For most firms, their IT and communications infrastructure is developed in an iterative, almost organic way. It makes good business sense to purchase your communication equipment and software as you need it, adjusting, upgrading and improving your technology as business circumstances change; adding a new outbound telesales arm to your business, for example, necessitates an investment in dialler and CRM technology. Adding capabilities, tools and technologies in this ad hoc manner can work well, especially in the beginning stages of business development, but when growth accelerates, it can be challenging to ensure that your existing IT and communication network is up-to-date. Your setup could become disorganised and unwieldy, with short-term workarounds becoming embedded into your IT infrastructure making implementation of new infrastructure more difficult and more costly. According to Chain Store Age, retailers faced losses of more than $300,000 in the 2017 holiday season due to poor/unprepared technology planning.
Integrating business and IT strategy
One way to avoid a messy upgrade and expansion path is to ensure that your technology strategy cascades from your overall business strategy, so for example if the business is looking to reduce overhead by outsourcing content center staffing to home and remote workers in the next 18 months, your CIO/CTO will need to ensure that the telephony system is ready and able to support that need. Fortunately, a VOIP telephony system, coupled with a cloud-based data infrastructure can effectively support this kind of decentralised strategy. By planning IT hand-in-hand with business strategy, and regularly reviewing the overall setup against company goals, telephone systems can be built from the ground up to be modular and scaled to match new business needs.
Planning for scalability
Building your IT operations to scale is crucial to support sustained growth – and should always be developed in conjunction with a business strategy. As data and communications systems grow more complex, the required data pipeline to manage your business will also need to expand to meet the needed bandwidth. Investing early in a T1 or fiber Ethernet line, for example, will insure that that your operations are ready to meet increased demand quickly and easily. Ethernet connectivity can scale easily to match your business needs, allowing a seamless transition to bigger network demands and bandwidth. Traditional copper-wire data connectivity can often prove outmatched by modern data requirements, leading to downtime, poor customer service, and frustrated employees and customers. A study by Sandisk states that the average U.S. employee loses 4.9 days of productivity a year due to poor IT and communications equipment – don’t let this be your company!
Trusting the Cloud
One way to circumvent the problems created by slow IT infrastructure is virtualization: placing your servers and software in the cloud to ensure a distributed service model that can be backed up and counter the cost of physical investment in server hardware. A Microsoft survey across US SMBs indicates that 49% of respondents use cloud services to lower costs. While the financial savings alone can be a convincing argument to deploy cloud services in your business, the improvements in reliability, with the risk of data loss from on-site equipment failure almost eliminated, cannot be overstated. Cloud services do not depend on physical infrastructure within your business, so they can easily be expanded to meet unprecedented demand.
More and more businesses across the US are investing in cloud-based tools and services unders a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model – where centrally-hosted software is accessed on a subscription-basis, typically through a thin client via a browser. This model is built for scalability, where flexing your commitment or access to a particular service can be amended at the click of a mouse depending on your business need, leaving your company more adaptable to change than ever.
If you are concerned about privacy and security, a hybrid model could be a reasonable compromise. A local internal cloud is deployed on-premises for the processing of sensitive or confidential data, but less secure services are processed on an external cloud platform. This protects your business data, but requires less onsite infrastructure (although more than a pure external cloud model) and allows you to leverage the speed and accessibility of the external cloud model for your less-sensitive processes. It will also allow you to scale extremely quickly to meet a short term demand. Cloudbursting, where servers access increased computing resources to meet spikes in demand, is one of the key advantages of incorporating cloud solutions into your business model. For example, releasing your Fall line of products could translate to a massive increase in server traffic, as customers are eager to get their hands on your products. Cloudbursting will ensure that your systems are able to cope with the extra demand, without the necessity of permanently increasing your computing capacity – and thereby increasing costs. There are hundreds of potential solutions that can be deployed to improve your business IT and communications performance, and ensuring scalability is the heart of your business planning; you’ll make upgrades, improvements and expansion a breeze.