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How to make the right IT investments, at the right time

Making the right IT investments can support growth and vastly improve your business’s existing operations. However, CompTIA points out that 47 percent of small and midsize businesses consider themselves moderately close or not close at all in terms of readiness to use improved technology.

When it comes to adopting new technology, the devil is in the details. The perennial challenge business owners face is a blend of factoring in cost, choosing the ideal time to make a particular investment, and understanding its impact to existing servers, storage, and networking.

So, how can your business know what technology to invest in? Learn what to watch out for when adopting new technology and how to measure the return on investment of a new technology.

Keep an eye on productivity

While personal productivity can prove difficult to quantify, you can easily measure and observe an upsurge in productivity across the organization with a monitoring system, which opens the door to tracking the benefits of new IT investments. Business owners should start their assessment by asking what investments can offer in terms of completing tasks faster or eliminating an existing impediment for a smoother work flow.

For example, you can host a new customer relationship management system that allows for the replacement of some error-prone and time-intensive manual processes. Swapping in a new server with greater computing oomph could enable the analytics software to churn out reports and visualizations in real time.

And when considering productivity, don’t forget about tasks not on the front line—including data backup and security considerations. In this context, the ability to reduce the time required to run vital operations, such as reducing the data backup window from 10 hours to an hour with the use of a new storage appliance, is a noteworthy improvement. If you invest in new remote devices, such as laptops or other mobile devices, you also need to secure all endpoints, since each and every device connecting to your network creates a potential entry point.

Pick the low-hanging fruit

The fast-paced nature of IT means cutting-edge hardware can enter into the mainstream in a relatively short span of time, which translates into high-value technology for modest capital outlays. By staying alert and taking advantage of such low-hanging fruit, business owners can leverage new technologies to gain substantial long-term benefits.

For example, adding a Wi-Fi system can facilitate the use of BYOD devices, such as tablets and smartphones, within the small business office, and upgrading an existing one to 802.11ac Wave 2 hardwarewill offer support for faster wireless transfers to laptops.

Similarly, an upgrade from Fast Ethernet (100 megabits per second) to Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 mbit/s) increases available network capacity tenfold, yet could potentially prove as simple as swapping faster network switches into place. You can also equip your employees who work on the go, such as sales people, with BYOD devices. With mobility in the field, your sales employees can remotely access the files they need at a moment’s notice.

Don’t forget scheduled upgrades

You shouldn’t ignore scheduled upgrades either, which tend to entail replacing pricier servers and storage devices at the end of their projected life span. Though there’s often enough leeway to delay upgrades, constantly putting them off can result in unsupported hardware operating at the edge of failure or being unable to support current workloads adequately.

Smaller businesses may want to consider taking out a loan to finance scheduled equipment refreshes. Vendors typically offer pricing models in the form of installment payments, or you can choose to use an external organization, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA, for instance, offers a number of loan programs small businesses can explore.

Though technology doesn’t automatically make for a successful business, its absence or misuse is surely an impediment. Sit down and consider these factors to appropriately prioritize the IT investments your business needs, both in the short- and long-term.