Powerful IT Strategies from the Most Successful SMBs

Small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) are allocating increasingly larger budgets to invest and utilize IT-based systems and technologies to cut their operating costs and gauge more efficient business processes. Firms across Europe have been reported to spend a higher percentage of their IT budgets to adapt to the increasingly information-based business landscape.

“After several years of prioritizing spending on manufacturing equipment assets, SMEs now look to be increasing IT and office equipment capex, potentially in order to update their infrastructure and back office systems to match modernization efforts at the front end”

Christian Bernhard, GE Capital International equipment finance leader

According to a report last year from GE’s European Capex Barometer, more than £20 billion worth of IT system upgrades was anticipated to be spent in UK alone, characterizing a 56% increase. This escalating focus of SMEs on IT systems reflects a growing need to conform to the best IT strategies to compete effectively in the market.

Here, we will cover the top IT strategies that are driving SMB growth.

Data Analytics

The importance of using analytics software has received extraordinary attention from SMEs. The 2015 Big Data and Analytics Survey conducted across IT organizations reveals that investments in data analytics software emerged as the most important investment, accounting for nearly 60% of their IT budgets.

Further evidence of using analytics as a critical IT strategy is supplemented by Oxford Economics’ ‘SMEs Equipped to Compete’ study. The study reveals data analytics technologies occupying more than 40% interest across enterprises following Business Management Software (BMS). It further reports that more than a quarter of SMEs perceive analytics as crucial for driving cost efficiencies and service development.

This rising emphasis on analytics software is driven by the advantage to study consumer behavior and predict consumer patterns in an accurate and reliable manner.

Data Mining

According to the 2015 Big Data and Analytics Survey, data mining occupied the spot of the 3rd most important area of investment within IT organizations, following data analytics and visual dashboards. More than 60% of respondents in the survey highlighted the need to improve decision-making quality as a major factor fuelling investments.

This coincides with the finding of the analyst firm Garner, which expects business intelligence investment to exceed $17 billion by next year. Data mining allows managers and marketers access to important customer insights that can be utilized to formulate more customer-oriented marketing strategies.

Cloud computing

The overwhelming benefits of cloud computing is also causing young startups to flock towards its implementation to see greater cost savings and simplified data access and use. The fairly recent disclosure of Amazon’s Web Services’ 1st quarter results of this year explains how SMEs are benefiting immensely from its cloud computing services.

The cloud market is growing at a phenomenal rate, as evidenced by IDC’s statistics, predicting cloud spending will hit more than $50 billion in 2019, and it is only natural that SMEs will enter the rat race to secure greater competitive advantage. A holistic cloud-based IT strategy can help SMEs expand without investing in expensive assets and knowledge sharing allows it stay one-step ahead of the market.

Mobile technology

Going mobile is a strategy that many SMEs are flocking towards. It has commonly been talked about as one of the top trends for 2015 and the coming years. Mobile investments are expected to replace PC investments in the future.

Investments in mobile operating systems, mobile applications, and the need to interact with customers via mobile social media, are gaining traction. Consumers are spending a lot of time accessing internet from their mobile devices which has opened opportunities for SMEs to utilize.

Social media

Social media is a top strategy for building better relationships with customers and maintaining presence. Social media has come a long way and its two-way communication is pivotal in providing better customer service. Research from Oxford Economics study highlight that social media is perceived by more than 30% of SMEs to strengthen customer service along with cost savings and supply chain efficiencies on a decreasing scale.

Bottom line

The top IT strategies of SMEs evolve according to the emerging trends, opportunities and threats of the SME landscape. Although the aforementioned IT strategies have been evidenced to support greater business growth, time will tell if any of these provide sustainable competitive advantages in the years to come.


5 Reasons a Smart IT Strategy is Essential to Business Growth

If you’re struggling with your business IT strategy, you’re among millions of company owners worried theirs isn’t built for scale. Perhaps you’re skeptical why you should be implementing scale strategies into your IT planning?

We recently surveyed some of our clients. Their top three concerns in the coming year are:

  1. Developing advanced cloud-computing technologies into their current systems. It’s no surprise savvy IT departments have discovered the benefits of network more of their systems in a Cloud-based structure.
  2. Migrating more of their systems to third-parties. The cost-savings are obvious. Based on our internal research, more of our clients see the value in outsourcing their security risk prevention to experts.
  3. Analyzing their current IT manpower expenses to pinpoint wasted expenses.

