As small businesses expand, they face a host of challenges. Many firms must move to a new office or build out a current location to meet the growing demands of clients and customers. Moving into a new space often requires an updated IT infrastructure, which can be a serious challenge for a small organization that lacks a dedicated IT staff or has gotten by on network hardware intended for consumers.
For a small firm planning a move, the first focal point is to consider the business drivers behind an expansion. Some important questions to ask:
- Why are you expanding your space, and what activities will take place in the new space?
- Are you bulking up warehouse operations, adding dozens of new knowledge workers or expanding a data center?
Any expansion plan must allow for growth over the next three to five years — both in IT systems and in general office use. Believe me, a double move will be costly.
Upgrading Network Architecture
Once you have a solid handle on why you are expanding, you can face the challenge of how to support your growth. Start by taking physical inventory. Whether you are moving into a new space or extending an existing one, conduct a thorough site survey. This should include floor plans, security issues, energy resources, wireless networking and the location of wiring closets and other network distribution points.
A growing business also should end its use of consumer-grade wireless networking hardware such as routers, firewalls and hubs. A move or expansion is an excellent time to adopt discrete solutions from top vendors such as Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Intel. Rack-mounted switches are efficient, easily managed and let you scale to dozens or even hundreds of Gigabit Ethernet connections. They can also address the heightened security challenges facing an expanded operation. Small firms also should consider solutions that support Power over Ethernet, which delivers electricity to connected devices through copper Ethernet cables. PoE eases the installation of devices such as Voice over IP phones, security cameras and Wi-Fi access points.
As a broad goal, a growing small business should commit to maturing its network architecture. Simple hub-and-spoke network layouts should be replaced with a hierarchy that streamlines traffic, eases management and limits single points of failure. IT leaders should work with vendors and engage consultants who can clearly explain network management options and recommend optimal choices. A properly provisioned network with compatible switches and gear can be remotely managed from a unified portal — a huge benefit that will reduce operating costs, improve uptime and maximize network performance.
Migrating to a new or larger space is never easy. Small firms have a thousand details to consider and a lot of tough choices to make. A thoughtful approach can turn this challenge into a major opportunity, and position a business and its IT infrastructure for continued growth in the years to come.
To learn more about what technologies small businesses should keep in mind when experiencing growth, visit, "Why Technology Must Keep Pace with Small Business Growth."
For more on the technology upgrades small businesses should make when growing and expanding, check out, "Why Expanding Small Businesses Should Focus on IT Infrastructure Upgrades."