March 28, 2017
The top SMB IT priorities may vary from year to year as new technologies enter the market, but the goal is always the same. Technology today has provided the SMB with the extraordinary ability to punch above its weight class. Many of the traditional barriers of business—logistics, distribution network, overhead requirements—are made moot by the power of the internet. Therefore, the best technology strategies for SMB clients often focus on allowing your business to do more with less. Resources, highly experienced engineers, and funding are often hard to come by in an SMB environment. But, like any competitor, your top IT priorities should minimize your weaknesses and maximize your strengths.
Top IT Priorities for SMBs in 2017
The cloud provides a number of clear advantages for the SMB. Cloud deployments do not require a business to purchase, power, and maintain hardware on premise, and it requires far less attention from a small IT team to work properly. Essentially, the cloud provides as much storage capacity and compute power as the company can afford on a monthly basis.
For startups and very small companies, your entire environment could feasibly exist in the cloud, but most SMBs will find more value in a hybrid environment. In 2017, an SMB should be taking a hard look at their collection of applications to determine which can and should be migrated.
Collaboration and Mobility Solutions
Everything is going mobile, and even SMBs need to keep up. This year, take a look at available collaboration and mobility solutions for your organization. Whether it is a multi-purposed, multi-faceted collaboration tool like Cisco Spark or a virtual private network (VPN) to enable mobility solutions, these tools can make the difference in your organization. They improve productivity, potentially reduce business travel costs, enable BYOD policies, and keep everyone on the same page.
In terms of punching above your weight, a mobile sales team and workforce will help you compete with significantly larger organizations.
SMB IT departments are often small, sometimes consisting of only two or three professionals. For that reason, your priority technology solutions should conserve as much of their time as possible. Between troubleshooting endpoints around the company, maintaining the data center, and monitoring the network, the IT department has little time to spare for other projects. Virtualization can be a life saver in these situations, but virtualization itself is an umbrella term. It can take multiple forms.
The low hanging fruit of virtualization is known as server virtualization. Before its existence, data center servers and applications used to be on a one-to-one ratio—one server, one application. This bloated data centers to enormous sizes as more applications became necessary to support business operations. Virtualization unfetters the application from the servers and turns it into a virtual program. Now, the application exists on a virtual hypervisor which simply uses servers as the muscle to run the application. It saves money. It reduces maintenance requirement. It reduces cooling costs in the data center. If you haven’t virtualized your servers already, you should seriously consider it.
However, there is another form of virtualization finding popularity in a wide variety of deployments, including the SMB, called virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Instead of virtualizing the server, VDI virtualizes the desktop operating system of the laptops, computers, or even mobile devices of the workforce. In the vein of doing more with less, this frees the IT department from having to update endpoints manually or wipe computers after an employee leaves. Everything is virtual, and everything is saved on the corporate network. Furthermore, it paves the way for bring-your-own-device policies which eliminate the need for employers to purchase their own smartphones for mobile employees.
Managed services is truly the holy grail of IT solutions for SMBs, because it compensates for two of the SMBs biggest limitation: the IT staff’s limited time and access to top engineering talent. In a managed services agreement, a business establishes a partnership with a managed service provider (MSP) and agrees to offload some or all of their IT responsibilities to the MSP. With the right MSP, this can become a very beneficial partnership as MSPs often staff highly experienced and certified engineers who can serve as helpful guides and technology consultants in the years ahead.
Constant Industry Disruption
The entire business landscape of the world is in a tenuous place. Every year it seems that there is a new product, service, or application that upends long established norms and players. Uber is the classic example of how a mobile app is subverting the taxi industry, but there are plenty more out there. Airbnb, Dollar Shave Club, Netflix, YouTube, and on and on it goes. Technology is a great equalizer, but it still must be used wisely. With the right IT priorities, your SMB can level the playing field.
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