Reason #1: Evaluate Your IT Expenses

Think about buying IT services rather than products. For example, invest in learning the benefit of running application softwares on Cloud servers. The capital investment will be far less than purchasing licensed software for each of your users.

Reason #2: Open Up to Open Source

Smart business owners are beginning to see the benefit of using open source software products. What’s striking is many of these applications mimic ones that can cost as much as $695 per user.

Many companies now use open source word processing and spreadsheet software such as Open Office. It’s bundled with many additional programs similar to ones offered by the costly Microsoft Office.

Reason #3: Internet Telephone

If you haven’t migrated your telephone services to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), you’re missing an enormous cost reduction in your monthly communications expense. You will be impressed at the savings by converting your telephone services to an Internet-driven broadband connection.

Reason #4: Lease Services Rather Than Own

Give up investing in hardware assets. Instead, consider purchasing Cloud-based server space from one of the hundreds of leading providers. Many CFOs are evaluating their on-site tech-related expenses only to discover it’s becoming cost-prohibitive to own technology.

We recommend taking a hard look at your annual hardware/software investments. Then compare your expenses to renting Cloud server access. You will find the cost is far less than investing in your on-site technology.

Reason #5: Globalize Your CRM

New business prospecting has been transformed over the last five years due to online management services. For instance, migrating your CRM database to SalesForce will give you global access to prospects rather than relying on clunky, outdated in-house software.


The 2015 Digital Disruption: Is Your Business Growing or Going?


A recent Forrester Research study announced some of the biggest technology challenges CIOs are facing in 2015. After discussing their findings among our senior IT staff, we developed an internal memo we plan to implement here at to stay ahead of these new trends.

Face it. If your business isn’t growing to meet consumer demands in the digital community, you’re going to lose business. What are some the trends smart CIOs and their IT teams are implementing?

Business Technology (BT)

Do your senior executives fully understand what it is? Most companies are comprised of two types of executives. First are seasoned managers who have years and perhaps decades of expertise building organizations using traditional formulas. Ones such as global business strategy and executive leadership.

The second group are executives who understand the impact technology has in consumer patterns of engagement with their brands.

Digital disruption isn’t just one trend. Instead, Forrester Research suggests it’s a combination of technology preferences your customers prefer when they interact and then make purchasing decisions.

But how do you pinpoint areas within your company where investing in business technology will provide a strong ROI?

Start With Customer-Focused Models

With the competition to not only retain your customer base but also grow it in 2015, we recommend doing a full-scale analysis of your customer experience. Start with these areas and evaluate your current processes:

  1. Engagement
  2. User experience (Continuous Business Services)
  3. Merging IT with new profit centers

Engagement & User Experience

How can you embrace new ways of using digital communication to engage your customers? Start by asking you department managers to meet twice per month.

Develop new guidelines to merge both sales, marketing and IT department personnel to improve how each of their areas of expertise can improve customer engagement.

For example, your salespeople are trained to seek out and overcome prospect objections. What if your sales managers met with your IT department to engineer better ways of educating prospects on your company brand?

With the proliferation of online video, consumers now expect your company to provide them with online video solutions. By engaging your prospects and customers using video, you also develop marketing messages which can be used for alternative new business development.

Include your marketing team’s responsibilities in your planning. By integrating these three departments (sales, IT and marketing) you will be in a better position to generate actionable digital solutions to enhance your customer engagement experiences.

Continuous Business Services

Forrester defines continuous business services as thin layers of technology which support the cadence variations every business experiences.

For instance, have you reviewed your customer follow up processes lately? Are they updated bi-annually? If not, you’re missing out on new methods of helping your customers realize they are vital and appreciated to your core business.

Need proof?

Think They not only update their customers on the status of purchases and shipments but they also provide exceptional customer service. Who hasn’t needed to speak with a live human being from time-to-time when shopping? Do you hate to wait? So does Amazon.

To make life easier for their customers, Amazon offers a call me back now button on their service page. Enter your telephone number and click the ‘call me now’ button. Seconds later, one of their service representatives are dialing your number.

