IT Audits and Assessments
Improving IT efficiency, reducing costs, strengthening security, and ensuring reliability are all goals you can aim for with IT audits and assessments. Moreover, they're not just about telling you what's wrong. They're designed to uncover ways to improve your company's IT strategy to get more done with less. This is especially useful for small and medium-sized businesses that may have smaller budgets.
What's Covered in IT Audits and Assessments
An IT audit is a check of your business' compliance with an external standard or set of industry regulations. An example would be an IT audit to determine whether your business complies with HIPAA around controlling access rights to medical records. Compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is another set of industry regulations that could be covered by an IT audit.
IT assessments, on the other hand, are evaluations done internally against a model which defines a set of best practices. An assessment is done to get a snapshot of what is currently going on in your organization to determine what you are doing well, and whether there are areas for improvement. An IT assessment can cover one or more of the following areas, including:
- Security - Understanding risks and vulnerabilities
- Data backups and recovery - Preparing your business in the event of a cyberattack or natural disaster
- Equipment - Evaluating computers, servers, networks, and more.
Each area covers different aspects of a comprehensive approach for drastically reducing IT equipment failures, improving overall efficiency, boosting IT security, and making IT costs much more predictable. When you look at all four areas, you can make the best possible choices for your business.
During assessments, business goals are also taken into consideration. This ensures that your IT strategy aligns with your goals so your business can stay competitive and grow.
No two audits or assessments are the same. Depending on the magnitude and complexity of the scope, it normally takes one to two weeks to complete. This ensures everything can be fully examined and a thorough analysis of your business is completed.
The Main Reasons for Doing Audits and Assessments
Performing IT audits and assessments periodically is a worthwhile investment that provides a number of benefits for your business.
To Improve IT Budget and Planning
It's not uncommon for IT spending to get out of control. Plus, figuring out how to budget when costly, unexpected system issues keep coming up can seem impossible. Performing regular IT spending audits can help take the guesswork out of the equation by laying out exactly what you're spending and why. You'll also discover ways to make costs more predictable, reduce hardware failures, and learn what services to use to improve your business, working within your defined budget.
Evaluate Existing Technology Stack
It's all too common for small businesses to opt for the same technology stack as much larger businesses. They may invest in servers, on-site backup technology, high-end devices for every employee, and individual software installations on each device.
This is costly and time-consuming to manage if you don't have a full-time IT team. During an audit and assessment, your existing technology stack is evaluated to determine if it's helping or hindering your business.
Reducing on-site hardware needs, upgrading outdated technology, and reducing daily IT maintenance create a more efficient and productive business overall. It's all about choosing the right technology for your company's needs. Having a second set of eyes with the right expertise helps your business do just that.
Prepare for a Regulatory Audit
Depending on your industry, your technology may need to meet certain minimum requirements, especially in terms of data security and storage. If even one thing is wrong, your business could face hefty fines.
IT audits can look at regulatory compliance requirements specific to your business. If you have a regulatory audit coming up, it's a good idea to schedule an IT audit beforehand to ensure your business is following all regulations so that you can remain in good standing.
Evaluate IT Personnel
Small and medium-sized businesses usually have small IT teams of only a few people. IT assessments help evaluate IT personnel to determine their exact technical skills and capabilities and compare them against your business's actual needs. If there are any skill gaps, you'll receive recommendations on what your company should do next.
Often, a good solution is engaging with managed IT services to provide additional support when you need it, including on large IT projects.
Uncover Data Security Risks
Data security vulnerabilities are open doors for hackers. Everything from a simple server mis-configuration to outdated operating systems leaves your company's devices and network vulnerable. Losing access to your data or having it sold to cyber criminals can ruin your business financially and destroy your company's reputation.
Performing regular IT audits and assessments is part of a proactive approach to drastically reducing data security risks. Preventive measures like this save you from the massive expenditures of time and money that would be required to recover from a security incident.
Improve IT Availability
Security vulnerabilities, network issues, outdated software, older technology, and using the wrong services can all impact IT availability. Any downtime hurts your business's bottom line. Plus, it's frustrating for both employees and customers. By performing a thorough investigation to identify the sources of intermittent downtime, you'll be able to make the appropriate changes to improve overall IT availability.
Reduce IT Costs
IT audits and assessments can reveal areas where you can cut back, or even upgrade to make your business more efficient. This can help you save money. You'll also receive recommendations on more efficient IT models, such as using cloud-based storage or managed IT services for more predictable monthly costs. Also, simplifying your IT to work better with your business makes it easier for your IT team to manage. Managed IT services can also be recruited to add support.
Common Issues Discovered and Reported
While every business won't have the same types or number of issues, it's common to find the following issues in the course of performing IT audits and assessments:
- Network mis-configuration
- This can lead to network performance issues along with making your network less secure and more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
- Opportunities for improved technical efficiencies and/or redundancies
- Uncover more efficient technical processes, hardware, and software.
- Data security areas for improvement
- All existing data security solutions are analyzed, such as firewalls, anti-virus, encryption, two-factor authentication, and more. You'll also receive recommendations on any weak points that increase your risks.
- Backup solution issues
- When the current backup solution is analyzed, it may not have a redundant system that has data both in the cloud (or off-site) along with local storage, such as on users' computers.
- Regulatory compliance issues
- Technology checks for compliance to industry standards such as HIPAA, CCPA and PCI-DSS often turn up gaps.
- You can receive a full report on what's wrong, along with how to fix it.
"You can't fix what you don't know". IT audits and assessments give your business an opportunity to improve your IT strategy by uncovering areas needing improvement. The result of identifying and correcting weak points and deficiencies is increased efficiency and productivity. Often, you can also enjoy the added bonus of significant cost savings.
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