Time-poor business owners of start-ups and SMEs often find themselves kept awake at night by a raft of IT worries – especially if they don’t have the right skillset in-house. After all, there’s a lot to keep on top of, from website performance and security, through to platform design and server infrastructure. Crucially, in today’s unpredictable yet competitive economic landscape, they also need to understand how to plan for changing workloads when scaling a business online – something that’s extremely hard for businesses to predict accurately. Here, Gary Bliss, Solutions Consultant for Fasthosts ProActive, provides advice for business owners facing this predicament.
Business owners are frequently torn when finding balance between business growth and managing online workloads. What’s clear from speaking to them is that the pressure of building a successful online presence can mount quickly unless they take control. Understandably they might not think they can afford to outsource IT requirements, so often find themselves adding these tasks to their own extensive ‘to do’ list.
Tackling the technical minefield of online platform building and scalability can be daunting, but those companies that early on invest time in planning and future proofing themselves will truly reap the rewards. While they’re unlikely to have a team of IT experts on hand, it’s those businesses that consciously map out their options for managing their platforms in years to come that are more likely to succeed. This is especially important when dealing with high rates of changes and meeting fluid scaling requirements.
So where should a company begin? First, ask yourself questions such as “what if we get busier”, “what if we don’t need the level of resource we’ve committed to” or “what if my location or workflow changes”.
Next, think about the infrastructure you might need. Businesses should think twice when investing in expensive physical infrastructure as this can be a costly mistake.
It’s not only time that can be often spent poorly. Financially, many companies store data on expensive storage media but there’s far cheaper and more efficient ways to store bulk, static data in the cloud. Ultimately, questions and mishaps come down to lack of awareness, and this is something a managed service provider (MSP) can help overcome.
Some companies choose to throw money at expensive physical hardware, such as servers, rather than selecting a more flexible managed cloud service. These businesses are then constrained by the lack of flex and agility once they have reached their size limit. From the get-go, they must scope solutions based on their predicted peak demands. This means they need to invest money up front based on whatever data they have available, to predict what they think those busy demands or times might be, which is sub-optimal. Thankfully there are other options out there, such as working with an MSP that can radically reduce the risk of walking into an IT dead end in the future.
MSPs, such as Fasthosts ProActive, have the expertise to scale up and deploy systems quickly on behalf of clients, which means that additional infrastructure can be created quickly to meet demand. What’s more, additional elements can be created in minutes rather than days or weeks.
Next up, let’s look at observability. We speak to many organisations with existing infrastructure in place. They can easily say how much they pay for RAM, hard drive space and the number of processors they have by looking at an invoice. But when asked how much of that is actually used, they have no visibility. How is their solution sizing appropriate for their needs if they don’t know what they’re using from the get-go? How do they know where to scale to? It’s largely guesswork.
Another common challenge is that there are optimal times to carry out IT maintenance. These tend to be out of hours for backs-ups or patches. Companies must therefore look at resourcing this, or face disruption during the business day. We have a specialist team of experts available 24/7, 365 days per year, to deal with any issues that may arise and do the heavy lifting for you.
So how can SMEs put their best foot forward?
- Engage with an MSP – let the experts do what they’re good at to free up your time to do what you’re good at as a business owner.
- Look at the overall cost of ownership of your IT estate when making decisions about potential outsourcing. It’s easy to look at numbers from a supplier, add them up on spreadsheet and look at a total cost. What’s not taken into consideration is time and resource for BAU operation and “what if” scenarios. What if your current self-managed solution dies? How long will it take you as an organisation to remedy this – whether creating a new environment and migrating data, or fixing? How much business will you lose in this time. This all needs to be factored in when calculating
- Right from the get-go, think about your IT eco systems. Does your IT fit with your desired workflows? Are there any elements that are sub optimal? This is an area MSPs can help with to build and design work flows around how companies want to work rather than the other way around. Many companies choose technology and then work out how they want to work retrospectively. This generally doesn’t go particularly well. We look at workflows first – it’s easier to tailor tech than people!
What’s clear is that technology can really enable your business to thrive, especially when it’s bespoke to suit your business needs and working with an MSP can play a vital part in making all the difference in that success.