Merging IT With New Profit Centers

Who hasn’t seen advertising preaching to buy local? Amazon sure did and made a decision in 2014 to invest.

Instead of relying on third-party shipping providers, Amazon developed their own distribution chain to roll out Amazon Fresh. Although only offered in select cities in California, shoppers can now order fresh produce and have it delivered by Amazon deliver the same day. Because Amazon already dominates the shopping industry, they used their marketing and IT prowess to capitalize on an under-served niche.

Are your CIOs and IT department brainstorming new markets to infiltrate? We advise you to consider tearing down your company decision-making protocols. Then rebuild them by integrating digital managers with sales, marketing and service personnel to pinpoint new profit centers to target.

If your core business and limited staff thwart your ability to grow into new markets, consider outsourcing your IT resources to free up your organization to focus on growth.


CES 2015 Enterprise Technology Review


Last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas unveiled some amazing new advances in technology. More than anything, we noticed a shift in technology with the underlying theme thin is in. Lightweight computers, handheld smart devices are now the standard for those companies looking to minimize their employee’s work stations.

But if consumer electronics aren’t part of your core business model, why should you care? It’s a good question and one we pondered ourselves in a companywide staff meeting. The insight we gleaned is that digital disruption (shifts in consumer technology patterns) is lurking at every corner to sway your customers toward your competition.

So what new products were unveiled at CES 2015 that can improve your SMB?

Virtual Access

Our IT techs love the HP DL380z virtual workstation. It’s becoming popular among companies that are migrating from traditional desktop environments to work from virtual spaces. But with a price tag of nearly $1400 per device, it may not be a wise investment if your company employs more than 50 employees.

A less-expensive alternative is to consider using an IT Cloud-based provider. Many CFOs now realize outsourcing their IT connectivity with Cloud technology empowers their users to access hardware and software without sizable capital expense.

One of the smartest reasons to convert to a Cloud-based environment is it allows you reduce your hardware and software expenses. But it’s not just about saving money. In fact, the data analytic available using Cloud resources allows your IT technicians to pinpoint work flow trends among your users.

Connectivity Is Key

Despite CES 2015 centered around consumer product launches, we feel that’s a cue for businesses of all sizes to consider. With new consumer trends shifting every week due to online community interaction, staying ahead of the curve is vital to growth.

One of the most memorable interviews at CES was with Samsung’s President of Enterprise Business Marketing, Ed Abrams. He commented about one of the biggest struggles many organizations suffer is how to implement new technology into actionable, customer-centric measures. Abrams suggests companies should develop a more clear digital strategy that benefits the customer experience interacting with their brands.

It’s no surprise Samsung’s enterprise solutions are catching the attention of CEOs. For example, they’ve committed to streamlining their healthcare and B2B divisions into mobile spaces. Granted, for some companies converting to mobile platforms may not be as easy if they’re not properly funded.

In Samsung’s case, they developed a five year plan to integrate these divisions over time. Doing so is a mission-critical step to building their technology infrastructure. Then adjust based on user demand.


BYOD: An Essential Guide For SMBs


Last year we held a company-wide luncheon to discuss our new policies on BYOD (bring your own device). It’s interesting how technology trends have changed in the last five years.

What was once considered taboo using your personal iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4 at work is now encouraged by SMBs. Even our own IT managers were on the fence about adopting our new policy. Would our staffers spend too much wasted time staying in touch with friends and family using social media? Or worse: how would our security protection hold up against hackers?

Our BYOD Results

Many businesses fear what we did here at our own company. However, after more than a year, here are some of the benefits we experienced with our team members:

  • Client contact improved by 23%
  • Employees conducted more work at night and on weekends
  • Off-site communication improved by nearly 47%
  • Our staff felt more empowered using their devices freely
  • 71% of our employees used both their personal smartphones and tablets

BYOD & Security

Recently a client of ours contacted us about our secret sauce implementing our own BYOD policies. They were curious how we managed our security compliance on personal devices. Here’s what we did:

  1. For the first three months, we approved business email communication between our staff and clients.
  2. Our next step was to integrate Skype accounts on personal devices.
  3. Lastly, our senior IT technicians gave our team members VPN access to internal files and documentation.

We developed three tiers of server access for personal devices. Clearly, there’s too much risk opening up your entire network to off-site access. So it was mission-critical for us to limit access to certain files to our staff.

