managing IT staff cloud computingIn very small businesses, IT tasks are often managed by a person who lacks a technical background and training, such as an administrative employee or even the company’s owner. While these companies may save money on IT staff costs, they often lose out in terms of business productivity.

A new report by AMI-Partners estimates that 3.8 million small businesses worldwide lose a combined $24 billion per year by using these “involuntary IT managers,” or IITMs, according to an article on the Microsoft website. The report, commissioned by Microsoft, finds that employees who take on these IT responsibilities lose an average of six hours of business productivity per week, or roughly 300 hours per year.

Overall, relying on an ITTM “can have an adverse impact on small businesses’ productivity, which can negatively affect revenue and translates into a very high opportunity cost,” says Andy Bose, CEO of AMI-Partners.

One way to alleviate this problem, Bose suggests, is by using cloud services. Automatic backup and other “set-and-forget” cloud solutions can help very small businesses reduce the time they spend on IT problems.

Here are three helpful qualities to look for in a cloud service if your company has an involuntary IT manager.

  1. Installation service: If you’d rather start using that business tool or service right away instead of spending hours figuring it out, choose cloud providers that will set up and install their solutions for you. Even if you don’t see this service mentioned on the provider’s website, it can’t hurt to ask.
  2. Live customer support: Make sure you know what level of support a cloud service offers. To avoid wasting hours searching through support articles, IITMs need to be able to pick up the phone and talk with customer support.
  3. User-friendly functions: Choose cloud services that will provide IITMs with proactive alerts and easy-to-use interfaces. For example, if there’s a problem with your antivirus protection, will it proactively alert you? When it comes to automatic backup, can you easily log in to an online dashboard to make sure the data is current?

It’s certainly not easy for a nontechnical employee to handle the technology needs of a growing business, but cloud services with excellent customer support can significantly lighten the load.

We’d love to hear from any involuntary IT managers out there. What tips and advice do you have for other small businesses? Share your experiences and tips in the comments section below!

Source: Microsoft, April 2013