THE BLOG
02/25/2014 01:48 pm ET Updated Apr 26, 2014

The Perils of Inappropriate IT Today's Business Can't Afford

If you're not glued in to the crucial IT processes that underlie your business, you're leaving decisions that could mean the future of your company in the hands of someone else. Additionally that someone else is likely someone with little business knowledge and even less incentive to act in your best interests. While it's easy to hand over control to someone else and hope for the best, the old adage that says if you want something done right you should do it yourself really does ring true.

The Cost of a Bad Call

Some of the biggest business disasters in recent history have involved bad IT. In 1990, a mistake in a single line of code led to a complete network collapse for AT&T; in 2007, a software issue kept 17,000 planes grounded at the LA airport for eight hours, which resulted in a customer service nightmare. Most recently, President Obama's healthcare website launch was plagued by complaints of glitches and left tens of thousands of would-be applicants in "limbo."

While your business may not be dealing with the same volume as companies like AT&T, you should still be diligent about outlining your IT plan. Have you ever thought of how much money you may be losing if one unavoidable glitch or bug grinds your business to a halt for a single day? Think not just of the time spent by the IT folk who fix the issue, but also about the people who can't work because their computers are down, the utility bills for a lost day, and so on. If that glitch also brings your commerce to a stop, you can throw on the value of a lost day of orders. Add all of these costs together--including potential complaints from customers or a tarnished reputation--and you'll have a pretty good estimate of the real cost of a bad IT decision.

FOX Business News recommends having an IT plan in place before making any significant changes or improvements to your company; this includes having a plan before you launch your blog or website. If you've decided to work with an IT department, make sure to keep careful oversight. Suppose a virus were to break out and IT had to be dispatched to disinfect and restore your effected servers. Charging that cost straight to IT might seem simple enough, but what about the costs resulting from the downtime for everyone dependent on the infected servers? Very few businesses charge the cost of IT failure to an IT department, which can incentivize that department to cut corners if it means saving money.

The Cost of Failure

It is surprisingly common for businesses to utterly ignore the cost of failure while choosing IT solutions. From the perspective of human psychology, it's fairly easy to see why: people make decisions based on the belief that the decision they make will get them closer to something that they want. And while every decision has both positive and negative consequences, people don't usually dwell on the downside of any given decision unless that downside is both very obvious and absolutely devastating.

The bad news is that the same can be said to apply to how people make choices in IT. You face your IT problem armed with a list of wants and needs, and once that list has been satisfied, the decision is made. The good news is that it's easy to escape this trap by asking just one question: what happens if the solution I've selected fails? By answering this question, you can begin to understand if any given IT decision is appropriate for your business as you start to unveil the true risks of call.

Should Companies Be Integrating Services?

From a business perspective, one of the most important emerging trends in the software industry is the popularity of software protected by digital rights management (DRM.) This is particularly true for software that requires an Internet connection in order to register or install. While software developers utilize DRM largely in order to help mitigate the damage done by software piracy (which is an understandable decision from the perspective of software developers) the potential effects of DRM can be far more serious than that.

Anyone who invests in software protected by DRM is integrating the part of their business dependent on that software with a third party. This integration means if the software vendor goes out of business, gets bought up, or simply decides to discontinue support for the service, you could be out of luck. Although this doesn't mean avoid DRM solutions at all costs, it does mean you should be vividly aware that the decision to work with that kind of IT solution isn't nearly as casual as it seems. Even if there isn't a written contract between you and another organization, DRM means integrating your business with the fate of another.

The Inevitability of Data Backup

It is nothing short of alarming how many businesses don't have some kind of regular data backup plan. Data is an incredibly vulnerable resource that's constantly at risk of falling prey to countless variables. It could be from a manufacturer's defect in your hard drive or a virus that cripples your system, but sooner or later data that isn't backed up will be lost. Without regular backups it's easy to lose months of work in an instant and without warning--and you don't even have to contemplate the cost of a loss like that.

Doing Your Research Is The Only way

In addition to investing in an efficient and effective back up, you can do your part to prevent significant or costly data loss by staying up-to-date with IT news. Sites like Tech Page One or the business and technology sections of major news outlets often feature stories on the latest and greatest IT solutions.

The New Storage Is Flash Storage

Doing your backups on CD-R is a fair practice, but falls short of perfection on grounds of very limited storage space and high vulnerability to damage. CDs are also easy to lose, mislabel, steal, and accidentally destroy. The more obvious alternative is to back-up directly through the Internet with cloud storage, but this option falls short in regards to the security of your data. Cloud storage also involves a degree of integration with a third party, which can be dangerous for reasons previously covered.

However, what about a flash drive? Although flash drives aren't the most sophisticated iterations of flash technology, it may surprise you to learn they're very nearly a perfect option for data backup. It's unlikely anyone will advocate dropping your flash drive down a flight of stairs, but if you did, you could rest assured that it would survive the fall. Thanks to a design that includes no moving parts, it's far more difficult to destroy or damage data on a flash drive. This is also one of the reasons that flash storage is nearly 400 times faster than writing to a traditional disk.

Flash storage is also the go-to choice for green computing or indeed for anyone involved in an industry where energy consumption is a concern, since it requires about one fifth as much energy to power flash drives compared to mechanical ones. And the incredibly fast writing speeds make flash the go-to technology for anyone with an I/O intensive demand, like credit card processing.

To their detriment, it's worth mentioning that one reason flash drives haven't completely overcome alternatives is the fact that they're on average seven or eight times as expensive as traditional hard drives. And while this surely casts into question the worthiness of flash for standard consumer use, business use is another story entirely. In a world where one lost file can mean a death knell for your business, losing money investing in bad IT may be the least of your concerns compared to the chance that your data were to vanish overnight.