As a business owner, keeping costs low is always a priority when setting up a new venture. However, once your business is established and turning a profit, it’s important to consider the long-term viability of your business and IT infrastructure planning is part of that. AWD work with many clients who used consumer grade products to start their business only to become stuck when the business grows and the IT infrastructure begins to fail. Once this happens, it’s often too late to avoid downtime, financial loss, and reputational damage as the IT network needs to be built from the ground up. Whilst consumer grade software might seem like a budget friendly, convenient way to run your business when you’re working from a home office, it cannot fulfil the requirements needed to successfully run even the smallest business. If your business still has consumer grade IT infrastructure, it’s crucial to begin the process of upgrading to the business level before your network begins to show the inevitable strains that come with using inferior infrastructure. This week, we look at why consumer grade IT products are totally unsuitable in a business environment.
Not built to last
Engineered obsolescence is a guarantee when you invest in any piece of consumer grade hardware. Put simply, consumers don’t really think strategically about the hardware they invest in and typically don’t keep any one piece for more than 18 months. Whilst constantly buying the latest technology might seem like a good idea, it tends to mean higher ongoing operating costs, a higher likelihood of hardware failure, a much shorter operational lifespan, and no upgradeable features. A business grade product, however, is designed in line with the five-year hardware infrastructure planning that is standard in organisational IT. Business grade hardware is designed to be upgraded as an organisation’s needs change and technology evolves over time, which means much lower operating costs.
Cannot handle the office environment
Designed to much less stringent specifications than business grade devices, consumer hardware can be temperamental and is certainly not built to withstand the rigours of the office environment including high data traffic and 24/7 operation.
Wrong kind of support (if there is any at all)
Although most consumer hardware comes with a warranty, such warranties generally do not cover business use. Support also tends to be minimal or non-existent and is more likely to result in a frustrating phone call with an overseas telemarketer than a fruitful one with a technical expert.
Inadequate security levels
Most consumer grade products only offer basic WPA2 encryption and generally can’t be integrated with other equipment, so manual implementation is required for each individual piece of hardware. Business grade products on the other hand are designed to simplify security management for administrators with streamlined deployment, and offer more secure encryption.
Not designed to deal with large data
Most consumers use cloud backup to store personal documents and don’t really require a lot of backup space or fast data transfer and retrieval times. Businesses, on the other hand, have substantially more complex data management requirements as their data assets tend to be in the terabyte, rather than megabyte size range. When it comes to substantially larger file sizes, most consumer grade products are unable to cope and some even impose bandwidth throttling for large file users. Conversely, business grade backup is specially designed to efficiently manage large file sizes.
When it comes to consumer facing backup, most products don’t disclose where the data is being held or under what conditions. Business grade backup solutions, however, prioritise helping their customers understand where their data assets are being stored and who has access. This is crucial for any industry with compliance regulations around data storage and is also an important part of any network security strategy.
No advanced controls or customisation features
Consumer products use tend to take a ‘one size fits all approach’ to cloud backup and this can be problematic for companies who need to conform with legal or industrial compliance issues. Business grade products, however, are tailored for organisation use and offer a series of advanced controls allowing companies to design their own cloud environment and exercise more control over it.
As with hardware support, consumer cloud backup products rarely offer much in the way of support and even less in the way of service guarantees. In a Forbes article, one professional using consumer grade backup found that after six months, just 500GB of the 2.5TB on their computer had been backed up by the service. On the other hand, any standard business grade cloud backup will have established service level agreements enshrined in the contract, ensuring both expert support and service guarantees.
Minimal onboarding capabilities
Most consumer grade Wi-Fi allows for one private SSID for guest use, whilst a business grade router goes way beyond this and will often facilitate the creation of several customised networks as well as multiple SSIDs. The ability to create virtual LANs (VLANs) allows companies to segment user access to streamline management.
No support or warranty
As with all the other consumer grade products, support and warranty tend to be an area of weakness, as most consumer warranties don’t cover operation in a commercial environment, and support tends to be slow, low quality, sometimes just peer-to-peer, and generally sourced overseas. For a critical business investment, you want a product that has both a comprehensive warranty that covers commercial use and fast, expert, and preferably local support services to ensure any issues can be managed in real time wherever possible.
