An IT assessment conjures different images for different people. Some business owners see dollar signs and no real benefit to themselves or their companies. Others picture a great exercise, but can't quite see how to fit an assessment into an already full schedule. A few may simply wonder what is an IT assessment? Let's start at the beginning to answer a few simple questions about IT assessments and how the practice may benefit the small business owner.
What is an IT assessment? Think of an IT assessment as a snapshot in time. In the simplest terms, it is an evaluation of the status, effectiveness, reliability and security of the IT systems in your company at a given moment. A thorough assessment includes a review of the entire computer network, cloud functions, security, backup, disaster recovery, usage and all internal policies.
Why an assessment? IT is one of the easiest business functions for the small business owner to overlook. It's all good, when it's good. When it's bad, it's usually horrible. It's easy to slip into bad IT habits. An assessment allows you to get a comprehensive look at your entire IT picture. It offers you the information needed to make necessary adjustments, upgrade and possibly catch security flaws (like sharing one password to the admin computer with the entire staff. Come on, you know you've done it.)
What else? An IT assessment empowers you to strategize your company's IT. It's a dedicated time to decide how much technology, when you need that technology and how much you are willing to spend on it. As assessment is a great way to catch overspending, duplication of services and outdated policies.
Do I have to hire an IT company? No. If you have some IT background, you can walk yourself through a review process of the basic system and practices you have in place (but have someone you trust review your assessment to minimize bias). If you are not an IT person, you may consider hiring someone to help you. Look for a company or person with a dedicated small business background.
We have a relationship with an IT firm. Should they do the assessment? There are a few things to consider. A strong IT management firm should review your network and your practices with you on at least a bi-yearly, if not quarterly basis. They should also work with you on strategy and budgeting. Asking for a full assessment from the current firm is fine if you are confident in their services. If you do have concerns about your IT firm, considering hiring an outside firm to conduct the assessment.
How are assessments priced? Prices do vary depending on the size of your network, the scope of work requested and the firm you are using. That said, look for a company who is willing to offer a fixed fee. Assessments take some time and an hourly rate may balloon costs. Ask for a list of deliverables before you agree to the assessment so that you understand the full scope of work.
What do I do with the assessment once it's complete? Review each point and recommendation. If the suggestions have merit, create a plan with your IT provider to implement the changes in a cost-effective manner. Backup and security concerns should always be addressed as quickly as possible.