Contrary to stereotype, creating and maintaining an efficient organizational IT environment can be both affordable and hassle-free these days.
Organizations face a good number of challenges at their dawn and in the course of digital transformation. The cost of setting up and maintaining full-fledged IT infrastructure is one of the biggest stumbling blocks en route to digital maturity. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) find themselves in the same boat, struggling to overcome financial constraints that hamper efficiency and operational agility.
This article provides a few practical tips to address those concerns and avoid typical mistakes in this regard. Without further ado, let’s move on to the specific things that will help enterprises make the most of the modern information technologies with a minimum of investment.
1. Reap the benefits of using the right devices
If you are up to workplace automation, the optimal choice is to use laptops rather than desktop computers. Whereas these types of machines with approximately the same hardware configuration hardly differ in terms of their price, using laptops – especially productive ones such as the recent MacBook models – provides a number of benefits.
First of all, the fact that a laptop is equipped with a battery ensures its operation in case of a power outage. If you use a desktop machine, though, you will need to purchase a UPS (uninterruptible power supply), which essentially doesn’t do more than allow for a safe shutdown in a power failure scenario.
Secondly, laptops are important prerequisites of the mobile workforce. In a small to midsized enterprise, one staff member can take on several roles at a time, and the availability of a laptop computer at hand lets such personnel stay mobile and productive.
2. Create network infrastructure in the office
Combining the company’s automated workplace ecosystem into a single network is an extremely important issue that also tends to be pricey. A startup with a limited budget usually cannot afford a fully-fledged, high-quality structured cabling system. Fortunately, there is a way to cut the expenses while setting up a reliable network that will link all workstations under the same umbrella.
The use of 802.11ac wireless technology (Wi-Fi 5) or the latest standard 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) ensures consistently high connection speeds and low latency in an office wireless network. Furthermore, wireless data communication products for enterprise, such as the equipment by Ubiquiti Networks, make it possible to build a seamless roaming Wi-Fi network for up to 20 users at a relatively low cost compared to high-end corporate solutions. This way, your employees can work both within the local network and on the internet without their connection being interrupted.
3. Take security seriously
The adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” makes a whole lot of sense in the organizational context. Ransomware attacks, phishing scams, and data breaches are hitting the headlines all the time, and businesses are their prime targets. Therefore, it’s imperative to have a security awareness training program in place, use effective internet security software, and consider leveraging more advanced solutions such as intrusion detection and prevention systems.
Regulatory compliance is another stepping stone to maintaining a robust security posture. Not only does it foster a decent level of defenses, but it also has financial implications by saving companies from penalties in case of noncompliance. That said, it’s in your best interest to make sure that your digital territory abides by those legal requirements. Penetration tests and other attack simulation exercises are gaining traction with organizations these days as the go-to mechanisms for that purpose.
GDPR, HIPAA, and SOC are the better-known examples of such legal frameworks, but there are also local regulations that apply to specific industries. As an illustration, the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) companies operating in the New York area must conform to the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) Cybersecurity regulation. Running an NYDFS compliance cybersecurity assessment offers a shortcut to meeting these requirements and helps avoid the associated pitfalls.
4. Use affordable email services
It’s quite problematic – and costly – for many businesses to set up and maintain an enterprise email server, because it’s a matter of hiring dedicated IT personnel and purchasing the right hardware and software.
Fortunately, Google offers cheap email services for enterprises. By forwarding email services within your domain’s DNS area to Google’s servers, you get a cloud-based corporate email server featuring protection against spam and cyberattacks. In this case, all of your employees will be using email accounts with your domain name. The service is available both via a web interface and via email clients installed on work computers or smartphones.
5. Set up a website
There are numerous free content management systems (CMS) on the internet that enable anyone to create a quality website of their own. Even if you resort to the services of a web design company, they will most likely create your corporate site using one of these CMS platforms. With enough motivation and time on your hands to study the ins and outs of CMS, you can build your firm’s website and do further maintenance on your own. Plus, you don’t need an outstanding coding and web development background.
