Choosing the Right Business Technology for your Company or Enterprise
Choosing the right technology is one of the harder decisions you will have to make as a business owner. The type of technology (and technology provider) you choose will not only affect your business in the immediate future, but will also affect your business' ability to upgrade its IT infrastructure, integrate with future technologies and leverage its technical advantage over competition. For these reasons, it is important that you consider all available options and make a choice only after much deliberation.
This guide will help you through the process of choosing the right technology for your business.
Cloud or On-Premise
Choosing between cloud (i.e. stored and operated entirely online, like Google Docs) and on-premise (stored and operated in your own office/building) is the first major tech decision you will have to make. What choice you make will determine the future technology direction of your company, particularly when it comes to upgradability and integration capabilities.
Most businesses have been gradually abandoned on-premise solutions in favour of a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology alternative. Cloud based services are generally cheaper, easier to implement, and can be accessed from any device and any place - essential qualities for the modern-day business. At the same time, certain businesses might benefit from on-premise software (though this number is small).
Choose cloud based software if you:
- Want to access the software/files from any device, including laptops, tablets and smartphones.
- Don't want to worry about maintenance or maintaining IT support staff.
- Are okay with a more 'DIY' approach to setting up and training employees.
- Employ workers who work remotely.
- Want to be "future-ready".
- Don't want to spend a ton of money upfront in buying up equipment and servers used in on-premise software.
Choose on-premise software if you:
- Have highly specific requirements and want completely customised software.
- Have a team of in-house technical talent to modify and maintain the software.
- Require more hands-on training and consultation in using the software.
- Want complete control over your data and how it is stored.
Cost is Important, Upgradability Even More So
A common mistake a lot of small businesses end up making is choosing a technology solution based on cost, not future potential. A cheaper product can often end up being more expensive in the long run if it affects your ability to scale your business or integrate it with better complementing technologies.
Take web hosting as an example. You can get started with a cheap web hosting package for as low as £5/month. However, this will hardly be scalable in the long run. Should your website become popular, or suddenly get a burst of viral traffic, your web host won't be able to handle the load and will make your website unusable, costing you heavily in terms of lost visitors. It also takes time and effort to migrate to a better host, which will cost you further in traffic.
This rule applies to every technology choice you make: cost is important, but being future-proof even more so. Which is to say, buy not for now, but for the business you hope to have 2 years from now.
Don't Compromise on the User Experience
With software, a solid user experience is crucial to improving productivity. A lot of older software (especially with on-premise technology) skimps on user-experience in favour of feature bloat. User experience also suffers when the software does not have a competent app for smartphones and tablets, given how these devices have found their way into the workflow for many users.
Thus, when choosing the right technology partner, make sure to pick something that offers a strong user-experience across multiple devices.
Security is Crucial
Hackers are becoming smarter. As the recent spate of hacks and leaks shows, protecting your data from intruding eyes is crucial for business success and generating customer trust. Regardless of what technology partner you choose, security must remain one of your top priorities. Thus, when shopping for software, make sure to ask detailed questions about the kind of encryption used (if any), how and where the data is stored (especially for SaaS products), data backup policy, and what kind of protection your business can expect in case of a hack attack, DDoS attack, etc.
Customer Service is Important, Too
No software/hardware, regardless of how well-made, is completely flawless. How quickly your technology provider can respond to a crisis or answer your queries should be an important factor in your choice. Any competent technology provider should have dedicated customer support to answer all your queries and solve any issues you might have, besides offering extensive manuals and training to help you get started.
Choosing the right technology partner can be a daunting task. However, if you focus on key issues like security, user-experience, productivity, you can pick a technology that will not only serve your needs in the current scenario, but also grow with your business in the future.