Technology and business go hand-in-hand in today’s world. There are unlimited solutions available to automate processes and provide useful oversight of business practices to help startups and small businesses succeed. However, these tools all come at a price. So, with the undersized budgets that are typical for most entrepreneurial ventures, funding IT operations can be a bit of a challenge.
That is why it’s important to scale your IT operations along with your business growth. Richard Branson recently said, “My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting their own business is: start small but always think big. Technology has allowed companies to think bigger than just selling to their local community and puts the world at their fingertips.” In other words, you need to start small but think big picture. As part of the latter, you also need to have a long-term IT operations game plan.
Starting small doesn’t mean you have to forego the hardware and software solutions you need. You just have to be smart about it. Startups and small businesses have enough operating expenses and other overhead that they don’t need to add to that when it comes to servers, software and more. Not when there are other more affordable and cost-effective options out there.
Here are four options entrepreneurs should consider for their IT operations when launching a startup or trying to grow their small business:
Take Inventory and Assess Your Current IT Operations
It’s important to take a step back and do a full assessment of hardware, software and other IT equipment your young business has. This will provide you with a solid starting point for your technology roadmap. Prioritize what is currently needed, then create a one-year target plan and a three-year target plan that includes new IT investments. Don’t forget to keep the big picture in mind when making key purchases. Can these solutions be scaled for growth? Are they upgradeable as technology advances?
Outsource Your IT Operations
Rather than trying to purchase and maintain expensive hardware and software internally b consider outsourcing. By utilizing experts, you’ll spend less time dealing with things outside your scope which will give you more time to focus on other key aspects of your business. Also, once you’ve grown to have, say, 30 to 100 employees, the cost of using a managed services provider will continue to be less than hiring a dedicated, full-time staff to manage things. Not to mention, these days the security aspects alone can be significant for a small business. With an MSP, not only do you have an expert on-call whenever you need them, you also often have the benefit of newer, more up-to-date hardware with managed antivirus and security services included to mitigate your risk.
Bottom line, by making the choice to go with an MSP, you can scale your IT infrastructure up or down to meet your needs with far greater speed and with less upfront hardware expense than if you tried to do it internally. And, in most cases, you’ll find you end up with better equipment and services than you could otherwise afford. MSPs can also help you build out an IT growth path and show you what options make the most sense for the current size, scale and functionality of your organization.
Choose Subscription-based Services Over Perpetual Licensing Agreements
Perpetual software can be very attractive for small businesses because fewer licenses are needed. However, as your business grows in headcount and devices, it will become costly to deploy and maintain perpetual software. The benefits of cloud-based subscription services can be significant, providing savings on infrastructure costs, maximizing uptime and offering centralized management of applications. We’ve been helping many small businesses transition to Office 365 and other hosted solutions. Over time, it’s quite a bit cheaper than keeping up with the latest versions and paying perpetual licensing fees. There is also the added benefit of being able to share documents through OneDrive, which is a great way to share content from a collaborative perspective. And, expert software support is one call away if a problem arises.
Look at Hosted Financial and Accounting Solutions
To run a profitable business, you must be able to recognize where costs are coming from and how much capital you need to operate. However, it is also more complex than that. A recent report conducted by Capterra on SMBs’ purchasing plans for 2019 and 2020 found technology investments to be critical to competing in respective markets. The report also outlines how good financial practices are key to keeping an SMB afloat. It states that “if you can only invest in one technology in the coming two years, that technology should be finance and accounting software.” This is one place where you shouldn’t skimp. MSPs can again be quite beneficial in this area in that they provide all the benefits associated with the cloud, including reducing the need for a dedicated server for these solutions.
Regardless of which route you choose to go, having a solid IT growth plan in place from an early stage can make a difference in whether your business thrives or merely survives. That being said, the cloud in particular is enabling better and often more affordable options for how you support and grow your IT operations. Taking advantage of cloud-hosted offerings and outside expertise from the get-go can ensure your fledgling business will be up and running in no time, and able to compete effectively.