Out of all CMS platforms available online, WordPress is a great option for beginning webmasters. It boasts a huge number of free themes and plugins that suffice to create a decent-looking enterprise site with commendable functionality. You shouldn’t find it hard to familiarize yourself with the admin dashboard and manage the site. What’s more, the CMS proper won’t be resource-intensive for the hosting server.
6. Strike a balance with web hosting services
A stable web services hosting environment is amongst the critical components of any company’s IT posture. Nowadays, the larger the business the more internal IT services need to work in an uninterrupted fashion and be online-accessible at all times.
From where I stand, the optimal solution for young companies is to buy a virtual server at a data center providing such services. For an average $10 per month, you can get 2 CPU cores and 2-3GB RAM at the server, with unlimited internet access in the bundle. A server like that will definitely suffice for a small firm’s website to function flawlessly. Your site isn’t very likely to experience a huge influx of visitors during its first year, so it shouldn’t fall short of processing resources.
It’s expensive and probably unreasonable for a small company to purchase a dedicated server and additional hardware at a data center. The only situation where this tactic makes sense is if you provide IT services to your customers.
7. Consider server virtualization
Server virtualization is a long-standing technology in the IT world. Whereas containerization of front-end applications is considered today’s innovative trend, many firms lack the expertise to even use virtual servers.
As a rule, RAM is the main bottleneck in this process – thankfully, it’s affordable these days. Perhaps one virtual private server (VPS) with sizeable memory will be enough to meet all of your IT needs. This way, you save a pretty penny as you won’t have to purchase costly hardware.
In case you think that server virtualization software is expensive, you are generally right. However, for instance, VMware provides a free hypervisor called ESXi, which – with some limitations that aren’t critical for a small business – allows you to create a fully functional virtualization environment. Meanwhile, you also get a free licensed piece of software with quite a few virtualization features under the hood.
8. Configure a well-balanced telephony system
It’s debatable whether or not a modern small to midsized company badly needs a telephony system. With a variety of free messengers and other alternative communication methods at hand, building an enterprise telephony network doesn’t appear to be a critical objective. If you have decided to set up internal telephony communication regardless, though, the following tips will help do it on the cheap and very efficiently.
First of all, use freeware like FreePBX or Asterisk as the softphone. These solutions will allow you to create a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony network. This technique alone can save a business thousands of dollars in the long run.
Second, save yourself the trouble of buying telephones for your employees. They can simply use a smartphone app for SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) calls instead.
Third, get your enterprise telephony system connected to the urban networks over SIP protocol. This way, you can cut your spending considerably as you won’t have to purchase the appropriate equipment and pay for deploying separate telephone circuits, as is the case with connecting physical phone lines.
9. Promote your products and services online
Any business requires marketing efforts, especially at its dawn. There aren’t many startups that can afford TV ads or outdoor billboard advertising from the get-go. However, expertise in online marketing can help you get started on promotion activity with little to no investment.
By using your personal blog or your company’s profiles on social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the like, you can spread the word about your products and reach potential customers without any expenditures. Of course, it takes skills and a great deal of effort to create the appropriate content covering your products or services.
Targeted ads on Facebook or Google can generate excellent results in terms of attracting customers. The silver lining is that you won’t have to pay a fortune to promote your products that way.
10. Make DevOps your ally
DevOps, the collaborative approach to software engineering and IT operations, is a valuable asset to SMBs seeking to optimize their IT spending. By fostering communication and interoperability between dev and operations teams, DevOps eliminates silos, streamlines processes, and enhances overall efficiency. This, in turn, results in quicker development cycles, faster deployment of applications, and more reliable systems, ultimately reducing costly downtime and associated costs.
Automation of repetitive tasks in the context of DevOps offers a twofold benefit: it accelerates processes and minimizes the risk of human errors that fuel various forms of cybercrime. Additionally, the emphasis on continuous monitoring and feedback ensures that issues are identified and addressed promptly, preventing the need for extensive troubleshooting. The iterative nature of DevOps encourages incremental improvements, allowing SMBs to adapt to changing requirements without incurring significant expenses.
No need to reinvent the wheel
To recap, the modern information technologies allow SMBs to address numerous challenges efficiently without much spending. All of this is doable as long as you figure out how these techniques work and have enough time to implement them.