Cyber Attack & BYOD

Do you have 250 or fewer employees? If so, we recommend you first invest in an external security review.

In a 2013 research study conducted by Symantec, companies with less than 250 employees had a higher risk of cyber attack. Between 2011 and 2013, Symantec reports cyber criminals targeting small companies increased from 18% to 31%.

Why? Companies with 250 or fewer employees are far easier to infiltrate due to outdated security protection.

It’s no surprise malicious hackers target small businesses for customer data and intellectual property theft. Our research suggests exposure begins with your entry-level staff and off-site contractors.

Many SMBs managers worry their technology will be at risk of hacking and identity theft. For obvious reasons, we recommend working with a proven outsourcing company to evaluate your current structure and then develop a safe plan to roll out your BYOD policy.

Every company manages their data differently so it’s smart to analyze your current access gateways. Then develop a 90 day plan giving select employees limited access to your internal networks on their personal devices.

Go slow. You will discover in the first few weeks you’ll need to update some of your encryption handling. It makes sense to provide your senior managers access as test candidates. Then evaluate the results.

5 IT Upgrade Tips Many CFOs Ponder

As a managing partner here at, my duties include consulting with our team about our own IT upgrade planning.

If you’re a CFO, I suspect you struggle answering one question: is a technology upgrade needed for your company? ROI servicing your hardware, software and server demands is the only contributing to your final decision. However, there’s also another issue which is often overlooked called future-proofing your capacity.

IT Upgrade Tip #1

Meet with your managers at least twice a year to future-proof your technology needs for the next two years. Having worked with many companies, we understand the challenges CFOs experience weighing technology needs with financial conservatism.

Recently I sat with my CFO and IT department managers in our conference room. Our meeting was to analyze our own IT upgrade requirements and whether a capital investment would offer a strong ROI. We assess our future technology needs at least twice a year to future-proof our own resources. It’s a difficult subject as our finance officers always evaluate ROI as they should. However, our technicians and programmers focus on our company’s IT performance and more importantly, our clients. The concerns our IT team had were to improve our:

  • Hardware aging (desktops and laptops).
  • Outdated server components.
  • Software and bandwidth speed.
  • Off-site database back-up storage.
  • Cyber security threat protection.

Learn what we recommend to our clients…

IT Upgrade Tip #2

Evaluate your data loss prevention. No company can survive losing up to 75% of their data.

A December 1, 2014 article featured on by technology writer, Keith Tanaka, brings another mission-critical topic to light: data loss recovery planning.

Tanaka reports a recent research study of IT professionals. The findings revealed nearly 45% admitted their companies suffered data loss in the last year requiring up to $9000 in recovery fees.

Read more how to calculate your IT upgrade costs…

IT Upgrade Tip #3

Look at the research how companies have experienced outsourcing their IT. Thousands of companies like the idea outsourcing their IT. However, many CFOs worry about service quality.

The decision to migrate your IT upgrade needs to a third-party provider is a difficult one. About once per year, we survey our clients. Specifically we ask CFOs about their IT upgrade expenses since working with our company. They report the following:

  • 98% reported no service quality issues.
  • More than half cut IT upgrade expenses by 54%.
  • 72% admitted their technology department expenses dropped by more than 35%.
  • 86% of CFOs surveyed reported zero transitional problems moving their technology support to our team.

IT Upgrade Tip #4

Evaluate your in-house IT expertise. Many of our clients confess they had no genuine method how to review their IT department’s technical skills.

Most CFOs leave hiring to middle managers and human resources. But the problem is these people do not have the necessary background to pinpoint skill sets needed to oversee their technology needs.

IT Upgrade Tip #5

Smart CFOs invest time evaluating their IT issue avoidance history. We recommend you discover the answers to the following questions:

  • Are problems solved or fixed? There’s a difference between fixing bugs and solving technical problems. The more often you rely on quick fixes the more you will pay in future IT overhaul expenses.
  • Do your current systems get upgraded every month? The problem we see with many companies is their IT technicians are overworked fixing daily problems.
  • What are your annual IT line-item expenses? Are they growing every year? If so, you’re probably overpaying for your IT upgrade needs.

What’s next? Contact us for a free review of your current IT upgrade needs.

