Jul 31 2018
Data Center

The Tech Small Businesses Can Use to Fill in the Gaps in IT Staff

Depending on your needs, cloud, hyperconverged infrastructure or SDN solutions can help boost productivity with a small IT team.

If you’re a small business owner, odds are that you don’t have a very large IT team, if you even have a dedicated team at all. Small businesses run lean, and that often means a lack of investment in dedicated IT personnel, something that’s unlikely to change soon.

According to Spiceworks’ 2018 “State of IT” report, only 32 percent of companies with fewer than 100 employees expect to increase their IT staff this year (for companies with between 100 and 499 employees, that figure rises to 37 percent).

Just because small businesses tend to have small IT staffs doesn’t mean they can’t use technology to stay productive, get the most out of the resources they have, and even gain a competitive edge. Technology solutions can help small businesses fill in the cracks that may emerge because of small IT teams.

Depending on where your small business is in its IT refresh cycle, you can turn to different kinds of technologies to help you get ahead.

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Simplify Data Center Management with Hyperconvergence

If you are in the process of refreshing your computing and storage IT, you might want to consider hyperconverged infrastructure, or HCI.

Like converged infrastructure, HCI platforms combine computing, storage, networking and virtualization capabilities into a single appliance, but importantly, all of the components are preintegrated and controlled by one software management layer. HCI lets organizations add in additional nodes to scale up IT resources as they see fit. By coming in as a streamlined and centrally managed solution, HCI lowers IT acquisition and deployment costs for organizations.

The benefits can especially accrue for businesses that lack specialized IT staff and face tight budgets. Instead of dedicating staff to manage servers and support storage solutions, companies that adopt HCI can streamline data center operations and free up IT staff to work on tasks more critical to the business.

There are numerous vendors that offer HCI solutions, including Cisco Systems, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Nutanix and VMware.

Adopt Cloud Services to Streamline IT

In addition to lowering IT acquisition and deployment costs with HCI, businesses can ease IT procurement management and oversight by reducing the number of data center vendors.

Although small businesses will see cost savings over time, HCI requires an upfront investment. If your compute storage or networking refresh cycles are not aligned, it may make more sense (and be simpler) to adopt cloud services — either Software, Infrastructure or Platform as a Service.

According to IDC, more than 70 percent of companies with between 10 and 99 employees use the cloud, as do more than 90 percent of companies with between 100 and 499 employees. Data from Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner at the SMB Group (one of BizTech’s 30 Must-Read Small Business IT Blogs of 2017), also indicates that the vast majority of SMBs are using at least one SMB cloud application today and that cloud adoption is rising across all application categories.

Cloud provides small businesses with greater and more elastic computing and storage capabilities. It also relieves the pressure of managing all that IT in an on-premises data center.

It wouldn’t make sense to do a full cloud migration and HCI at the same time. A small business may decide to upgrade part of its infrastructure now in preparation for a future move to the cloud. Small businesses must determine where they are in the IT refresh cycle to make the best decision about which approach to take.

Embrace SD-WAN for Easier Network Management

Software-defined WAN, or SD-WAN, is another technology small businesses can use to make IT management easier. SD-WAN applies software-defined networking (SDN) concepts to WANs and decouples the network and the control plane, abstracting traffic management and monitoring from network hardware.

The technology then applies that approach to individual applications running over the WAN. It boils down to the “idea of using two circuits concurrently in a smart way,” as Daghan Altas, senior director of product management at Cisco Meraki, explained at a CDW conference in September. That means a router, firewall or another SD-WAN device “can essentially choose the best path for the best application.”

SD-WAN offers numerous benefits for organizations of all sizes, but it’s especially helpful to small businesses with branch locations. The software that sits at the heart of SD-WAN allows IT staff members to remotely program edge devices and significantly cut down on provisioning time. This reduces and, in some cases, may eliminate the need to manually configure traditional routers at branch locations, as TechTarget notes. For small businesses with small IT teams, that’s a huge benefit.

A number of vendors have deployed SD-WAN solutions, including Cisco Meraki, Citrix, Riverbed, Silver Peak and VeloCloud (which was acquired by VMware in November).

Having a small IT team doesn’t have to limit your small business’s potential. Technology tools can help you take your business wherever you want it to go.

This article is part of BizTech's AgilITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #SmallBizIT hashtag.


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