Being a small business doesn’t necessarily mean having a small geographical presence. Many small businesses work over multiple sites in multiple geographies, and indeed this is becoming increasingly common as businesses recognise the importance of different business hubs across the country and across the globe. Information Technology needs to enable and empower the distributed organization, and the technology now exist to make this happen, and not just add to the headaches for business owners and IT managers.
There are many drivers leading organizations to reassess their remote site IT strategy. Managing multiple offices or stores can be time-consuming, often involving travel to different locations, and managing different networks, firewalls and servers, while juggling local issues that crop up unexpectedly. And, no matter how hard you try, remote office users can often feel like they are second class IT citizens. Technological advances combined with pressure to deliver new business models, new ways of engaging with customers, and uniform operating models are leading to pressure for advanced, coordinated IT capability across all sites, no matter how remote or how small. But this must be achieved without putting strain on IT budgets.
So what’s the best way for small businesses to use IT to support multiple sites? Organizations have often headed straight to the cloud to tackle remote site IT, as traditional servers need regular love and attention. A cloud-first strategy affords many benefits, including a reduced emphasis on infrastructure. However, a cloud-first strategy is not a cloud-only strategy. Many new and innovative applications (as well as most legacy ones) require IT infrastructure on the remote site. Consequently, although the public cloud has a significant role to play in branch IT, it does not support some of the most demanding business requirements of the distributed organization.
Hybrid IT is fast becoming the new norm for businesses large and small and offers new opportunities to implement advanced branch IT without complexity. With hybrid IT, you choose which data and applications you keep on your local server, and which you put in the cloud, for sound commercial and technical reasons.
A hybrid environment creates the best of both worlds – on-premise servers for your most sensitive data, whilst utilising the scalability, flexibility and cost benefits that the cloud offers. A growing trend in the move to hybrid IT is the move to an ‘as a service’ setup, which means that the organisation’s IT infrastructure is kept up to date 24/7 and fully managed, freeing them to focus on their core business. What this means for the SMB is effective, cost-efficient and high functionality remote site IT, embracing the best IT without complexity.
This approach does more than ease headaches and functionality problems – it brings significant cost and flexibility benefits to SMBs, and is much easier to support. It provides a consistent technology platform for all locations and businesses, and allows SMBs to build better and closer relationships with their customers by providing customers, employees and associates with a consistent and up-to-date set of data any place at any time. Retailers, for example, can deliver a coherent digital strategy that serves all customers in all locations — an approach where the customer chooses how to purchase and fulfil their transaction.
This fundamental shift in cost-effective, high-functionality, small-site IT delivered by solutions like hybrid IT is a business game-changer, and offers new opportunities for SMBS to solve the challenges posed by the success of becoming a multisite business. Any businesses looking to expand to multiple sites, or improve the infrastructure of existing remote locations, should have hybrid IT on their agenda.
By Brian Buggy, VP Product, Zynstra