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How to Prepare Your Small Business's Technology for the Holiday Season

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The holiday season, with all of its frenetic energy, piles extra stress on business technology. From external challenges like increased traffic and ecommerce sales to internal challenges like heavy Internet use by employees, can spell disaster. But if entrepreneurs stay one step ahead of the rush, they may be able to avoid any major issues.

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While business owners always have to expect the unexpected, here are four things you can do to prepare your business technology for the holiday season.

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1. Tune-up your systems.

The busy holiday season is not the time to upgrade your programs, download new applications or try out new solutions. Just like you would take your car into the shop for a check-up before you head out on a long road trip, have your IT department do a routine evaluation to make sure everything is working properly and fix any potential problems before they cause you major stress. Save any major updates or system changes for January.

2. Give your website some love.

If you sell products or services online, make sure you are prepared for the uptick in traffic between Black Friday and Christmas Day, especially Cyber Monday. Online merchants can see up to a 200 percent increase in traffic over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and according to a recent NRF survey, this year will bring 5 percent more sales than the last.

Related: Best Practices for Employees to Protect the Company From Hackers

To prepare, check your bandwidth and reduce stress on your website by optimizing your website pages by shrinking image sizes and external Javascript. You can also test and eliminate bottlenecks by using the free Google Page Speed Insights tool to identify potential problem areas.

3. Beef up your cybersecurity.

Cyber criminals are aware of the increase in credit card information going through your systems during the holiday period. Unfortunately, hackers will do their best to find ways to infiltrate into your systems, causing havoc for you and potentially your customers. Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date, strengthen your passwords and remind your employees about Internet security policies.

4. Have a back-up plan.

Increased web traffic during the holiday season means your database will handle and store more information than at any other time of the year. According to a recent survey of small business IT professionals, 45 percent of respondents say their organization has experienced a data loss, costing an average of nearly $9,000 in recovery fees. Don't let this happen to you! The last thing you want is a system crash that effectively wipes out all of your new transactions and customer data. Make sure that you have a plan in place that allows you to back-up and restore your information with a minimal amount of downtime.

The holiday season has the potential to be a great time for your company. It can bring high volumes of traffic and sales, along with incredibly valuable customer data that can be used for marketing and product development for years to come. The trick to enjoying the benefits of the season without falling into the traps is to prepare ahead of time, get strong back-up systems in place, and keep things simple.

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