By Tom Craig, Director, Vodafone Business Services

In the past it has often been perceived that only large corporations hold significant budget for managing advanced IT departments and resources. Today, IT and communications infrastructures have become an even more complex process to organise and manage for businesses, particularly with the movement towards a mobile workforce and the influx of mobile devices in the market. However, although building your own IT infrastructure can appear to be a prohibitively expensive ideal for those operating on a smaller scale, with new developments in technology and externally managed systems available, it is now possible for small businesses to see the types of productivity improvements larger companies enjoy from technology.

The trick is for smaller businesses to choose a solution which takes advantage of the raft of new services available, all delivered via sophisticated but affordable technology platforms. For example deploying a managed service in the cloud would allow you to operate on your IT system optimally, specifically based on your needs and requirements.

Here are a few things to look out for in order to find the best system to meet your business needs at an affordable price:

1.Keep life simple by choosing a single service provider for the range of technology and communications services your business requires.

Look for a provider that offers the most up to date software on a managed service basis providing all your needs including email, telephones, data storage, word processing etc on a rental basis which can be scaled quickly and easily to suit your requirements.

This way you will avoid paying out for services you don’t require or use. A truly comprehensive communication and collaboration solution will make life simpler and ensure that downsizing or expanding is not a huge financial burden.

2.Implement a system which supports business flexibility.
Mobile working enables your business to be flexible and allows you to be available to communicate efficiently with customers, suppliers and employees which is an integral part of business success. Today, there are unified communications platforms enabling you to have one number so you are available to customers wherever you are. Simple to say, but making sure your system enables you to be contactable is a priceless advantage.

3.Don’t waste money on services your business doesn’t require.

Businesses often find themselves unable to expand because they are hampered by their own hardware restrictions and legacy systems. New developments such as cloud computing allow you to rent the software and services you need and means your licences can be managed centrally. You can add extra storage as you need it, extend users, upgrade packages to the latest software if required, so you won’t be paying for capacity you are not using. In addition to this you won’t have to worry about the added headache of ensuring your data is backed up, it will all be stored securely in the cloud where you can access it from anywhere.

4.Enable your mobility safely.

Although many small businesses are based on mobility, in the past there wasn’t such expectation around being contactable on the move. With sophisticated mobile devices becoming a must-have tool for workers and some increasingly using personal devices for business, these tools have the potential to improve staff productivity and flexible working, but leave businesses vulnerable to possible interruptions, data theft, and regulatory compliance headaches. In order to manage this effectively, choose a provider who offers specific solutions and protection for smaller businesses and who can advise you on simple solutions to secure your infrastructure which are easy to implement and easy to manage. Businesses that react with well planned strategies are set to reap the benefits of a mobile workforce.

Setting up an IT system that caters to the specific needs of your company is a fundamental tool in driving success in the current economic climate, smaller businesses can now really take advantage of these simple services to give themselves the competitive edge, and are in a very real sense innovating far more rapidly than their larger rivals.

Unconstrained by legacy equipment and armed with smaller workforces to equip and train, a large number of small businesses can now exploit the benefits of managing IT systems externally at a lower cost to support business growth.