the corporate connection to download or stream content, and times of day when systems are being synchronised, bringing down speeds for everyone.
Being able to identify issues means that you can fix them. This may mean blocking frivolous applications like Spotify and iPlayer. But you can ensure a consistent quality of service just by using what you already have more effectively.

SECURITY AND CONTROL

Another week, another host of security scare stories leads many businesses to implement very tight policies. Yet over-zealous security protocols make for unhappy workers, who often become the source of security breaches because they break the rules. This year, make having control your most important IT aim.
When it comes to social media, the key is to have visibility across the whole network – down to the IP address or SIM card – so that issues are identified and addressed quickly.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a blanket ban. For instance, back in 2012 a well-known law firm discovered that the majority of its new hires were spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. Upon further investigation, it found that the employees were using Facebook to ask old classmates for important information to aid their cases. It was helping them work faster, so the firm kept it. Other businesses have enabled workers to access social networks for a timed period during their breaks. This is a compromise, so workers follow the policy rather than surreptitiously checking their accounts throughout the day on their personal devices.
Another tactic is for businesses to consider moving to a private cloud environment, where only a specified client can operate. Private clouds used to be so expensive that only large enterprises could afford them. But as their cost falls, small businesses also have scope to get involved, giving them enhanced security, control and the ability to launch new innovative applications.

LOWERING THE COST

With enhanced IT performance for the same cost, businesses are already getting a better return on investment from their system. But there is scope to lower the cost even further.
If you are based in London and employ fewer than 249 people, you could be eligible to join the Government Broadband Connection Voucher Scheme, which covers the cost of changing telecom suppliers and getting super fast services, up to the sum of £3,000. It’s been reported that there has been limited uptake of this scheme, so it’s worth checking out. The current tranche closes on 31 March 2015.
Sasha Williamson is chief executive of Luminet.
Published in CityAM