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10 I.T. Investments that will increase your bottom line

Posted on 2011-10-10T15:36:45 by Patrick Carley

In today's hyper-competitive business environment, companies are looking for more and more ways to increase employee productivity, decrease the sales cycle, and increase customer satisfaction. Your I.T. infrastruture can help you tremendously with these goals.

Here are 10 I.T. investments that will give you that competitive edge:

  1. Increase your core network speed by doing the following:
    1. Increase your internet speed - Increasing the speed of the your broadband connection can greatly improve efficiency. If your company performs many downloads, has in-house servers that host e-mail, FTP, Voice over I.P, etc., a faster internet connection will make all of these services work better. When deciding the specific broadband service, make sure to work closely with your I.T. professional and/or in-house I.T. staff. Some services such as e-mail and Voice over I.P. Telephony depend heavily on the upload speed of your connection.
    2. Upgrade your switches to Gigabit - Many small business networks have slower Fast Ethernet switches. However; the network ports on most computers run at Gigabit speed. So, your switches are creating a bottlekneck on your network. If you upgrade to Gigabit switches, you'll notice a tremendous performance boost.
  2. Buy a real server - a good number of small business networks do not have a server computing system as the core of their network. Real servers offer a number of important features.
    1. Hardware that is designed to run 24/7 - Desktop computers that double as servers have a big disadvantage. The hardware is not designed for 24/7 operation. So, if you trust your important shared data on a desktop, the chance that the system will fail is increased dramatically.
    2. Centralized user management & security - The Windows server software that runs on most real servers has a feature called Active Directory. Active directory performs a wide array of centralized security and management duties. One of the most widely used features is user management. All users on the network have an account located in Active Directory. If a user forgets their password, an administrator can reset the user's password in Active Directory. Active Directory aslo can integrate with many 3rd party software programs to manage user authentication. So, if you buy a line of business software application, you can speed up user creation by using your existing Active Directory users. Your server can limit certain resources on your network for certain departments or inviduals, as well. For example, a network folder can be created that only the HR department can access.
  3. Get rid of POP3 e-mail - POP3 e-mail is a great tool for personal e-mail use. However; the e-mail solution for your business should be based on a business platform such as Microsoft Exchange. You can deploy Microsoft Exchange on-premise (if you have a real server with Active Directory enabled) or in a hosted format with an ISP or other hosting provider. Microsoft Exchange gives you more control over your e-mail communications. You'll be able to provide enhanced security, backup, archiving, and smartphone synchronization. No matter which e-mail client you log into, you will always be able to see all of your incoming & outgoing e-mails. With POP3 e-mail, each client you log into will have different buckets of your important e-mail.
  4. Develop a mobile strategy - Let's face it; all business is not conducted while you'll sitting behind your desktop. With a mobile strategy, you'll be able to stay in touch with your customers no matter where you are. Since you've taken our recommendation to get rid of POP3 e-mail, now you'll be able to synch your Blackberry, iPhone or Android device to your Exchange Server. You'll be able to to see all of your contacts, e-mails, appointments, and tasks on your phone just as if you were sitting in front of Microsoft Outlook. Never miss an important e-mail or appointment again.
  5. Protect your data - The loss of your valuable company can be disastrous. To make sure you are able to continue business when a business outage occurs, we recommend a backup and recovery solution to protect your company's data. With an an adequate backup and recovery solution, you can reduce your recovery time from days to hours. Also, this will prevent the permanent loss of key data that you need to run your business.
  6. Build your own cloud - Server and desktop virtualization are key strategies in today's computing environment. Virtualization can enable you to run mulitple instances of a server on one piece of hardware. So, if you're looking to consolidate legacy servers on new robust hardware or rapidly deploy new servers, virtualization is a key strategy to increase your efficiency. Instead of paying high fees for a hosted application, you can host it yourself and enjoy a much higher return on investment.
  7. Dual or more monitors per employee - Employees are constantly minimizing and maximizing windows on their desktops in order to view important information. This inefficient practice could have tremendous impact on employee productivity. Various surveys have concluded that just adding a second monitor will increase employee productivity by 20 to 30 percent. Depending on the employee's workflow, adding a 3rd or fourth monitor may also be beneficial. If adding a third monitor, a good option would be to include a monitor that can be orientated in the portrait position for users that scroll long lists of data on a regular basis.
  8. Enable remote access - Sometimes, workers that are away from the office may need more access than just e-mail and calendar. For workers who often work in the field, we recommend some type of remote office access such as VPN connectivity and/or Microsoft Sharepoint.
  9. Manage your printers & multifunction devices - Document management is key strategy in making your business more efficient. Industry analysis states that anywhere from 3 to 10 percent of your gross revenue is spent on copiers, printers, multifunction devices, and the associated management of these devices. However; many small businesses have no formal process of managing this cost center. A well-planned document management initiative can allow you to control these costs and develop a more efficient workflow.
  10. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - A customer relationship management solution is key to staying tuned in to your entire customer experience. CRM, manages the customer relationship from the first phone call to addressing customer support issues. CRM keeps all this information in one place and provides very important business intelligence for your business. Most popular CRM packages can interface into your e-mail & calendar; quoting systems; accounting systems; phone systems; etc. When you pull up a customer in your CRM solution, you can see the many facets of the customer relationship all in one place. CRM packages can also be the foundation of generating e-mail & direct mail marketing campaigns. CRM gives you ultimate visibility of every customer relationship.

 

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