A true measure of business success is expansion. Opening up new markets and satellite offices demonstrates that business is booming, but one of the biggest mistakes any business can make is unplanned expansion. Growing too fast or without carefully considering what kind of infrastructure you will need to sustain a larger operation has proven to be the downfall of many companies. You especially want to plan out your IT strategy to give you centralized control of data and gain a more accurate picture of global operations.
Bloomberg research shows that 8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first 18 months. Among the top reasons cited for business failure are a lack of understanding of the market, lack of understanding of the customers, lack of market differentiation, and an inability to generate a stable revenue stream. Success in any of these areas relies on an effective IT infrastructure. Your computer network is responsible to tracking P&L, coordinating customer outreach and capturing customer reactions, and tracking every aspect of operations. Without the right computing infrastructure to consolidate operations and provide a holistic picture, you have no way to assess company performance as you expand.
Here are three IT infrastructure considerations to assess as you plan your campaign of expansion:
As businesses increase their geographic reach, they often tend to take on too much too soon, especially when it comes to IT. When planning expansion many executives decide to expand the data center to increase capacity, which means more hardware, more software, more bandwidth, more security, more staff, and more expense. It’s a big upfront cash commitment to support operations before you have the revenue to justify the additional costs. Smarter business owners are seeking ways to outsource their IT expansion, developing strategies that promise extensibility without having to commit to more infrastructure.
Cloud computing is becoming an increasingly popular option for business expansion since it provides a pay-as-you-go computing model with extensible storage, and it’s accessible from anywhere. Setting up a central data repository and shared services such as email and office applications makes it easier to add satellite offices without adding to the data center. Cloud services can be centrally managed and access granted to remote offices and individual users.
Depending on the application (and the budget), companies can use public cloud resources, establish a private cloud, or use a hybrid cloud. Public cloud servers like Amazon Web Services offer scalability, automated deployments, and reliability, although many companies are concerned about public cloud security. A private cloud moves control in-house for greater security, but it can be more difficult to manage and more costly to scale. As an alternative, organizations are looking at hybrid cloud strategies as the best of both cloud strategies, offering easy access and scalability over public cloud systems when needed, and providing added control and security with private cloud services for some applications.
When connecting remote offices, whether they are across town or around the world, effective communications is essential. Teleconference services continue to be popular but for true collaboration, a simple telephone connection is not enough. That’s why more companies are adopting unified communications (UC).
The advantage of using UC is that it provides real-time communications using various media, all connected via high-speed Internet. Voice over IP (VoIP) provides the telephone connection, but by establishing an IP link you also get support for chat and instant messaging, video conferencing, file transfer, interactive whiteboards, and more. UC is ideal for collaborating with remote offices and customers, and it can connect anyone with a telephone or IP connection to the conference, including mobile users.
As part of your geographic expansion strategy, be sure to provide employees with a secure means of accessing company resources using mobile devices. In addition to the UC system create virtual private networks (VPNs) and other secure data links to enable remote and traveling employees access company files and resources. Since you want to be sure that corporate data assets remain secure, use hardened encryption and authentication to control data access. Also be sure to closely monitor remote users to protect the company’s intellectual property.
Centralized Resource Management
The more widespread your network infrastructure, the more difficult it becomes to manage. Centralized network management provides a comprehensive view of the entire network, including servers, cloud resources, available bandwidth, and more. A centralized management console simplifies enterprise resource planning as well as system administration, and it facilitates network troubleshooting. It can also simplify analytics, providing a means to gather various metrics for analysis. Combining cloud computing and central management gives you an extensible computing and data storage platform that can be used to power any kind of analysis, including big data.
You don’t need to have a data center to centralize infrastructure management. Managed service providers can provide centralized monitoring and management of any type of network infrastructure, monitoring for network performance and software issues as well as data security. Most managed service providers can monitor cloud resources as well as remote office systems, and they can centralize systems backup and disaster recovery as well.
There is no reason to plan for your IT expansion alone. Managed service providers can be invaluable in showing you cost-effective strategies to expand your IT systems without exceeding your ability to manage them.