Growing pains are the best type of problems a business can have. Running out of stock? Better find ways to ramp up production while demand is high. Already fully booked at the start of the month? Increase your capacity or risk losing clients to competition.
Periods of growth are often ideal for investing in solutions that will help your business “level up” and position itself to compete and thrive in new and expanding markets. Considering that IT is integral to most business processes, it's important to recognize early whether your IT can support your growth needs or whether it’s holding you back.
Related article: IT problems only an MSP can help you resolve
Here are the top signs your existing IT resources may be impeding your growth:
Computers are slowing down or crashing completely
It’s a cliché, but time is money, and slow or dysfunctional computers will definitely cost you in terms of lost productivity. As time progresses, two major things happen to your device: it suffers physical wear and tear, and its processing capabilities become insufficient or incompatible with upgraded software.
For most SMBs, it can be hard to determine exactly when hardware needs to be replaced. As an example, for critical processes where speed and reliable performance are crucial (such as in payments processing and customer relationship management), deploying new machines before they become a problem is essential for business continuity as well as your peace of mind. On the other hand, existing machines can simply be upgraded with newer parts to improve performance on basic tasks such as word processing and web browsing. Knowledge of the purpose of the devices and the options available could make the difference between profit or loss, growth or stagnation.
Repair or upgrade costs exceed hardware value
In high growth operations, the demands placed on hardware can be substantial. In a very short amount of time, new machines can become broken or underpowered. Repairing or upgrading these machines tends to become more and more expensive — so expensive that you can practically pay for new machines with the amount you spend in repairs.
If you find your organization is overspending on upgrades or repairs on your devices, it could be a sign that it’s time to develop a hardware plan in alignment with your growth projections. The right guidance can help you determine if it’s cheaper to replace a component or to replace the entire device with the latest model.
Software applications lack useful features or are no longer supported by the developer
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — this mentality serves to keep costs down and helps managers allocate resources to critical areas of the business. However, when it comes to using software, this mindset can also keep business owners and managers from looking forward and capitalizing on new features or better customer experiences.
To illustrate, new software functionalities such as cloud access and real time collaboration can bolster productivity immensely — and failing to adopt these performance-enhancing tech developments can allow savvier competitors to leave you in the dust.
Additionally, not buying new software can mean becoming stuck with obsolete versions that no longer receive developer support. No support means no more bug fixes, security updates (i.e., you become more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats), and new features. This also means that as the new software receives updates, it tends to become less and less backwards-compatible. If you have users with both the old and new versions of an application, this means greater friction when they need to collaborate.
You’re not truly saving money by using outdated applications. However, just like with hardware, fast-growing organizations can find it difficult to choose which new software and platforms to invest in. A managed IT services provider (MSP) can help you come up with and implement a holistic IT strategy that is specially designed to propel growth.
Related article: Consider the security risks of your software
Software licenses are becoming exorbitant
Going from 50 to 500 employees means buying more machines for them to use — as well as the software they need to get work done. If done without foresight, you may end up overpaying for software licenses and financially hampering the growth of your business. While cloud computing may be an option for high-growth firms, the expertise of an MSP can help to determine what types of software packages or solutions best serve their trajectories.
For example, lifetime license payments are much heavier upfront as compared to monthly subscriptions to software-as-a-service (SaaS), but, in a few years, the latter can overtake the former cost-wise.
Regarding this eventual downside of subscriptions, a reputable MSP can help firms determine if it is an actual downside or a worthy investment instead. This is because subscription-based payment models tend to offer more benefits than one-time purchases. For instance, Microsoft Office Home & Business 2019 only comes with fully-featured desktop versions of Office applications, plus a license for commercial use. On the other hand, Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite, offers scaled-down web and mobile versions of Office applications but adds automatic updates, file storage, and sharing capabilities, among others.
Another point to consider about implementing cloud-based software licenses is that it allows firms to invest in thin clients — PCs that are inexpensive because they have minimal storage and no hard drives. These machines connect to the internet to access a server that does much of the processing work for them. That is, the server executes software programs and stores data instead of local machines. This means that beyond providing you value-for-money when it comes to software subscriptions, cloud computing lets you to save money on new hardware.
However, if you have already deployed fully-fledged PCs or are implementing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, then investing in thin clients is not the best idea. Clearly, navigating the complexities of IT investment can be very difficult. It is best to rely upon the expertise of experienced MSPs such as XBASE so that IT can enable your growth rather than become a distraction.
Network traffic and data security
Increased network traffic leads to slowdowns or downtime
More customers and more staff means more users in your network. Furthermore, the kinds of network traffic you are experiencing could be changing as you grow. Are your users creating (uploading) or consuming (downloading) more video content? Are the sizes of your files growing? Do you have devices that are collecting data 24/7 like Internet of Things (IoT) applications or surveillance cameras?
All of these activities can place significant strain on your network resources and affect overall user experience. Your network may have been designed for another era in your firm’s development, and may not be configured to serve your current reality or your future needs. Going forward, you’ll need to make decisions not only about the capacity of your network, but also how you foresee the use of it. Certified networking professionals can help you assess your current environment and recommend solutions that best fit your use case as you grow.
The frequency of cybersecurity breaches is increasing
Nothing can ruin the momentum of business growth more than the loss of consumer trust. If malware infections and data breaches are on the rise in your organization, it’s most likely a sign that you are lagging behind your cybersecurity measures. It could also be a sign that security awareness training is lacking, particularly as you onboard new users in unfamiliar roles or distributed locations. The addition of users, applications, servers, end points, and facilities increase the number of vulnerabilities as well as the need for constant vigilance. If you feel you are unable to stay on top of intrusion detection, patch management, compliance requirements, and all of the other “everyday” cybersecurity tasks, it’s a sure sign you need outside help to catch up.
You’re always buying more storage, and the age of your data backups increases drastically
As your business grows, so does the amount of data you produce. If you find you are constantly buying more storage or your data centres are reaching full capacity, it’s a signal that a better strategy is required to both control your costs and fuel your growth.
Related article: Why Canadian businesses spent $14B on cybersecurity
Beyond merely storing more data, you need to back up more of it too. Backing up ballooning quantities of ones and zeros takes more time, thereby increasing the age of your backups. The older your data is, the less relevant it becomes, making it less useful for business continuity and disaster recovery purposes. To have backups you can actually use, you’ll need backup protocols and facilities/systems that are better suited to the scale of your business.
Businesses in Toronto trust XBASE to help them plan, build, and reconfigure their IT to drive their expansion. Drop us a line to learn more about how IT enhancements can help your firm grow and outpace the competition.
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