According to the latest polls, the number of Americans still undecided about who will get their vote for President is as high as 15%. That’s roughly 22 million registered voters who just don’t know what decision they’ll make in November. Approval ratings for both major candidates are pretty low, so it’s probably not a surprise that so many voters just don’t feel like they have a good decision to make.
Small business owners can relate – as a business grows and the need to tackle IT grows with it, its leaders can feel stuck between two bad choices.
On the one hand, they can try to cobble a “just enough” solution together. One-off solutions for email, website hosting, file sharing, and online commerce can be managed by someone marginally qualified. Strategically, the business will have to avoid any major moves toward cutting-edge or especially interesting technology, because there’s just no staff to support it.
Or they can make major investments to build out an IT department. This means hiring someone to manage that work at no small cost and without an especially easy way to measure their performance. It also means a big investment of hardware and the right facilities for it – hoping they can balance immediate cost with long-term need.
Opting-Out Is Not An Option—IT Solutions are a must
In a presidential election, a voter always has the option just to stay home. Small business owners have no such luxury.
Small and mid-sized businesses spent an estimated $161.1 billion on IT in 2015. In an age of accessible technology and freely available information, customers and employees have built-in expectations about how their experience and information is managed. The need for technological solutions might be mitigated for the short term, but eventually IT needs will overtake even the most creative avoidance strategies.
And IT resources without direct management rack up costs on their own. Studies show that an unmanaged or poorly managed PC or laptop computer can cost businesses between $5,800 and $9,900 per year – as much as 45% higher than the same device when it’s monitored.
A True Third-Party Candidate—Cloud Solutions
Those same election polls show only 8% of the otherwise undecided voters have shifted their support to an independent candidate. Many voters feel that these campaigns simply aren’t viable – they just don’t stand much chance of actually succeeding. Fortunately for small business owners, this is where the comparison breaks down.
Cloud computing has emerged as a powerful option for businesses of all sizes. While large enterprises might enjoy the vast capacity of cloud-based solutions, small and mid-size businesses are taking advantage of the flexibility, scalability, and lower cost of management. Industry sources indicate that a business with 55 employees could expect to spend $60,000 traditional, on-site computing infrastructure just to manage communications. Analysts place the cost of unified cloud-based communications solution on that same scale at nearly 85% less.
Because cloud-based services don’t require major changes to an on-site server room, they more easily scale with a business. This allows decision makers to experiment with new solutions or strategically invest as they grow. Presidential voters have to live with their decision for at least four years – but forward-thinking business owners can change their whole IT suite on a monthly basis.
A House of (Customer Service) Representatives—Managed IT Services
Just like the President isn’t the only choice a voter will make on election day, neither is hardware the only concern for a business owner. As much as 80% of the total cost of ownership for an IT asset occurs after its initial purchase, and even cloud-based solutions don’t magically manage themselves.
But smaller enterprises have options here as well. Managed service providers (MSPs) have emerged as a go-to solution for a wide range of IT services. Traditional IT responsibilities like data backup and restoration, remote monitoring of network availability, and even user help desk services are all moving off-site. Studies show that nearly 50% of businesses use MSPs for some or all of their IT services, and almost 60% plan to increase that share in 2016. That’s no surprise, 98% of businesses surveyed said that managed IT services save them money vs fulfilling those services on-site.
Off-site network administrators provide round-the-clock coverage, expert advice, and even strategic consulting without costly and often lengthy candidate searches for in-house IT employees. And like hardware, these services are flexible, growing with a business or even providing a temporary increase in support for seasonal spikes or new initiatives.
There is still plenty of time before the 2016 US Presidential election, and maybe one of the major candidates will win over those millions of undecided voters. But business owners don’t have to wait even one more news cycle to learn how a combination of cloud computing and managed IT services can give them a technological advantage while staying lean and agile. For most strategically-minded leaders, that vote is easy to cast.