By Adrian Ah-Chin-Kow, SMB Sales Director, Insight

Many organisations, large and small, see technology as a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to realising that it is a necessity to run and expand their business. In an increasingly digital age, UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) now face even more competition than ever before as geographical barriers are broken down. But, rather than viewing this as a barrier to growth, SMEs need to understand and take advantage of the opportunities presented by modern IT systems. By making the right strategic investment - in a scalable and secure IT system - SMEs can remain nimble and agile while benefitting from IT systems previously only available to, and afforded by, large corporations.

If you are unsure about the benefits of upgrading your IT system the advice below will help you understand why a flexible, secure IT system is important in the modern workplace.

Maintain a modern workplace

Businesses can only grow by arming their workforce with the tools needed to be successful. The rise of the mobile workforce is showing no signs of slowing down - the world's mobile worker population is set to reach 1.3 billion this year – a behavioural change created by technology. Employees are 84% more productive when plugged into the network as they can quickly and easily access the data they need to carry out their duties; so failure to keep employees connected whilst they are on the move can prove costly.

By implementing an IT strategy that allows employees to work from anywhere on the go, businesses eliminate the need to be ‘out of office’ when on the go. Cloud services such as Office 365 also bring real time access to services such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel from wherever there is an internet connection, breaking down the geographical barriers that once existed.

Be flexible with usage

There is often a misconception that IT infrastructure must be built to accommodate maximum capacity in order to run processes effectively, but this is no longer the case. The introduction of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) means that networking, storage and compute resources - owned and hosted by a service provider - can be offered on demand; this allows businesses to scale up and down services to account for peaks in usage. IaaS continues to be the fastest-growing segment of the market, growing 42.4 percent in 2012 to $6.1 billion and 47.3 percent in 2013 to $9 billion.

Businesses no longer have to pay for maximum storage capacity in anticipation of future growth, they can now just add on as required. This is partly where the fear of investment in IT infrastructure evolved from – fear of unwanted capex, but with IaaS enabling SMEs to navigate and adapt their infrastructure as and when their business grows, the threat diminishes along with the once unknown advantages of IaaS.

Utilising cloud solutions

In order to progress, businesses don’t need to jump on the next IT buzzword or trend; they need to be sure that what they do today will prepare them for tomorrow in order to remain competitive in an overcrowded marketplace. By utilising cloud solutions, growing businesses can minimise risks such as system downtime or data loss by gradually transitioning business functions to the cloud. By 2019 an estimated 40% of IT spend will be cloud-based according to Vanson Bourne, and with the nature of cloud computing, businesses can start small by sampling the low-risk technology whilst planning for future growth strategies.

To gain traction on competitors, organisations need to invest today to prepare for tomorrow. It may sound like a cliché but a strong IT strategy, which enables increased mobility and scalability, should be viewed as a strategic investment.