Thanks to the evolution of hardware,software and the Internet, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) no longer need to be responsible for as much of their IT as they used to. This means direct and indirect savings and more time to focus on core business. In difficult economic times SME’s are often under pressure to deliver more on smaller budgets. Cloud computing, high-speed affordable connectivity and hosted solutions have become game-changers. ‘IT support’ used to be a part of any SME’s budget and the expenses would often change month to month and with great variance. With advances in support systems and a greater focus on proactivity ‘IT support’ should be a static line item and the systems should simply work.
Keeping an open mind
For years, SME decision-makers have been looking for ways to remove themselves from the need and costs associated with managing their own IT. Especially when IT is supposed to be an enabler in the business, not another job to do. Fortunately because of the advances talked about above this is now easily done and for a fraction of the price.
SME’s are often more open-minded in embracing progressive ideas that might not necessarily fit conventional wisdom. They are continually looking for ways to remove superfluous business elements and concentrate on fulfilling the core strategy of the company. Unlike larger organisations, the SME is not encumbered with a decision making panel or processes which slow down the decision-making process. The SME is much more agile and can quickly embrace new solutions.
A perfect example is the server. Traditionally this server, which may have hosted an accounting system or even email, would have been located on the premises. With a hosted environment all of these services can be placed elsewhere and become someone else’s problem to maintain. No more backups, maintenance, support or upgrades.
The hosted environment
The hosted environment is essentially a part of someone else’s server that you rent. You can have as powerful or economical a server as you want and you can change it daily, weekly or monthly. The cloud approach presents the decision-maker with a completely modular and scalable route. It is simply a case of ticking the boxes of the solutions required and the services provider taking care of the rest.
This presents you with a way to quickly change solutions as your requirements shift. There is no reason to be worried about being stuck with infrastructure which might be out of warranty or no longer have support. The cloud takes those concerns away and also gives scalability, redundancy, and security at a fraction of the cost. More importantly, it happens so much faster and more conveniently. An SME can often not afford to wait months for a consultancy to roll out a new server to host an accounting package or upgrade its internet connectivity to a faster line. Once a solution has been identified, it needs to be implemented as quickly as possible while keeping the impact on daily operations to a minimum.
Traditional IT is out
Another example is connectivity. Traditionally a fibre connection cost the earth and required a 5 year contract. Nowadays you can get more bandwidth than you can actually consume, and on a month-to-month contract! And then there is the humble desktop computer. The status quo dictates you going down to your closest mass retailer and buying an off-the-shelf desktop with all the bells and whistles. However nowadays just about any computer can do just about any task. The only difference being the speed. And even more of an upset you can get computers now which are almost cheap enough to be disposable. Why spend R10,000 on a desktop with features that are not needed, when a hybrid computer offering the same functionality can be purchased for less than R3,000?
Traditional IT is dying and this is great news for SME’s and consumers. Technology should be an enabler not a pain. SMEs who are willing to embrace this new order will see the value in time and money saving and ultimately improving their business.