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Planning a clear approach to IT can be invaluable to SMEs, and it is now easier than ever to find a viable and affordable setup

David Organ

With all the excitement and hard work involved in starting up a new business, setting up an IT system falls somewhere in between meetings with investors, building a website and hiring your first employee. For Andrew McLean and I, who set up AppLayer in 2009, the catalyst for us moving from using our own personal laptops to setting up a secure networked system was a simple cup of coffee. A cold cup, actually. It brought Andrew's laptop to a halt when the spilled liquid met the computer's hot electronics, illustrating the point that he and I needed to be better connected and share data to avoid losing vital information.

As self-proclaimed IT geeks setting up a cloud business, this wasn't really a chore. But we realise this is not always the case for MDs and owner managers.

When a startup shifts from a series of ideas on paper, tablets or laptops to an actual business strategy with a product or service, it's generally a good time to start looking at IT systems. SMEs are bombarded with messages about the cloud – how much time and money it can save them, and why they should use it. But doing it alone can be a daunting prospect.

Finding the time to choose your IT setup

The problem is that most heads of small businesses are already juggling so many balls – making contacts, securing funding, paying suppliers and employees – all while trying to make a profit – that they don't have the time to analyse the benefits of different IT systems. Adding one more metaphorical ball to the juggling act is often too much. As such, deciding whether Google Apps, Dropbox, Microsoft 365 or a combination of all three is the best way to meet their company's current and future IT requirements is rarely a top priority.

This generally means you either freeze and delay making technology-related decisions, or end up adopting a piecemeal approach to IT that may be hard to change when the company grows. Or, worse than that, it's less secure than you or your customers would like.

Businesses can indeed benefit from the cloud and the technology lends itself to providing IT for SMEs, as it can grow with the business – generally more so than a static, office-based server can.

The cloud provides:

• The flexibility of greater access to files no matter where you are – in or outside the office

• Increased security by storing files in a secure location, not on a laptop or office-based server

• Increased storage

• Regular upgrades and access to more up-date technology

Using the cloud doesn't necessarily mean not using IT support

As easy and accessible as the cloud is, it still requires time and effort to set up and maintain – the very reason most businesses outsource their IT services to specialist firms in the first place. Traditionally the cloud has played upon the fact that IT support is not needed to adopt it, that anyone can do it themselves. While this is true to a degree, it's much easier to turn to an IT expert to plan cloud strategy based on your business needs now and a few years down the line than it is to try to go in blind and identify which of the many options will best suit your business.

The good news is that this is now easier than ever – cloud companies are realising that working with IT providers is a more effective way to reach the SME market. This means your IT support company is now better equipped to provide the right cloud solution for your business.

We work closely with IT support companies to help them build tailored "cloud in a box" solutions that meet their SME clients' IT requirements. These companies can handle the contracts and billing, which means you receive a single IT invoice rather than several, making cashflow more predictable. A managed cloud service also means that you can add – or take away – account access with a simple call or email to your IT service provider, making it much easier when new employees start or others move on.

As MDs and owner managers we all know how many hats you need to wear to run an effective SME, but the good news is, with the right support, IT expert does not need to be one of them!

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AltaFlux Corporation

By AltaFlux Corporation

AltaFlux understands what you and your organization need to excel, and can deliver rapid innovation to unleash your full workforce potential. Together, we can empower your business by streamlining, transforming, and optimizing your key HCM and talent processes with industry-leading SAP SuccessFactors technology—enabling you to adapt at the speed of change.