The IT landscape is diverse, and deciding exactly what products and services are right for your business can be tough.
While some may find the choice daunting, the fact is that for SMEs the suitability of available solutions – and their cost – have never been better.
The rub lies simply in deciding what’s best for you. So what’s ideal? The key is to think carefully about your aims.
One of the advantages SMEs hold over bigger competitors is their ability to adapt.
Your IT infrastructure should reflect this. Choose systems and services that can change with need. Platforms like Microsoft SharePoint, for example, are easy to extend and build upon. You should be able to shift the way your business operates without reinventing the wheel.
Similarly, always choose platforms that scale both up and down. An ideal infrastructure is one that’s well-aligned with business requirements, and selecting services that have usage-based pricing is a good way to achieve this.
Far better than trying to predict what you’ll need a year from now, is turning to solutions that will simply deliver it.
Building an infrastructure based on operational rather than capital spending is a must. Not only does such an approach remove many up-front costs, in most situations it will also reduce total costs over time.
With aims like the above in mind, which technologies comprise an ideal IT infrastructure?
That’s a question that can only be answered after considering your specific needs, but for most businesses a combination of the following will usually go a long way:
It’s a rare IT project these days that doesn’t take advantage of the cloud – whether wholly or in part.
Cost is one factor, with applications usually between 20 and 30% cost-effective when hosted in the cloud, as compared to run in-house.
But there’s also the long (and probably very familiar) list of other benefits – from scalability to offloading risk. To give you some idea of the cloud’s popularity, more than half of the customers at Brennan IT are now predominantly cloud based.
The ideal infrastructure is one that has national – and even international – reach.
You and your staff should be able to take your business systems everywhere from the airport to a client’s premises.
Put mobility at the centre of your requirements, and ensure that you have seamless connectivity on the move. This is another area where SMEs have the edge over larger businesses, many of which are struggling to “mobilise” legacy IT investments.
Backup and disaster recovery
A good IT infrastructure protects your business by safeguarding your data (through backup) and your operations (through disaster recovery).
Again, cloud services offer almost instant backup for your files and data, most with redundancy across multiple sites. And at the moment, 80% of disaster recovery solutions currently being installed are cloud based – firstly because they’re cheaper, but also because they can be tested and demonstrated to work without disrupting your operations.
For most SMEs, the ideal IT infrastructure is one that’s adaptable, scalable and funded as an operational expense.
More importantly, it’s also one that enhances the advantages you have over the big end of town, and that lessens the ground given in areas where you don’t.
From functions to features, the gap between what’s possible for big business, and that which is affordable for SMEs, is smaller than ever. Make sure that your business and your IT provider are working together to define and deploy infrastructure that you need.
Dave Stevens is MD, Brennan IT.
(This blog post was first published on the SmartCompany website on April 19 2012)