4 Tools to Help You Access Your PC When You’re Away

Professionals today are busier than ever, traveling from work to home to meetings around town. Many small business owners find they’re spending more time on airplanes than at the office, as they work hard to network and attract new business.

All of this traveling means professionals are rarely afforded the luxury of being seated in front of a computer. Cloud-based travel apps can help you while on the road, but what if you arrive at your location, only to find the file you need is on the hard drive of your computer? Even if you can access your company servers from anywhere, a file saved to the computer itself will likely be inaccessible outside of the office. When that happens, here are a few cloud tools that can grant you access to the PC on your desk.


This popular free app can be used to access a remote PC or conduct meetings and share your screen with attendees. One of the biggest benefits of TeamViewer is that no software is required on the client side, which means you can take over a PC without preparing ahead of time. You’ll simply need to ask someone nearby to enter a user ID and password to let you in. TeamViewer finds a way around firewalls and blocked ports to give you a connection every time.

Microsoft Remote Desktop

Available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, Microsoft Remote Desktop is a free app that lets you control your PC from a phone or tablet via a secure connection. The app can even be used to hook up to a projector or external monitor to let you directly stream presentations from your work desktop to a projector located on the other side of the country.


SplashTop lets you remotely access your PC or Mac from a PC or mobile device, as well as mirror your iPad or Chromebook to any computer screen. The software isn’t free, with plans starting at $1.99 a month per user for the personal edition and $60 per user per year for the business edition.

Screens Connect

Using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, users can access a Windows, Mac, or Linux PC from anywhere. Screens Connect is $19.99, but it allows you to copy and paste items from host to guest and it comes with a customizable toolbar for easy session management.

In addition to being able to remotely access your own PC, these tools come in handy for helping colleagues or employees troubleshoot problems or learn software. As you find a favorite remote screen-sharing app, you’ll likely open up a suite of new possibilities for using the technology in your everyday life.

5 Best Antivirus Products for Suppressing Unwanted Programs

5-Best-Antivirus-Products-for-Suppressing-Unwanted-Programs_infographics_v2As a busy professional, you rely heavily on your electronic devices throughout the day. Whether you’re trying to find the best place to take a client for lunch or conducting research for a report, it’s important that your internet browsing experience be as painless as possible. Unfortunately, the web too often has other plans for you, as websites push unwanted programs and applications to your device.

For this reason, every business needs a good antivirus suite. The right program protects against spyware, viruses, and unwanted programs that attach themselves to legitimate downloads. Here are a few of the top antivirus products for keeping unwanted programs off your computer.


One of the best things about this popular antivirus suite is that the basic suite is completely free. The free version protects your computer against viruses and spyware, as well as providing link protection for some social media sites. For $59.99, you can add protection against harmful downloads, prevent spam, and block hackers while shopping.


For the same price as AVG’s paid version, Kaspersky offers an online security edition that keeps viruses and other online threats away from your device. The suite’s application control feature blocks dangerous applications that can harm a system and a two-way firewall blocks hacker attacks.


McAfee offers four layers of protection against threats, preventing viruses, spyware, adware, and more from infiltrating your device. The software has built-in controls to detect threats before they make it to a business’s servers or devices.

Norton Security

For a slightly higher price, Symantec’s Norton provides malware and virus protection for all of a user’s devices. If a device is lost or stolen, the software can be used to help locate it, preventing possible data leaks. For $10 more per year, users can access Norton Security with Backup to automatically move up to 25 GB of files over to a secure cloud-based server.


Like AVG, Avast has a free version, but its paid version is slightly cheaper than the competition. For $39.99 a year, your business can add a silent firewall and anti-spam controls. The free basic plan protects devices against spyware and rootkit threats, as well as providing intelligent antivirus protection.

Unwanted software can slow down a device’s performance and cause crashes. By employing the best technology for protecting your sensitive devices, you can prevent downtime and remain productive throughout your day.

Major Software Bug Could Affect Your Business


A vulnerability discovered in some Linux and Apple operating systems could put your business’s computers at risk. The bug was found in a software component called Bash, which is part of many instances of these operating systems. Once exploited, this vulnerability could be used by hackers to gain access to your individual systems.

