A Few Questions, Please

Is your computer managed or owned by your dealership management system (DMS) provider or is it yours? Is it secure from unwanted intrusions? Are you comfortable with your dealership network environment? How effective is its usage? No, I am not referring to your DMS network. I mean your own computer network, servers and all. Servers? Network? I just want to sell cars, you say. Well, we all know it's

Is your computer managed or owned by your dealership management system (DMS) provider or is it yours? Is it secure from unwanted intrusions? Are you comfortable with your dealership network environment?

How effective is its usage? No, I am not referring to your DMS network. I mean your own computer network, servers and all.

Servers? Network? “I just want to sell cars,” you say. Well, we all know it's not that simple anymore (or was it ever?).

Establishing and utilizing your own network (again we are not talking about your DMS here) is one of the most under-utilized functions we see in dealerships.

Let me give you an example.

How often do you visit with your department managers on service and parts receivable balances? How is this information communicated to them? The most common response is that it is done weekly and an aged accounts-receivable report is printed and shared with department managers. Then the report is analyzed during the weekly Monday morning managers meeting.

But how often is this report updated during the next business days until you meet again the next Monday? Is it up to date all week? Most likely, it is already out of date minutes after it's printed.

But what if someone were to e-mail that report instead of printing it, and send it daily to your appropriate personnel with very little effort? Your collection efforts would be easier to manage and more effective.

How would you feel if you could access your computer from almost anywhere in the world? Would you feel better if you could, at any time and anywhere, connect to the dealership network and review performance reports and send them to the managers at the store along with your comments?

Now you might ask: “How do I access this server to get to the information sitting there?” How can the dealer and other employees access it from outside the building? What is the speed of retrieving and accessing this data remotely?

How secure is this information? Can I restrict who gets access to the information? How can I protect against unwanted visitors? What protection do I have currently against viruses, Trojan horses, worms and all that other nasty stuff we keep hearing about?

Connecting to your network from your home, vacation home, hotel room, or your yacht can be done with software such as GotomyPC, PCAnywhere, VPN and others.

The costs and security of these products vary. They all allow your business to run better because each morning your management team, with a couple of mouse clicks, can review performance or exception reports and see where they need to focus their attention.

Steps should be taken to make sure information is protected and not exposed to dangers inside the dealership as well as outside. It may cost some upfront money to take these steps, but it could very well cost you a lot more not to take them.

According to one estimate, the average virus costs $81,000 in terms of clean-up costs, lost productivity, lost data and other impacts. This threat is growing every day. Can you afford not to protect yourself?

Ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Is it improved system utilization? Improved profitability? Reduced expenses? Better communication? You can accomplish all of the above for a lot less than you might think, and improve your profitability at the same time.

Consider implementing a network solution that makes sense for your organization. It can give you a free “peek preview” of where you are with your system utilization and network environment.

Don Ray is a senior member of the George B. Jones Dealer Services division of Dixon Odom, a national accounting and consulting group for dealers. He's at 901-684-5643 and [email protected].

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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