Sat, 26 Apr 2003

IT policy for small and medium businesses necessary

Vishu Mahmud Contributor Jakarta

When I was still an IT web consultant, people would always complain to me about computer problems. Their PCs would crash, applications would freeze up, e-mails would not go out, and internet connections would go down. They look at me (then a sales consultant for websites) to fix it all!

Computers have come a long way into the office world. Back in the "old" days, computers were too expensive except for Fortune 500 corporations. Everything was done on paper, filing cabinets and the post office. Now, an internet connection, e-mail account and perhaps Local Area Network (LAN) are the minimum requirements for running a business in this highly competitive world.

Small and medium enterprises are also getting into the act. These businesses that have 5 to 50 staff members also need to show they can continue to be a going concern without having their competitors take them to the cleaners. Client databases, financial data and payroll information are just some items that are now almost exclusively stored on computers.

However, businesses should not make the mistake of not planning for their IT investments. Downtime always means money. Those who choose the most inexpensive and poorly planned method of setting up their LANs and computers will eventually pay for it in the end. Computer crashes, system failures, viruses and other ills can now be minimized, if not avoided completely, should the company prepare adequately to invest in their future.

Here are a few tips to make sure your computer systems, and more importantly your data, are secured.

Make sure everyone logs in. This may be a strange thing to say but by making sure everyone logs in with their own user ID and password, you can ensure that only authorized personnel are accessing company data. Enforce a company rule to ensure passwords are keep confidential and changed periodically. Also, with the right software, system administrators could also track down what specific employees are doing on their computers. If someone is downloading client records en masse, it may be a good idea to find out why.

Get licensed. No joke. The copyright law in Indonesia will soon be implemented and all business must have licensed copies for their software. By purchasing legal software, you would not only eliminate the risk of legal liabilities, you would also obtain extra benefits such as product support or installation assistance. Contact your local software vender if they have flexible licensing plans or packages for small businesses.

Establish a company IT policy. Ever wonder why the e-mail server is so slow? It could be because the person next to you is mass mailing a funny 2-megabyte video file to the entire office. For an office of 50 people, it would mean that the e-mail is taking up 100 megabytes of server space, as well as consuming power to copy it! In addition, make sure that employees are restricted from installing their own software. All software installations should be done by systems administrators to make sure that nothing "illegal" is stored on a company PC. Hammer out an IT policy to ensure office facilities are used for office purposes.

Install an anti-virus program. Make sure you have the latest data files of virus signatures to allow the anti-virus programs to track down and eradicate the newest computer "malware". Always update the signature files and ensure the software is always running. Some popular anti virus software brands are McAfee VirusScan (, Symantec's Norton AntiVirus ( and Computer Associates eTrust EZ Antivirus ( You can download trial versions from their websites. You may never need them until a small virus takes out all your data.

Finally, hire a full time IT administrator. It will be their responsibility to make sure the servers are online, the internet connection active and the office data backed up. Or, if that is not an option, hire a professional consultant to evaluate the current IT infrastructure at the office and discuss recommendations. Make sure the documentation of the evaluation and recommendations are handy and appoint someone to ensure the systems run smoothly. It would be easier to troubleshoot once you have a map of the company's complete IT facilities.

These suggestions are just some of the basic features that must be considered for a business that has or is planning to install IT infrastructure. Information is now the main asset of companies; lose that and you may as well close up shop. Making sure the information is safe and readily accessed would help a business compete effectively against their rivals.

Whether it is a 3 computer network or a network of multi- tiered file servers, properly planning your IT facilities will ensure you don't have unpleasant surprises down the road. Luck always favors the prepared.