For those far removed from the front lines of IT in the SMB, you’d think that the number of IT challenges would be commensurate with the size of the business. But those in the know would be quick to correct that assumption.
Indeed, the list of challenges may shift and change as technology evolves, but there is certainly no shortage. Add this list to the daily maintenance required to ensure seamless operations, and it becomes clear that tackling IT for the SMB is hardly a job for the faint of heart.
Our work with SMBs across Europe has highlighted the current most prevalent and attention-consuming IT challenges facing these organisations. Here, we share the top five.
1. The number of IT options continues to grow, making it increasingly more difficult to have the range and depth of expertise needed to select, maintain and optimise IT solutions
Choice is a great thing, but with the range of options open to us, tools and guidance are needed to help IT professionals make the right decisions. It’s becoming more and more difficult to stay ahead of the innovation curve and make informed decisions. And managing infrastructure complexity is becoming more and more difficult. This is especially true for smaller organisations that have a one-person or small IT team.
2. An unavoidable reality for all IT systems, end of life can introduce a spate of costs and compliance and security risks to an organisation
End of life is a fact of life for all IT systems, and can put a significant strain on budgets, time and effort. In addition, end of life can put an entire organisation at risk. With July’s end of support for Windows Server 2003, for example, organisations that had not migrated away from the platform by the deadline were exposed to security threats and regulatory mandates that were no longer addressed with patches and updates.
In response to the end-of-life challenge, many IT professionals are proactively moving to “as-a-service” models, which make it easier and more cost-effective to manage IT systems.
3. IT budgets and staffing levels aren’t increasing, but the workload is
IT is a resource-dependent operation. Managing systems, maintaining compliance, responding to IT problems, providing technical support and delivering a range of IT-related projects require time, people, equipment and funding. In addition, for any given organisation, the range of business applications continues to grow, putting more and more pressure on IT systems to deliver the latest and greatest capability to organisations.
However, not all legacy IT environments have the flexibility or horsepower to deliver new innovative business applications, and delivering new functionality often requires an IT upgrade. Moreover, managing this range of tasks efficiently and effectively requires a team of IT professionals that is often cost-prohibitive for smaller organisations.
4. Scalability, flexibility and ensuring your organisation’s IT system size is always optimal can be a constant balance
An IT system that is size-appropriate now may not be in the future, especially if your organisation is on a fast growth path or is data-hungry. How can you choose the right system that delivers the capacity you need today but can meet tomorrow’s expansion needs - without over-specifying and paying for more capacity than is needed? And how do you manage growing data volumes?
5. Integration with an increasing number or applications and technologies is complex and time-consuming
As you add more and more applications and provide more and more services, integration with existing systems and infrastructure becomes more complex. The challenge lies not only with ensuring that applications work together seamlessly (or at the very least, don’t conflict), but in making sure that there is adequate security across the full suite of integrated applications — to a level that meets your obligations and protects your business.
Clearly, there exist a number of difficult IT challenges facing today’s SMBs — and this is just a sampling. But overcoming them to achieve long-term success is not entirely out of reach.
The best advice is to be prepared to meet the challenges head-on: Anticipate the need for flexibility and scalability in your infrastructure; look to partners to shoulder some of the burden of system management; and consider hybrid IT and as-a-service models where appropriate.
Brian Buggy, co-founder and VP Products at Zynstra
Image source: Shutterstock/solarseven