An 8-Step Guide to an Effective IT Strategy

In the modern world, an effective IT strategy is a necessity for every business, no matter its size or industry. In order to be competitive in today’s market, businesses need to have a strong IT infrastructure that facilitates and enhances every task and operation. However, despite the universal acknowledgment of the importance of IT systems, many business owners still do not take it seriously enough and let their systems become outdated or inefficient.

To help businesses get their systems up to scratch, here is our 8-step guide to an effective IT strategy.

1. Assess the Current State of Your IT Setup

Completing a full audit of your existing IT systems will help you determine what needs to be fixed, upgraded, replaced, or scrapped. If you have your own in-house IT specialists then you can task them with the job, or you can hire a professional firm which specialises in IT assessments. Either way, make sure it is a thorough IT audit that analyses every aspect of your setup.

This initial research should give you some idea about whether there are any immediate concerns that may pose issues not only for efficiency but also security. Any software vulnerabilities, faulty devices, or obsolete systems that can be easily hacked need to be addressed immediately before data protection becomes an issue.

2. Decide Where Your New IT Systems will be Based

The next step is to decide whether the servers and other essential hardware components should remain in-house, or whether you should follow the 94% of companies who have relocated all or part of their systems to the Cloud. If this is what you decide to do, you will need to check that everything functions properly from a remote location and then assess the various outsourcing options.

You will also need to make sure that any external service you use has the highest security standards. If you are dissatisfied with the levels of protection offered then there will be countless other options available with varying levels of control over both physical access and network connectivity.

3. Implement Effective Security Solutions

Once this is done, you will then need to have an honest look at the security of your data. Are there any internal or external threats? Do employees need more training on what they should do if a virus infects the company’s IT systems?

64% of businesses worldwide have experienced a cyber attack, so you next need to determine which software applications used by the various departments of your business are open to vulnerabilities. For example, if you have local servers, these need to be kept up-to-date with all the latest security fixes. Therefore, it may be helpful if employees track and report any bugs or errors that they encounter so that a professional team can fix them immediately.

Once you have taken care of internal threats, make sure there are no external ones by creating strong passwords across company devices including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, as well as using reliable anti-virus software packages.

4. Choose the Right Servers and Storage Solutions

Whether you plan to keep your IT systems on-site or off-site, it is important to choose which hardware components will best support them. Your servers need to be powerful enough that there are no delays, but also energy efficient, especially if they are going to run 24/7 from a remote location.

If your business has multiple branches, then each one may need its own set of servers depending on how much information needs to remain localised. In this case, it may be more feasible to have an off-site data center or co-location facility where backups are sent periodically.

Storage solutions come in countless forms these days including the Cloud, on-premise servers, and even hybrid options which combine both. You need to strike the right balance between making your data available only to those who absolutely need access, and ensuring that you have it backed up in multiple locations to prevent the risk of data loss.

5. Establish Effective Customer Interfaces

Once your plans for your IT infrastructure are in place, you will then need to think about how customers will be able to access the applications and tools they require. For example, if your company runs any type of e-commerce site then having an easy-to-use customer interface is crucial, as is offering multiple payment options such as credit card or PayPal.

The same applies if you have multiple branches across different countries. Each will need efficient interfaces which can accommodate various languages and currencies.

Finally, mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular for many types of businesses. Depending on your specific industry, providing your services through an app may soon be a necessity if you want to remain competitive. App development can be pricey and time-consuming so if this is something you think you need, now is the time to get started.

6. Consider Networks and Data Delivery

In today’s age of Cloud computing, fibre optics, and high-speed internet, there are countless ways to deliver data from one location to another. If you are still planning to use wired networks for your offices through Ethernet cables, keep in mind that each device will require its own cable and that you will need an internet router to share connections across different devices. This can get complicated to manage especially if one of your employees decides to take home a laptop with them so few businesses are still using this kind of setup.

For most small businesses, a secure WiFi network is usually enough, just make sure that you have strong passwords which you change frequently. Another option is cellular networks such as HSPA+ and LTE which can provide high bandwidth connectivity. However, it is worth noting that these can be very expensive and the costs may not necessarily outweigh the benefits.

7. Hire and Train the Right Employees

It’s important to get the right people on board to ensure that your IT systems will function properly and not run into any issues. Depending on the size of your business, this could be done by hiring an in-house IT team to take care of all technical support-related tasks, or by having one person for each department who is responsible for maintaining that department’s systems. Either way, training new and existing employees on how to use the new technology is very important because they will be able to monitor your IT systems on a daily basis and ensure that any issues are fixed quickly before they escalate into bigger problems.

8. Work out a Suitable Budget

Once you have taken all of that into account, the final thing you will need to do is work out how much it will all cost. You will need to consider everything from hardware upgrades, Cloud storage subscription fees, and IT support staff salaries. You may also need to account for the loss in revenue during the implementation period when some or all of your operations may be offline.

While the average small business spends around 6.9% of its revenue on IT systems, you need to be sensible but realistic when setting your budget. If you try to cut corners, then your employees could face constant IT performance issues such as network outages or data losses. On the other hand, if you get carried away, you could end up dropping huge amounts of money on IT solutions which will ultimately not benefit your business.

Final Thoughts

Planning and implementing an effective IT strategy is a major consideration for every business, but if you get it right, it could pay dividends. If you are looking for some extra help with your business’s IT strategy, speak to one of our experts who will be able to advise you on the best direction for your company.