About Shellshock

Going by the name Shellshock, the bug is found in Bash, a shell command line tool in Unix-based systems. Hackers have been able to remotely control users’ systems, with reports stating that exploits are currently under development to take advantage of the open access to so many systems. These exploits will allow hackers to gain user passwords and install DDoS bots.

While Windows-based PCs aren’t among the list of affected devices, businesses should be concerned about their servers, since many servers use Apache. Apache contains the Bash component. In total, experts estimate 500 million machines could be vulnerable to Shellshock.

What Can You Do?

If your machines are behind a firewall, you already have a major protection in place. Apple has assured its users that the vast majority are safe from the vulnerability, since OS X systems are safeguarded by default. Those users who have configured advanced UNIX servers may be vulnerable, however. Apple is working on a patch to safeguard those systems.

Experts are concerned that as users rush to patch affected systems, hackers will make the most of the short window of opportunity to wreak havoc on systems. The most vulnerable systems are likely those servers and applications that are running Bash without administrators being aware of it. For that reason, server administrators must take the extra effort to protect their servers.

Vendor Patches

The first thing a business can do is check with its vendors to see if a patch is available for their products. In the instances where data is stored with a third-party cloud service, businesses should be proactive in ensuring their data and devices are safe from attack. If you’d like to check to see if your computer is running Bash, this article should help.

As more information becomes available about Shellshock, businesses will be equipped to deal with the issues. For small businesses, turning server operations over to a highly-experienced cloud services provider can be a great way to ensure your systems are safe whenever vulnerabilities like Shellshock emerge. Because applications are often built by vendors, however, many businesses are often left uncertain about what technology their systems is actually running when news about vulnerabilities like this one emerges.

The Cost of Downtime

Downtime can be very expensive. As more businesses rely on technology, it’s crucial to minimize downtime and cut down on any potential losses. Knowing the cost of your company’s downtime is definitely part of profit maximization strategy. A 2010 survey conducted by Coleman Parkes revealed that the cost of downtime for North American businesses is roughly $159,000 per year for each company. This has serious impacts on finance, procurement, operations, as well as mission critical services. North American Small and medium businesses lose about $15 billion per year from downtime. This is a substantial amount considering the fact that downtime can actually be avoided.

Moderate interruptions to IT services may be unavoidable for reasons such as hardware obsolescence, upgrades and software incompatibility. That being said, businesses should not have to endure long downtimes than the usual minor interruptions to their systems. Businesses generally endure ten hours of downtime each year and another 7.5 hours of downtime while trying to recover lost data. The same study conducted by Coleman Parkes mentions that IT system downtown costs North American businesses a whopping $26.5 billion of lost revenue in a year. The main reason being that many businesses fail to recover quickly from a service outage. Due to IT system downtime, it limited the ability of businesses to generate revenue by 29 percent. Downtime also affects the sales of the companies, resulting a drop of 28 percent, 19 percent and 39 percent for large, medium and small businesses respectively.

In attempts to further break down the costs, a Ponemon Institute study (“Calculating The Cost of Data Center Outages”) has shown that average cost of data center downtime was around $5600 per minute, with the average reported incident length at ninety minutes, resulting in an average cost per incident of $505,500. For business which rely on data centers to deliver IT services to customers, their downtime costs are particularly costly with the highest cost standing at $1 million. This is just for one single event.

During downtimes, businesses not only incur financial losses. Reputation is also at stake, especially if the company is well known and renowned worldwide. It can spur misinformation and doubts about the company’s reliability and efficiency if the downtimes occur frequently. Customers and clients might lose their confidence and loyalty towards the company, causing detrimental effects for the businesses in question. The stocks of a company can go downhill when the news of the downtime spreads, and competitors can take advantage. Staff productivity can also be affected as they would be unable to work during periods of downtime. Organizations today rely so much on IT that an unavailable system would render a significant portion of the business useless and idle as manual processes no longer exist. Employees would be diverted from other tasks to get the IT systems running. This can be very disruptive to the normal workflow.

There are also tangible elements that reflects the impact of the downtime such as the money spent on marketing and media to boost the company’s profile and image after the damage from the downtime. The impacts of the cost of the downtime can have many serious implications for businesses – regardless of size. Ways should be devised to minimize the occurances of downtimes whenever possible. $5600 per minute is simply too much money to waste.