Positioning Your SMB for Growth

Paul Mah

A successful small and medium-sized business can grow and expand at a breakneck pace. This can prove especially challenging in terms of acquiring IT equipment and infrastructure design - what worked a year or even months ago might be rendered woefully inadequate as headcount is increased or entire departments created. In the absence of consultants or staffers with similar experience, how can one make plans or purchases in such a way as to position the SMB for future expansion and growth?


It is with this in mind that I highlight some areas that a savvy CIO or IT manager would do well to pay attention to. This is a huge topic, for sure, and the objective of today's post is merely to examine a couple of areas with specific examples and recommendations. I'll expand them with more details in future weeks, so be sure to check back often.


Software Licenses


As I briefly mentioned in Tips for Better SMB Security, it would be prudent not to be ensnared by software licenses with geographical restrictions or inflexible pricing bands. For example, "site licenses" can often be acquired for many ERP and CRM applications. Essentially, a higher price is typically paid for an unlimited number Client Access Licenses (CAL) at a single location.


However, this can be problematic should an SMB decide to open a satellite branch or expand into neighbouring states. In order to avoid paying more than you have to, be sure to negotiate for such an eventuality with your vendor prior to signing on the dotted line.


Similarly, lower-end versions of many software applications can typically be found at a cheaper price. However, the downside here is that these "light" versions might be contractually locked to a fixed number of CALs with no proviso for further expansion. This could translate into having to purchase the product in its entirety, and on a more expensive pricing tier to boot.


An example here would be RIM's BlackBerry Professional Server, which is limited to a maximum of just 30 CALs. Organizations that want to connect more than 30 BlackBerry smartphones will need to switch to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which supports up to 2,000 CALs.


Network Cabling


While wireless is definitely the rage in residential homes as well as cafes and hotel lobbies the world over, implementing wireless can still be tricky in a dense or saturated environment. Even in cases where Wi-Fi is rolled out across the entire SMB, it would still be necessary to run cables to the various Wireless Access Points and departmental servers.


On this front, I would advocate forgetting standard CAT-5e cables and going for a minimum of CAT-6. Laying CAT-6 cables will allow for Gigabit Ethernet deployment across your entire organization. Even if your core network is still running on Fast Ethernet at the moment, there is no telling when certain links will one day require or benefit from Gigabit speeds. The usual maxim about pulling slightly more cables than is strictly necessary applies too.


There are a couple more categories, which I will cover in my next post.

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