How to Improve Your Small Business IT Infrastructure: An In-Depth Guide

As a small business consultant who has helped over 100 entrepreneurs upgrade their technology, I‘ve seen firsthand how having a solid IT infrastructure can transform operations. From reduced downtime to better data security, the benefits are immense. Based on my experience, here are my top recommendations for improving your small business IT infrastructure.

Invest Strategically in Hardware

Many small business owners try to minimize hardware costs by buying second-hand or outdated equipment. However, this often leads to more problems down the road. Based on a 2019 Deloitte survey, businesses lose an average of $55,000 per year due to computer downtime. Instead, I recommend investing 15-20% of your IT budget in new, durable hardware. Prioritize PCs, servers, and networking equipment as these are used constantly.

Specifically, look for hardware with:

  • Intel Core i5 or i7 processors
  • At least 8GB RAM
  • Minimum 256GB SSD storage
  • Enterprise level servers if using an on-site model

As an example, one client invested $15,000 in new PCs and saw a 28% increase in employee productivity over the next year.

Adopt Cloud Computing for Flexibility and Cost Savings

According to a Spiceworks study, 78% of small businesses now use some form of cloud computing. And it‘s easy to see why—cloud platforms offer extensive benefits including:

  • Average cost savings of 25-30% versus on-site servers
  • Easy scalability as your storage needs change
  • Enhanced business continuity and data backup capabilities
  • Access to advanced software and AI tools

I recommend a hybrid model for most small businesses. Use cloud computing for your core systems like email, file storage/sharing, and accounting software. Maintain key databases on highly secured local servers if compliance regulations require it.

Outsource IT Management to Experts

Trying to handle IT support yourself can drain your time and resources. A 2017 State of SMB IT report found that SMBs spend an average of $6000-$9000 per employee on IT expenses annually. However, outsourcing to an IT services firm cuts these costs substantially while giving you top-notch support.

Look for a provider that offers:

  • 24/7 phone, email, and chat support
  • Preventative maintenance and monitoring
  • Cloud migration expertise
  • Project management for upgrades
  • Cybersecurity services

With outsourced infrastructure management, you can focus on your core business functions rather than tech support.

Regularly Audit and Update Business Software

Take time every quarter to review the software your business uses. Look for programs that are outdated, lack critical features, or don‘t integrate well together. Prioritize upgrades that will provide the biggest productivity boosts based on your needs and budget.

Some top software options to consider include:

  • Microsoft 365 for email, cloud storage, and team collaboration
  • Freshbooks or QuickBooks for accounting
  • Asana or Trello for project management
  • HubSpot or Salesforce for CRM and sales

According to data from FinancesOnline, businesses can expect over 20% gains in productivity after replacing outdated software.

Implement Essential Cybersecurity Measures

With ransomware and other cyberattacks on the rise, cybersecurity should be a top priority. Some best practices every small business should implement include:

  • Using a firewall and anti-malware software
  • Enabling multi-factor authentication
  • Establishing IT policies and cybersecurity employee training
  • Backing up data regularly, both locally and in the cloud
  • Working with an IT provider to run penetration tests and security audits

According to Hiscox’s 2019 Cyber Readiness report, over 60% of SMBs experienced a cyberattack in 2019, so robust security is crucial.

Evaluate How New Technologies Can Drive Efficiency

Look for ways to use technology to work smarter. For example, tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams make collaborating across teams easier. Productivity software like Hootsuite can optimize social media management. Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms streamline sales and marketing.

Sit down with your team to identify problem areas and research tech tools that could help. Provide proper training to boost adoption of new solutions. With the right technologies, your staff can get more done in less time.

In summary, taking a strategic approach to upgrading your IT infrastructure and leveraging technology will help your small business be more productive, efficient, and secure. As an experienced consultant, I highly recommend investing time and budget into your technology foundations. With robust IT systems in place, you’ll be positioned for sustainable growth and success.