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Forecasting for the future: the importance of capacity planning for SMBs

Owning and running your SMB can be challenging and rewarding in equal parts. And, when you’re staring down a period of significant business growth, the excitement and the nervousness can be greater than ever.

One of the best ways that you can ensure flexibility, scalability and security for your business’ growth is by implementing smart technology policies that support your SMB’s day-to-day needs.

Just like big business, SMBs depend on technology to help respond to economic and competitive pressures. More and more, we’re seeing how technology can level the playing field for even the smallest business, giving you a competitive advantage and the ability to hold your own against large enterprises.

Applying the right policies in hand with the right technology is the key to securing these advantages for your business. Consider these areas when you next think about making changes to your business’ technology.

Optimise your network infrastructure

If you’re an SMB starting out, you may be working out of a small office or even a spare room in your house. At this stage, it doesn’t seem like you really need to worry about your business’ network infrastructure, but as soon as you start adding a couple of extra computers, staff members or storage devices to your network, the cracks can appear very quickly.

In order to avoid this, plan for your business’ growth by ensuring you have enough speed, access points and storage in your network. Firstly, speed is critical if you have a significant number of computers and mobile devices accessing your network at the same time. Make sure you’re providing wired and wireless connectivity in the office as well as network security to prevent any unwanted usage of your network.

Access points can also give you greater flexibility, allowing you to up and down scale access to your network as you need it. By ensuring the number of wired terminals, routers or WiFi modems in your office, this allows enough access for your staff and guests that work on your network, you won’t experience data bottlenecks that can significantly impact your SMB’s productivity.

Finally, storage is another element that is crucial to the success of your network. It’s not just about the size of your data storage, however, it’s also important to consider the right level of security and access method for the stored data. You might want to choose a tiered security approach allowing your staff to access and edit information needed to do their job while access to sensitive information, like financial records, are secured for only senior staff to look at and edit.

Defining a device strategy

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the primary way that we interact with the world, including our work. As the owner of an SMB, mobile devices can also make a big impact on the way you operate your business, giving you and your staff more flexibility and ownership over how they work.

It’s important, however, to formalise the role that devices play in your business. One of the most common examples of this formalised stance is the ‘bring-your-own-device’ trend or BYOD. This approach to mobile devices in business is aimed at creating greater productivity through the use of mobile devices while reducing the investment in devices that business would normally make.

By asking staff to provide their own mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) for work purposes, your SMB can save significant funds and re-direct this money to areas that are more central to your business’ growth.

It’s important to note that if you adopt a BYOD policy in your business, you are generally still responsible for the ongoing maintenance of each device. This means that you should also consider how your business’ IT functions are setup to support a wider range of technology, rather than just a ‘standard issue’ device. From network security to technical support, there are a number of ongoing considerations that your SMB needs to keep an eye on as part of a successful BYOD policy.

The greatest benefit of BYOD, aside from reducing cost to your SMB, is increased productivity from your staff as they are comfortable and familiar with the devices they are working on. In addition to lessening the learning curve, the flexibility of using their own devices means that they can access business-related data and information from anywhere, increasing the likelihood of flexible working arrangements and the benefits that can flow from that.

When you’re running an SMB, technology can be your business’ best friend. With considered planning, a clear sense of your business’ growth objectives and an understanding of where and how technology can enhance you and your employees’ work, technology can help you maximise any gains with minimal fuss.

John Martin is the principal technologist at NetApp, ANZ. 

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