Reliable and robust, business grade Wi-Fi is not only a constant working access point, but ensures performance consistency regardless of whether there are 10, 20, or 30 users online. Most business grade internet products guarantee at least 99.9% up time. By contrast, consumer grade Wi-Fi tends to have an up time of around 95% and fluctuate in both performance and speed when more users are online. Consistency is also not a key feature of consumer level products, as the need for constant uptime is not often needed in the consumer market. To quantify, a business grade internet product with 99.99% uptime will have around 53 minutes of downtime per year, whilst a consumer grade internet product will have around 18 and a half days of downtime per year.
No analytic insights
Consumer grade products tend to offer very little in the way of usage insights and this can be problematic as it means enterprises don’t have access to data to make properly informed, strategic decisions when it comes to future network infrastructure purchases.
Limited security capabilities
Consumer grade routers lack UTM gateways (unified threat management) which combine anti-spam, anti-virus, intrusion detection, threat blocking and content filtering features to provide an extra level of network protection.
No centralised management
Business grade security software is designed to make network management simple with a centralised console that protects not only the host system and its data but also client networks and their data assets, and enables remote access. Personal security software, by contrast, has fewer features, does not allow for remote management, and generally requires network enabled devices to be managed individually.
Consumer grade security software is generally designed with a focus on user friendliness, rather than comprehensive network protection. Business grade software is both more comprehensive and sophisticated as it is designed with a focus on data asset protection. However, business grade security software has a number of unique features which simplify deployment and management in a network setting, including the ability to protect multiple types of operating systems without additional software and remote management.
If you’re still not convinced
Think about why you are investing in your IT infrastructure in the first place
Good IT infrastructure should not only support and secure all your business activities, it should also boost both efficiency and productivity. Whilst consumer grade software might be able to provide the bare minimum in terms of network functionality and protection, it’s probably not a true business asset that adds value to your operations.
Look at the long-term running costs associated with consumer and business grade products
The upfront costs of consumer grade IT products compared with business grade are seductive, which deceives many business owners into thinking they are saving money by operating with fewer features and less protection. However, consumer products become extremely expensive when you consider the long term running costs, as they are designed for short term use and often can’t be upgraded or patched. Business grade products on the other hand are designed to evolve with both your business needs and emerging technologies. If you see your business running for at least the next five years, then business grade IT products are the more cost effective choice.
Consider your business goals
Although it is often overlooked, IT infrastructure plays a crucial role in the operation and ultimate success of your business. By investing in consumer grade products, you are putting your business reputation at risk, making it harder for your employees to do their job, and, ultimately, you are offering your customers a substandard service.
Want an expert opinion?
We asked three of AWD’s IT experts: What in your opinion is the biggest disadvantage for businesses using consumer grade instead of business grade IT products?
I’d say the three biggest disadvantages of investing in consumer grade software are:
-No prioritising: unlike with a business grade product which generally offers 24/7 support, it’s not uncommon for users of consumer grade products to wait 4+ hours for any kind of support.
– Not suitable for long-term use: consumer IT products are really made to be thrown away with inferior materials and constructions methods. Business grade products on the other hand have a 7+ year lifespan and are designed to last.
-Not enough features: consumer IT products almost never offer things like traffic visibility or prioritising capabilities, failover, 24/7 availability or data security
-Karnav Thakar, AWD Senior Network Technician
We often come across small businesses that use home grade equipment for business critical operations. Eg. firewall/router, server, application software, security
Some of the most common problems we have to fix include
- – Internet being down
- – Not being able to access critical applications
- – Not being able to access emails
Inferior products can cripple a business, create customer and employee frustration and possibly result in lost customers and deals.
Usually home grade products do not have the vendor support that you expect from business grade equipment and the sophistication required to run business related operations
– Steve Simeonidis, AWD Director and Ethical Hacking Expert
The features, benefits, capacities and capabilities of consumer grade hardware, products and services are inferior to business grade. From SME’s to large enterprises businesses have many facets that need to work concurrently and collaboratively to generate a specific outcome. The technological systems that automate and digitalize the activities and processes of each facet are no different.
– Adam Alcide, AWD IT Business Development Manager
If you think it’s time to upgrade your IT infrastructure, AWD’s network consultancy services can help you restructure to better suit your business needs. To learn more about our capabilities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 1300 855 651.