Did you know your competitors have increased their IT spending more than 400 percent during the past three years? I suspect not. This is a staggering number and it speaks to the competitive advantage small and medium sized businesses achieve by continually investing in technology.
Let me define what constitutes a small and medium-sized business. If you’ve ever researched this classification of companies, you probably know every person, every research report, etc., defines this differently. For the purpose of the statistics I am sharing with you in this article, a small business is one with 1 to 300 employees and no internal IT staff. They may have someone who is responsible for IT, so perhaps an entry level IT support person, but not a complete IT team. A medium-sized business is one with 300 to 3,000 employees and has an internal IT team, though perhaps not across all needed disciplines.
Consider that 57 percent of these businesses believe investing in technology is their best investment opportunity for growth. It makes sense. Where else can a business invest dollars and nearly immediately realize quantifiable results that add to the bottom line. Earlier this week, I was listening to testimony from the director of national intelligence to the U.S. Senate. While reviewing the various threats we face as a nation, he discussed the cyber threat. He classified technology as rapidly becoming critical infrastructure across, not just segments like health care and utilities, but the Internet itself and how it traverses every aspect of modern life. A targeted cyber attack could not only interrupt critical infrastructure, it can quickly spread “fake news” and cause chaos. Who wouldn’t want to do all they can to safeguard against this.
Ten percent of businesses say they are being pushed to invest due to regulatory requirements. My advice is to invest before you are required to. Like most things in business and in life, you don’t want to take action under the gun, you want to be proactive and ahead of the curve. As a business, you do not want to be caught up in reactionary actions as a result of the latest breach, especially if that breach involves your business.
So where should small and medium-sized businesses invest when it comes to technology? Every business should be invested in the basics of server of workstation management. These are things like properly implemented and managed patching to be sure your systems have the most current security and operating system updates; patching of all installed applications that can be managed to ensure you are not exposed due to a flaw in a piece of business software you are using; a comprehensive real-time asset inventory that alerts you to rogue devices connecting to your network and the installation of unapproved software; monitoring and alerting on events that could impact your employees productivity; and proactive management to ensure your system are operating as efficiently as possible. For small businesses, this is almost always done with a trusted IT partner. For medium-sized businesses, some of this is managed by the internal IT team and some by a trusted IT partner, which acts as an escalation and extension of the internal team.
Businesses that truly embrace IT and invest for growth invest in technologies like network management, which encompasses everything from optimizing the network to support user needs, to monitoring the network for threats, intrusions and data leakage, the unauthorized movement of data that could expose the company. Identity and access management is a fast-growing requirement for regulated business and will quickly impact non-regulated businesses. These are things like multi-factor authentication and privileged access, only allowing users access to systems and data that they need to do their jobs.
Cloud management is a growing need for any business that uses the Cloud. Do you have your email with Office 365? Do you have that email backed up? Most people I speak with believe Microsoft is backing up their email. It is not and you need a solution. Don’t be caught as being negligent should you ever find yourself in the situation of needing to produce email conversations from the past. Cost is another issue with the Cloud. Most businesses do not understand how to leverage Cloud solutions from a cost basis. Do you know how to audit your Cloud utilization and optimize it to save cost? I know one business that saved $400,000 in one year by properly optimizing their Cloud systems.
IT is still considered a necessary evil from a cost point of view for too many businesses. Take time to learn how your business can make your best investment for growth through IT.