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Having Competent IT Help Can Be a Lifesaver for Small Businesses

Clive Harrison of San Diego-based CentrexIT says he sees the phenomenon much too often: business leaders making their information technology choices based on price alone.

A decision maker will pick the low bidder to install their new technology gear … then end up paying a technician to come out and fix the botched job.

“Don’t go cheap on IT,” said Harrison. “It’s not about price. It’s about predictable outcomes.”

The San Diego Business Journal recently checked in with leaders at several IT services companies, asking for tips that small-business owners could use when building, operating and maintaining their information technology infrastructure.

Harrison says he sees systems getting more complicated. Ten years ago, a business owner could work on a server with little or no training. Now it’s too time-consuming or too difficult, said Harrison, who is vice president for business development at CentrexIT. The days of flying by the seat of one’s pants are over.

And companies expect 100 percent uptime, Harrison said.

Guaranteed Response Time

CentrexIT is in Kearny Mesa, and has 20 employees. CEO Dylan Natter and CIO Eric Rockwell are the owners. Harrison has a small stake. The business specializes in serving clients with 50-100 employees. Roughly half the clients are medical practices, so a CentrexIT specialty is electronic health records.

Companies that are not quite big enough to have an IT specialist on staff nevertheless want a contractor “on a short leash” who can give them a guaranteed response time, observed Martin Grunburg, a partner in C3 Networx. Vendors offer different degrees of service, he said, noting that one-person shops can get swamped with work easily.

As for tips: “Proper backup strategies. It can never be overstated,” Grunburg said. Business owners need to keep a backup copy of data physically off the premises, either by carrying a tape off site or transferring it via Internet.

An IT contractor can help with that. A contractor can also help small businesses with decisions such as which software patches are absolutely essential, and which are worth passing over.

These are also the days of BYOD, or bring your own device, when employees may want to tap into the office network with their personal smartphones and laptops. Having a policy on whether an employee can bring their own device into the company network is wise, said Grunburg.

C3 Networx has 14 employees, and has a government services division. It also serves several nonprofit organizations. Its office is in Kearny Mesa.

Cloud or On-site?

One question that business leaders need to consider is who should be the keeper of company data. So says Sean Ferrel, CEO of Managed Solution, which has offices in Kearny Mesa. A technology adviser can help a firm determine which data should properly be kept on premise and which can be stored in the cloud.

“Wherever your data resides, you need to ensure that your data will not be kept hostage for any reason,” Ferrel said.

“A trusted adviser designs the solution to best give you the flexibility to scale and change as your business grows,” he added.

Bhavin Mehta, owner of Carlsbad-based Fusion Factor Corp., recommends specific strategies when he talks about backing up data.

A proper data recovery plan includes onsite and offsite backup, Mehta said.

He recommends testing backups once a quarter by completing a restoration. Once a month is an even better schedule to do that, he said.

Image-based backup beats a file-by-file backup, he added, noting that files can be corrupted in the latter method.

A small-business owner wants a backup program that does something called “bare metal restore,” Mehta said. The bare metal restore is a less expensive alternative to a redundant server.

Also crucial for businesses is a good firewall to protect against hackers, a good antivirus system, and good spam-blocking software to halt spam going into the computer — or going out of it.

Checking computer security is a daily or weekly job, Mehta said.

Fusion Factor has 20 employees and two branch offices, in San Diego and Irvine. It serves businesses with 20-75 computers.

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