2020 posed many challenges for businesses and, though positive change is on the horizon, 2021 is likely to have a whole new set of obstacles but also opportunities. Businesses have changed the way they operate, and technology has played a huge role in helping them adapt to this new environment successfully. With that in mind, it is more important now than ever before to have the right technology infrastructure in place. It can make a huge difference. So, especially in a time of a pandemic, what do business owners need to consider to make sure their technology solutions buying strategy is right?
Identifying the need for new technology
The last thing a business owner should be doing is wasting money on unnecessary devices or the wrong technology platform, which makes this first step in our strategy the most important – identifying whether or not your business’ technology needs upgrading at all.
The immediate requirements of the business should dictate when to upgrade technology, rather than simply how long your current solutions have been in place. For example, many businesses across the UK will now be supporting their employees working remotely without having the ideal technology in place. This is a behavior led change that will most likely require an upgrade to cloud-based solutions, which should have sufficient scale to handle the majority of the business working remotely. These businesses, therefore, may be looking to upgrade the technology that they have in place to fit their new working set-up.
Another scenario of business-led change would be a business that experiences fast growth – this will probably necessitate a revisit of solutions that were first installed when the business was smaller, which aren’t able to scale to meet the new demand. By staying ahead of your business’ technological needs during fast growth periods, you can ensure that you continue to provide a quality service to your customers and that the day-to-day operations of the business continue to run smoothly without any form of disruption.
Finding the right solutions to meet your business needs and budget
When deciding what technology would be right for your business, it is important to think about what the current set-up is, what you need the new technology to do for the business, and the extent of your budget. These factors all help in directing you to the right technology solutions. A key example in practice for most businesses is choosing between on-premise or cloud servers, a decision which should come down to which option best meets the business’s needs.
The advantage of on-premise technology would be if all employees were in one place, working in one office, and can be supported by onsite servers. For business owners that are concerned about data security and access, on-premise servers also provide a level of data control which is not possible with cloud solutions which are owned by external enterprises.
However, the advantages of using cloud servers are access to enterprise level resilience, scalability and security – which is especially important for remote working. Businesses are also able to pay for their consumption rather than a fixed management fee. Due to the pandemic, some business owners have made the long-term decision to continue permanently working from home or switching to a hybrid model – even once things begin moving towards and into a “new normal”. Cloud servers would be best suited to match the flexible needs of a hybrid working style.
Beyond servers, the decision to buy or hire any kind of business equipment invariably comes down to cash flow. With this being specific to each business, there can be no definitive answer. From a service provider perspective, we expect to see a growing trend for device hire – historically, businesses would prioritize purchasing devices outright and then hire software on a consumption-based plan. With remote working increasing around the UK, businesses will continue to be less inclined to purchase devices for offices that are largely empty.
Nevertheless, when purchasing new technology, it is always advisable to buy from the experts – those who can provide consultancy and help you to understand what best value looks like for each business. Anyone could purchase solutions direct from suppliers, but not all will have the knowledge to specify and configure appropriately which can lead to a wide range of complications – the most important example of this would be business data security, which can be exposed in the cloud. You want to know and have the assurance that the technology you are purchasing is best suited to your business – an expert consultant will provide this.
Price, of course, is important to each business too, though it isn’t the only measure of value. It is far more important for a business to get the best solution for their needs, paying for the security and guidance that gives the most appropriate option. So, when the time does come to upgrade your business’s technology, view it as a necessary investment rather than an expensive exercise.
Preparing for a volatile future
There is no way of knowing exactly how your business will adapt and grow, and there is, therefore, no guaranteed way to futureproof solutions. With cloud and SaaS, the best advice would be to implement solutions that are scalable and can be adjusted in line with business requirements.
A key example in any business infrastructure is bandwidth for internet connection, which is easily scalable to meet future needs. The best option is to implement a plan that is extendable and can be altered to keep up with demand. This will keep your business’ technology as efficient as possible.
As we get into the full-swing of 2021, businesses will be continuing to figure out and learn how to adapt and thrive through the pandemic. Establishing a buying strategy for a business’s technological needs can aid this. It also simplifies what can be a difficult process, especially with the ongoing uncertainty around office-based work. A buying strategy gives the opportunity for forward planning, making you think about what the business really needs, and helps to aid and drive continuity.
Colin Blumenthal, Managing Director, Complete I.T., a part of Sharp