How to upgrade with ease

One of the key inhibitors to an SMB’s growth is the lack of technology to support its expanding business requirements. Here are practical strategies to ensure smooth migration to a better infrastructure.

One of the key inhibitors to an SMB’s growth is the lack of technology to support its expanding business requirements. Here are practical strategies to ensure smooth migration to a better infrastructure.

Depending on the extent of the planning that was done previously on the IT system, SMBs fall into the trap of haphazardly purchasing of IT resources such as PCs, servers and other peripherals from various vendors. IT infrastructures in most SMBs only address current and short-term needs.

As a result, SMBs will find that their IT infrastructure is unable to support their business expansion needs or when they hire more staff and develop new business models. For example, simple retrieving of files from the server becomes slower; the server starts “hanging” more often; and employees start getting frustrated.

Sometimes the cheapest deal isn't the right solution.

This is when the thrill of the “cheap bargain” ends. Sometimes the cheapest deal isn’t the right solution. In order to avoid this unproductive and cost-consuming cycle, SMBs need to plan and migrate to a better infrastructure.

Servers
Servers form the basic foundation to build the right infrastructure that is able to “grow” with your business. It is important to get it right. The right server provides SMBs the flexibility and scalability to support business growth. Don’t just focus on the bells and whistles. Migration to a better infrastructure does not necessarily mean acquiring new servers. Sometimes, it’s maximizing the current server environment to ensure better usage and utilization. Plan ahead and ensure the new system is able to handle the additional workload and staff growth.

Storage
Storage is an important component of the IT infrastructure. As staff strength increases and new business models are created, the amount of data generated to support the business will increase substantially. In order to manage the ever-growing data, a comprehensive storage strategy needs to be in place, not just for data archival and retrieval.

Some SMBs use their servers as a storage medium. That is not the ideal solution. Not only does it slow down the server processing speed, it does not provide a secure storage solution. A direct-attached storage device like an external tape drive is commonly used. However, SMBs should consider moving towards a networked-attached storage solution to maximize storage resources.

PCs
Even the simple PC plays a key role in helping SMBs move to a better infrastructure. Most PC environments are becoming more complex: There are PCs acquired from diverse vendors, configured in a variety of ways, running different operating systems, and an ever-growing number of applications at multiple version levels.

The initial purchase price of a PC is only 20 percent of the overall cost. The other 80 percent is incurred once it is placed on the desk, when server and support costs are factored in. So streamlining and optimizing IT operations plays a crucial role to significantly reduce the total ownership cost of IT assets.

Flexible Payment Options
Companies should explore some of the offerings provided by IT vendors targeted at the SMB space. Options like sale and leaseback and trade-in options allow SMBs to get more for their IT investment than if they paid cash, and can possibly triple the solution size of what their IT budget would typically be able to support. These options also provide the SMBs the much-needed instant cash injection to upgrade to new equipment.

Options like HP’s Access on Demand offers total solutions for PC acquisition, management and support. This includes worry-free support for managing PC and access infrastructures, when and where needed, providing a convenient lifecycle service solution to manage the corporate desktop environment, resulting in lower total cost of ownership. And more importantly, it provides a single point of contact for a full range of complementary IT services all at a single, predictable per-seat price charged on a monthly basis.

Pay-Per-Use initiatives also offer an outsourcing alternative to hassle-free management of IT operations. For example, an all-in-one print services package -–hardware, support, supplies and maintenance--results in a more efficient printing environment. This in turn leads to better cost control and improved productivity. In this way, SMBs can improve business efficiency and free up valuable resources to focus on business growth.

Imaging and Printing
While still a required functionality, faxing is becoming less important as businesses use e-mail as a communication medium. So with the digital sending functionality as an added feature on higher-end all-in-one machines, businesses can see improvements in workflow productivity. Digital sending enables users to send hardcopy documents directly from the all-in-one via e-mail, converting them into digital files at the touch of a button.

Besides fast document sharing, today’s print management tools also allow managers to keep track of printer usage, order supplies remotely and control access by authenticating individual users or departments. Print management software can help manage the imaging and printing infrastructure within the organization. Consolidating imaging and printing functions will also allow businesses to save time, reduce supplies, and lower maintenance costs by as much as 30 percent, according to a study by the Gartner Group.

Migration to a better infrastructure does not necessarily mean unmanageable costs and IT downtime. These issues can be easily managed with a strong and reputable partner who can provide one-stop, hassle-free IT solutions with support that SMBs need. Ultimately, an adaptive IT infrastructure that is synchronized to business demands will provide SMBs the edge to compete in the highly competitive global marketplace.

Clarence Cho is director of SMB Marketing for HP Asia Pacific. He is also a member of the CNETAsia SMB Advisory Board.