In this week’s interview on the go Joanne Gill talks to Adrian Inman, managing director of Leeds-based aFinite, which provides business IT support to a wide range of private and public-sector clients and is celebrating its 15th year in operation this month.
Where did the name aFinite come from?
I was looking for something Latin in origin, I started with the theme of infinity, never ending and forever. I initially considered “ad nauseum” intended to mean as much as you can bear, but it doesn’t sound particularly pleasant so we discounted it. It is linked with ad infinitum which has none of the connotations of nausea, but still didn’t feel right. From there we expanded and came up with a combination of affinity and infinity mixed together to get aFinite, which also happens to start with my initials, so it worked. I did consider Possum, meaning “I can” / I am able, in Latin but thought people would think of an Australian marsupial, not quite the image we were after.
What do you consider to be the biggest IT threat for any SME?
The biggest threat we see is people’s complacency. In many organisations, responsibility for IT is often added onto another role in a smaller company and the person responsible for it, who might also be the accountant for example, doesn’t have any real background in the area and often freely states that they don’t know what they are doing. This then ultimately stores up problems for the future. Too many businesses view IT as a cost that must be controlled and minimised, but you have the real cost when you have a problem or through lost productivity because companies are muddling through completing repetitive manual tasks, or using systems which do not suit them and have had no customisation or integration.
There are also some pretty unpleasant people out there who will go to great lengths to intercept payments. We had an experience where a fraudster had registered a domain name that was very similar to their target, they’d set up a bank account and perfectly replicated the invoice a consultant sent to a business, but with a notice of change in bank details. This looked entirely authentic save for the two transposed characters in the domain name used to send the email. The business started paying the money into the new account and it took three weeks – and tens of thousands of pounds lost – before the consultant noticed he wasn’t being paid and took the matter up. In this case, it was the consultant whose identity was impersonated and his systems which were compromised leading to the company losing money.
If you were setting up a business today what would your IT infrastructure look like?
It would depend on what kind of business; the main thing is to understand the scale in the first twelve months and make sure you’re not doing anything you’ll have to pay to undo in the future. And it is certainly the case that buying cheap in the short term can really cost in the future. While this is usually a financial cost, there is always a disruption to operations when replacing or even reimplementing key systems in a business, which are there as a result of spending a fraction of what was necessary at the outset.
I’ve come across clients who’ve used passwords to protect documents on shared drives that are for the management team only – then someone leaves, people don’t have the passwords and the information is lost. Worse still, the one person using the document goes on holiday and forgets it and then they ask us to break into the file which, with modern security is often a lost cause. It’s a lot easier to set up different access levels on a shared drive and it reduces the reliance on people, which is where most things go wrong.
Overall, I’d find someone who is good at what they do and take their recommendations – just like you would with any other professional service which is key to running your business, like a lawyer or an accountant.
Café Nero, Waitrose, or Starbucks coffee?
Much as I like the smell, unfortunately I don’t drink coffee, so it’s a Starbucks hot chocolate for me.