The Essential IT Management Manual for SMBs

The Essential IT Management Manual for SMBs

May 15, 2020

ManageEngine Product Consultant Monisha Ravi discusses how SMBs with tighter budgets and smaller teams, can keep up with the challenging and ever-changing IT landscape.

By Monisha Ravi

Enterprises adopt IT management as a strategy to help business functions, such as human resources and finance, run smoothly. These IT management strategies will vary across organisations, depending on their specific requirements. While large enterprises are typically able to manage their IT operations with a well-staffed department of trained professionals, small and medium-sized businesses can often only afford one or two professionals who are expected to manage all network operations alone.

Moreover, according to the Singapore Business Federation, only 31 percent of SMBs have increased the implementation of new technologies in their organisations. The challenge is further exacerbated by the growing talent gap that cuts across industries and sectors, as 60 percent report having challenges finding the right people. Given the complexity of IT networks, a small IT team is often under great pressure to deliver top-quality network performance.

SMBs with tighter budgets and smaller teams, may keep up with the challenging and ever-changing IT landscape by finding the right set of tools for IT management. Here are some tools that can help SMBs execute an effective IT management strategy.

Network performance

Network performance impacts SMB operations, so it is crucial to optimise it. Maintaining manual records of software and hardware can be taxing for IT staff. Additionally, when it comes to detecting security breaches and troubleshooting issues, IT staff may not know where to look for a virus’ entry point or for device and network faults without a proper network map and log data.

Network performance monitoring and diagnostic (NPMD) tools provide a detailed analysis of every IT element within the network, providing a bird’s eye view of the network. Some solutions even provide logs and user data in dashboards and charts. Select a vendor that provides a wide set of features to help reduce the tool sprawl that comes from investing in more tools than needed, and the chaos that can result from it.

Endpoint security and patching tools

The main source of revenue generation is also the source most vulnerable to attacks: your employees and their endpoints. While security training should be a regular part of employees’ work schedules, businesses must also proactively guard and secure all mobile devices, servers, desktops, laptops, and browsers used for business purposes. Enforcing strong configuration standards to avoid loss of corporate data is vital, especially with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

Mobile device management (MDM) safeguards endpoints and efficiently isolates personal and corporate data. This helps prevent data from falling into the wrong hands, in case of theft or a malware attack, by enabling companies to wipe, back up and restore data remotely from a central location.

An alternative to MDM is remote monitoring and management (RMM), in which a managed service provider (MSP) controls and secures all endpoints of a client’s IT infrastructure. Whether it is done internally using MDM or outsourced using RMM, SMBs need to secure all of its endpoints.

IT infrastructure performance analytics tools

Since pie charts and bar graphs depicting network performance only show static metrics that help on a basic level, they become too simple to provide insights as data grows more complex. IT analytics tools provide visualisations of captured data to highlight patterns and anomalies that are useful for business operations.

Many IT analytics tools provide dashboards showing a real-time overview of key metrics depicting the company’s IT’s performance. Automated analyses and reports of other IT performance parameters and assets help with making intelligent decisions as these tools can retrieve information from contextual integrations with other tools.

Help desk tools

As an SMB grows, so will new and recurring issues and service requests from employees. It is the help desk’s responsibility to ensure that employee requests are resolved quickly and efficiently.

Collecting responses for frequent requests can speed up/accelerate the process so that the team can allocate more time to more challenging issues.

Service desk request histories can also be logged and documented for future reference. If service-level agreements (SLAs) that detail the process for resolving incidents are well defined, employees will know what to expect. When the business’ service desk needs expand, consider contracting with an MSP to ensure that service management is covered.

Identity management tools

SMBs have many of the same compliance mandates as larger enterprises, and as the business evolves, employee access to internal information becomes more complex to ensure security and compliance with regulations such as PCI DSS and HIPAA.

Employees should not be allowed to access all IT resources without verified privileges defined by their roles. Users can be managed using identity and access management (IAM) tools.

These tools simplify user provisioning and help companies allocate the appropriate levels of privileged access so that unnecessary privileges are not accumulated.

Identity management processes can include incorporating single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and deploying a privileged access management (PAM) solution.

IT security tools

According to the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), almost 40 percent of cyber attacks in the country target SMBs, and many are ill prepared to defend against such attacks.

Businesses can start by ensuring that sensitive information access policies are stringent. IT teams should also enforce the use of strong passwords by employees, restrict access to files based on the roles of the employees, install firewalls, and analyse network traffic to respond quickly to breaches. Managing employees’ activities, logs, device configurations, patches, applications, and browsers can also help.

Establishing an effective IT management strategy can seem daunting for SMBs, but it is well worth the investment considering the threats all IT infrastructures face. The right IT management toolkit effectively secures the business’ IT infrastructure and can help save time and reduce costs over the long term.

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