The typical problem found throughout SMB is the vast array of skills necessary to implement and maintain a seamlessly operational network infrastructure which may include technologies such as messaging, collaboration tools, voice & telephony services, security services, centralized resource management, provisioning services and of course connectivity, to name a few.
I have spent over 10 years as a Small Business Specialist implementing Microsoft solutions as well as being the author of several Microsoft E-Learning Small Business Server online courses. A while back I was the MD of my own SME-sized business support company. In addition, I have trained a large number of individuals and companies who specifically provide SMB solutions.
With all of the current technologies available and the small numbers of staff trained to support all of them, what are the main challenges?
Mobile users, cloud, virtualisation, social media, security…
First, let’s look at the mobile user
As business technology continues to grow, users are beginning to see new methods of working, whether that means from home or remote offices, internet cafes etc…. Businesses need to support the Anytime, Anywhere access models that allow users to access their work files and data regardless of the type of connection. Be it a laptop, tablet, smartphone or remote branch office with desktop computers, even accessing the corporate network from a remote customer site to give a presentation they need access to the network. The access type that they used needs to be secure.
That means Security
If your network allows users with smartphones and wireless tablets etc… to connect and open data, there must be some form of access control, intrusion detection or restricted perimeter in place. Easier said than done. ….Most of the time security is expensive, requiring firewalls, VPNs. It doesn’t need to be expensive though, many routers provide access lists, secure connections using certificates and can be implemented with many operating systems like Windows Server 2008 R2 featuring NAP, NDES, IPSec and much more. If it still proves too expensive, how about the Cloud?
It’s just like going to your local phone store and purchasing a contract or deciding to Pay As You Go. What you may stumble across is services such as Email from Microsoft Exchange, sharepoint document migration from Sharegate, Productivity from Microsoft Office, Collaborative tools like SharePoint, data services like SQL Server, even virtual computers. At a much smaller cost than having to implement, manage and maintain these services (let’s not forget how much it costs for a small IT department salary), all these could be made available. The cloud provides many features and services like Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from many different vendors such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, VMware and others.
Up to now, SMB marketing and advertising has been a push-out, one-way solution. As an advertising tool, social media can transform this to be an interactive solution. Take Twitter and Facebook for example and look at how a single person can propagate information at the click of a button. Why not include videos, blogs and such things as rich-media presentation shows? Bandwidth… With the costs of leased lines and guaranteed amounts of prioritization for your network traffic through service providers and SLA, maybe the cloud does represent value for money. Awareness is the key. Some reports speculate that up to two-thirds of SMBs are not fully aware of what cloud computing can provide for their business.
Why not find out what the cloud can do for you by attending the many training seminars and courses. Search the QA website now for more info on cloud computing like “Demystifying the Cloud“.
About the Author: Written by Scott Stephenson a Principle Technologist at QA- leading providers of CCNA Training Courses where he is responsible for authoring courses and instructing on the Windows OS, Networking Infrastructure, Active Directory, Exchange, Security, Virtualization and Cisco technologies. After serving in H.M forces for 15 years specialising in telecommunications and Electronic Warfare and becoming certified in Cisco, CompTIA, and CI r; Scott worked as a Microsoft Vendor Contractor and managed his own business before joining QA in 2005.