At some stage in the development of your business, it is almost inevitable that you will be faced with the decision as to whether or not to invest in your own IT network.
There is no right or wrong answer as to where your company needs to be before it decides to take this particular plunge. Some types of businesses are more likely to be dependent upon computerized systems than others. But when you do come to consider this question, it is not something you will want to enter into lightly.
On the one hand, you be aware of just how important it is to stay ahead of the competition. If you find you are being burdened by antiquated processes while others are working with more streamlined systems this could place you at a severe commercial disadvantage. On the other, you may feel that at this stage your limited resources might be better deployed elsewhere for now.
All you can really do is weigh up the pros and cons, and if needs be, take some advice from a trustworthy IT provider.
What does a basic IT network look like?
Of course, there are basic IT networks and enterprise-level IT networks – and moving towards the computerization of your systems need not necessarily involve some huge investment of capital in the early stages of your commercial journey. At this point, we could be talking about a number of laptops or handheld devices with WiFi installed, and a fairly basic internet connection embracing some cloud-based software.
But generally, you get what you pay for, and in the fast-moving world of IT – if your equipment is going to hold you back, it might be better to consider being a little more ambitious from the outset. If you envision a company operation that allows employees and contractors to use your systems off-site, then security, storage and collaboration are aspects to which you might benefit from paying some serious attention.
The benefits of a fully integrated IT network
Ultimately, the purpose of creating an IT network is to integrate every aspect of your operation in such a way as to generate the ultimate in speed, convenience and efficiency across the board. The objective is to create organizational coherence whilst at all times being mindful of the need to maintain data security.
First of all, your applications and storage are brought together into one central place. Accounts, data, design platforms and customer information are all gathered into one system which can be accessed and interrogated with the minimum of fuss; saving you valuable time which can be spent attending to your core business. It is also of course much easier to protect your data when it is stored in one centralized location, with the appropriate protections and access protocols in place.
Secondly, a well-integrated system will allow for remote working by your employees and contractors. Full network access can be granted and yet safely controlled, bringing you options for minimizing outlay on office space and enabling flexible working which will increase productivity and job satisfaction. “On the road” employees are also able to access the network, permitting the processing and updating of information in real-time.
An integrated IT network also enables access to shared peripheral devices which are an essential feature of any efficient commercial operation.
The role of an IT network in your businesses
Every enterprise will be configured in its own unique way, and only you as a business owner can reasonably assess the importance of an IT network to your company. If you are a tradesperson with a relatively small number of clients and few if any employees your limited resources may be better deployed elsewhere. Even so, it is worth taking some time out to consider whether the addition of even some modest technical infrastructure might make a positive difference for you.
Is there a benefit to be had for your business by networking? Could it expand your market or enhance your existing productivity? Does it have the potential to increase your output, or to improve your reach into new markets?
And equally, what would be the downsides? Presumably the initial outlay would involve a significant investment of resources that you may have need of elsewhere. And then of course there is the maintenance of your IT network. Will it need to be constantly upgraded? Will you require a service provider to upkeep your systems or are you confident that you can do this yourself?
Running an IT network on a limited budget
Most small to medium businesses run on a tight budget, and any investment made in installing an IT network will be very much with this in mind. You may need to accept that the most sophisticated, all-singing, all-dancing systems like SD WAN systems and MPLS controls are likely to be beyond your reach, at least if you are still in the starting phase.
Providers of technical support services are well aware of the constraints faced by start-ups and small businesses and have become surprisingly adept at accommodating them. Many offer service packages involving a regular, affordable monthly payment as opposed to a hefty and sometimes damaging initial outlay.
This generally applies not only to the technology itself but also to its regular maintenance and upkeep. Usually, there will be a range of service packages available to meet all budgets, the terms of which are agreed before a contract is entered into. Depending upon your budget, a level of service provision is offered which should be sufficient for your needs and to keep your IT network functioning without you having to worry about operational issues.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to meeting the IT requirements of the business. The market recognizes that individual needs differ, and has responded to that demand by offering services packages tailored to those needs. Wherever you find your business right now – and whatever the needs are of your company operation, there’s something out there for everyone – and there’s a managed service provider who’ll help you put it into place and support you with your needs as you grow.
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