The pandemic forced dramatic changes on businesses of all sizes. Large businesses found themselves adopting remote work out of pure necessity. The over 32 million small businesses in the U.S., ones that often shunned the Internet and IT, found themselves suddenly dependent on IT and the Internet for survival.
The abrupt need for IT and the Internet meant that many business owners rushed the adoption of the technologies. It was often less about what would work best and was all about what would work right now.
That makes an IT audit of your equipment and other IT essentials more important than ever. Not sure what you should look for in an IT audit? Keep reading for a breakdown of the key areas.
One major area of concern is the IT systems and applications that your business uses. For this, the audit goes through things like the operating system on your computers and servers to ensure that they are all updated.
The audit also looks at specific applications to ensure that they are all updated, as well as looking at how well they integrate with other systems and applications.
For example, does information about leads from the marketing department’s management software flow smoothly into the sales department’s system for follow-up?
Does sales information from your POS system flow smoothly into your bookkeeping and accounting software for record-keeping?
Identifying places where systems and applications don’t work well together puts you in a position to implement fixes or replace software that doesn’t meet your needs well.
This audit should encompass your networking software as well.
Many businesses deal with sensitive or legally protected information. Even small retail businesses may have customer addresses and even credit card information stored in a database somewhere. You are essentially required by law to put adequate protection in place to secure that information.
Medical, legal, and financial businesses have even more regulations regarding how they treat, store, transmit, and share patient or client information.
Your audit should cover information processes to ensure that you meet any basic or specific regulations, laws, or IT-specific standards.
If your information processes don’t provide adequate security around customer, patient, or client information, you must resolve that problem as fast as you can.
Systems development is an area that doesn’t apply to every business but could apply to any business. A lot of businesses have an in-house IT department that might develop custom solutions for a business’s needs.
When you create custom solutions, it’s very important that those solutions meet all the appropriate standards. For example, does the system have appropriate security measures in place to avoid easy hacking?
Beyond that, can the solution integrate seamlessly with all the other systems that will intersect with it? For example, a customer app might sound simple on the surface, but it may need to integrate with everything from a third-party payment gateway to an in-house database and your inventory control system.
Ensuring that the app can do all that without compromising any existing policies is very important.
Your audit cannot overlook your IT hardware infrastructure, which is a lot more complex than you might think on the surface.
One obvious point of hardware concern is your computers, such as desktop computers, tablets, and servers.
The audit should evaluate how well that computer hardware serves your current and projected needs. It should also evaluate how long until you should reasonably replace that hardware to ensure continued smooth operations.
Of course, your hardware infrastructure doesn’t begin and end with computers. It also encompasses things like your network infrastructure. That includes:
The audit should look at the current age and condition of that hardware. It should also check the configuration of the hardware. Poorly configured network hardware can slow your in-house network substantially.
Many small businesses now use VoIP services in tandem with or in lieu of traditional phone services. If your business uses this approach, you’ll want a thorough review of any on-site hardware to ensure it’s working at peak efficiency.
Depending on your specific industry, you may use other industry-specific IT hardware that you’ll want to review.
Infrastructure management encompasses a lot of ground. At a general level, it refers to the policies and procedures you use to govern both the hardware and software sides of your IT systems.
For example, do you have a policy about bring-your-own-devices to work? If employees can connect their personal devices to your network, do they need a specific security package installed first?
How often do you replace specific pieces of hardware? Under what conditions will you replace hardware early?
You should review these policies during the audit.
In theory, a cybersecurity review should happen as part of the reviews for the other parts of your overall IT infrastructure. Given how many businesses find themselves dealing with data breaches and similar cybersecurity failures, it makes sense to take a separate look at your cybersecurity systems and policies.
While business continuity isn’t normally part of an IT audit, it makes a lot of sense to include it as part of the process. A lot of your business continuity planning will depend on your IT processes and IT disaster planning, such as:
- Data backups
- Emergency hardware replacement plan
- Cloud implementation of software
Reviewing at least the IT-specific elements of your business continuity plan during your IT audit is a practical step.
Your IT Audit
Conducting a thorough IT audit for your business is often a much more involved process than many business owners expect. It stretches from the hardware on your desks to the applications that hardware runs all the way through to software development projects and governing policies.
Many businesses find it practical to divide the process into area-specific audits. This gives your IT department staff some breathing room. It also gives you time to fix one set of problems before facing the next.
Looking for more IT tips and advice? Check out our technology section for more posts.