By TerryAnn Fitzgerald, SMB Solutions Marketing Manager, HP Networking
I’ve always had a special respect for small business leaders. In addition to running the business, you’re often the IT manager by default. Your budget is tight. And yet somehow, you’re tasked with making technology the great equalizer, the secret weapon to compete with bigger companies. But as your business grows is your network able to grow with you?
Technology can certainly help today’s small business. And at no other time has there been such an array of powerful technologies at your disposal: e-commerce platforms to reach a global marketplace; blogs, Twitter and social networks to communicate directly with customers; and rich-media applications such as Skype and Google+ Hangouts to improve employee collaboration.
But in speaking with small business leaders, it’s clear that the range of technology options is both a blessing and a curse. With so much choice, where do you invest? What technology will most positively impact your business, deliver the most bang for your buck, and enable business growth?
My advice is to first invest in your network. And not any old network, but a growth-ready network. What do I mean by growth ready? Well, read on for an explanation and I’ll also summarize the different types of networks you should consider.
Let’s begin by asking some questions about your current network and its ability to support your growing business. Check your network against these five characteristics of growth-ready networks.
- Is it responsive? Your network should be able to easily handle spikes in network traffic.
- Is it flexible? Your network should easily expand as you add new components or reconfigure when devices are removed. You should be able to unplug and install the core equipment anywhere in your building, even where there are no power outlets.
- Is it easy to deploy and manage? Your network gear should be plug-and-play and offer an intuitive, Web-based management interface so that non-technical staff can get equipment up and running, quickly.
- Is it scalable? Can you add new users, equipment and applications without requiring a fork-lift upgrade every time?
- Is it standards-based? A network that supports industry standards, such as IEEE 802.11 for wireless networking removes worry about compatibility as install other standards-based equipment.
Basic vs. advanced networks
A small business growth-ready network typically falls into one of two categories: basic or advanced. With a basic network, you don’t have to do a lot of customization work because all the equipment is plug-and-play. A basic network is ideal if you have a handful of servers, a wired infrastructure and up to 25 employees.
If you want to configure your network, opt for an advanced network—it will also give you a higher-level of performance.
Regardless of network type, consider the total cost of ownership (TCO). Your network TCO will be based on not just equipment and maintenance, but any employee training you’ll need to provide, your level of network support, warranties and service costs.
A network built to last
If you’re contemplating technology investments, think seriously about your network. Your network touches everything—employees, applications, communications and customers. If you build a growth-ready network, you’ll have a foundation for the latest applications and technologies, and long-term business growth.
If you manage IT in your small business, I salute you. I know the challenges you’re up against.
To help you navigate the choices of networking equipment available to you, I invite you to read our white paper, which goes into more details about the issues I’ve covered in this post. Download the paper “A network that can support your growing small business,” today.