Choosing the right IT is critical for a small business; as the right equipment and services can help them effectively compete in their market place. From desktop PCs to choosing cloud services, getting the mix right doesn't require a dedicated IT department.

A Hurwitz research paper sponsored by Dell succinctly states: "Just like larger companies, small and medium businesses and organisations depend on information technology to help them succeed in an ever-changing world. Whether you're running a small legal firm or a midsize construction company, you know that business performance is increasingly tied to your ability to keep IT systems operating at peak efficiency."

Approached carefully with a clear plan of action in mind, any small business owners can quickly build their IT infrastructure to deliver measurable benefits. There are a number of points to bear in mind when developing your IT strategy:

Plan before you buy

Think through why you are buying a new piece of IT. SMBs that suffer from PC sprawl with a steady stream of new computers could reduce costs and improve efficiency by moving to a small business server such as the tower servers from Dell.

Perform an IT inventory on a regular basis to reveal your IT environment and where actual upgrades are actually needed.

Business is mobile

The rise of BYOD (bring your own device) to work has pushed businesses to move quickly to mobilise their IT. Smartphones and tablet PCs can now be used to give employees the freedom to work anytime anywhere.

Mobile IT will become even more important in the future, so make this a top IT priority for your business.

Managing the cloud

Small businesses often look at SaaS (software as a service) platforms in the cloud as a panacea for all their IT ills. Yes, the cloud can deliver huge benefits, but it has to be integrated into your business as a whole.

Take the time to assess what you expect the cloud to deliver to your company before signing any contracts with service providers.

Maintain your systems

Just like any machine your IT needs to be maintained to ensure it continues to deliver the high levels of performance your business needs. It is a false economy to reduce maintenance contracts to cut costs.

Most SMBs rely on each component within their IT infrastructures – maintaining these systems is the life blood of your business.

Security is king

From the smartphones your employees use to any servers at your premises or outsourced to a third party, security should be top of the IT agenda.

SMBs often fall down on simple security measures such as protecting their mail servers from spam attacks. Making sure the anti- virus definitions are up-to-date and deployed across all PCs, and developing a culture of security across their businesses, is vital.

When, for instance, was the last time you changed your login password for your most critical systems?

The effective management of IT in a small business means being proactive about the systems you have in place. Understanding how these systems need to work together and maintaining them to ensure they can deliver on the investment is the core of effective IT management.