Understanding the technology needs of your small business

A group of people in a conference room.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and that maxim applies just as much to building a business as it does to parenting. A successful company is formed of a wide variety of diverse job roles, all of which will perform different tasks in different ways. 

As such, each role will have unique requirements for the tools and technologies that they use in their day-to-day work, and there is no one-size-fits-all IT strategy that will meet them all. In order to best support and enable all the members of your organization, careful thought must be given to their particular specialties, and how that affects their needs. 

The equipment that staff members are issues with presents a key opportunity to put this idea into practice. While it’s perfectly possible to roll out a single standardized laptop across your business and simply leave it at that, tailoring specific computing hardware to certain teams can bring tremendous benefits. 

Salespeople, for instance, spend a great deal of their time engaging with clients and prospects. This means a lot of time on the road, conducting meetings and attending events, and a lightweight, ultraportable laptop will be much better suited to this than a more powerful but weightier machine. 

Choosing a low-power laptop with a longer battery life will also prevent frustrations such as having to find a power outlet midway through a busy day, and the recent explosion in video meetings means that having a high-quality camera and microphone is a very important consideration. 

Another group that can benefit from strong videoconferencing capabilities is marketers, but while they engage in a lot of video meetings to brainstorm ideas and discuss campaign performance, they often don’t tend to pound the pavement as much as salespeople, so mobility often isn’t as much of an issue. 

On the other hand, they do work with a lot of creative assets for campaigns, and may benefit from having a high-quality monitor on which to view and assess them. Similarly, they may need access to larger onboard storage on their devices if they’re working with large assets like video files or high-resolution images. 

Moving closer to the back-office, developers and IT operations staff frequently use large external monitors - often more than one - to aid with multi-tasking. Anyone that works with code will be grateful for a robust and satisfying keyboard, too, which doesn’t become frustrating or tiring to use for long typing sessions. 

Performance is more of an issue in these roles, as more powerful machines can compile code faster. A higher-spec machine for programmers means less downtime while waiting for tasks to complete, and for support techs that may need to perform onsite troubleshooting of physical equipment, having a robust set of ports and connections speeds things up and prevents having to carry around a bag full of adapters. 

Finance and data teams, meanwhile, can also take advantage of increased screen real-estate when it comes to parsing large, complex spreadsheets. They also need systems with good performance to prevent particularly gargantuan workbooks from slowing their machines down, as well as plenty of storage to download all that data in the first place - unless they’re working with cloud-based systems, ion which case network connectivity should be prioritized.

This brings us to another interesting point; while the equipment you supply to individual users within your business is important, it’s also vital to consider the IT needs of the organization as a whole. Many small businesses find that moving to SaaS systems is a convenient and cost-effective approach, for example, but those that work with large files on a regular basis may wish to eschew cloud storage systems in favor of a more traditional setup. Physical storage and hardwired connections will keep your workflows as efficient as possible, without having to be bound by your internet connection speed or your cloud platform’s throughput rates. 

Alternatively, if agility and uptime are more important to your business, then physical infrastructure may be less attractive. In some ways, it doesn’t allow one to react as quickly to developing incidents, and there’s often a greater risk of unexpected downtime if there’s a problem, as cloud service providers will likely have better incident response capabilities than the average SMB. 

Finally, the lifecycle of equipment should be taken into account, too. For organizations that wish to operate on a five-year refresh cycle for laptops, opting for a cutting-edge model with a decent configuration at point of purchase will ensure it isn't’ rendered all but unusable by the time it’s up for refresh.

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Adam Shepherd is a Reviews and Community Editor for Channel Pro, Cloud Pro and IT Pro, and has previously written for PC ProPC Advisor and GamesRadar. He covers both business and consumer technology, but has a particular love for all things gaming, and is paying special attention to the emerging VR market.