Expanding your IT infrastructure

As businesses grow, their IT infrastructure and support needs can expand beyond some simple file-sharing and office software into more complex, managed networks and systems. Expanding your IT infrastructure when you’re not an IT expert can be challenging, even intimidating. But by planning it out, and identifying the clear objectives and actions required – and the expert support you need to deliver – it can be manageable. Here, we’ve outlined the key steps to help you navigate the expansion of your IT infrastructure:

Define your IT needs and goals

Start by clearly identifying the IT needs and goals associated with your expansion. Why do you need to change your set-up? What are the benefits that it will bring in terms of quality of service, efficiencies, cost savings, etc? Consider what specific IT resources, such as additional servers, storage, or software, are required to support these goals – seeking advice if you’re not sure.

Seek professional advice

Even if you are a digital native, creating or expanding IT systems and networks remains a specialist area. Consult with IT experts or consultants who can assess your current IT infrastructure, understand your business goals, and provide recommendations for how you could achieve them. They can help you develop a scalable and cost-effective IT plan.

Work out your budget

Create a budget that outlines the costs associated with expanding your IT infrastructure. This budget should include expenses for hardware, software licenses and costs, IT personnel (including consultants or contractors to deliver the upgrade), and any ongoing maintenance and support.

Ensure you can keep scaling up

When planning your expansion, think of it in terms of longer-term growth, not trying to meet a set number of staff or capacity. Work with experts to find IT solutions that are scalable and can grow with your business. That way, you can have confidence about expanding your infrastructure as needed without significant (and potentially expensive) disruption in the future.

Consider cloud-based solutions

You don’t necessarily need large network servers in your office, or a bespoke software solution for your business. Make use of the rapid growth in cloud-based services and computing to offload some IT responsibilities to reputable providers. Cloud solutions offer scalability, flexibility, and (often) reduced costs, making them suitable for many business needs.

Selecting your IT providers

Research carefully (working with an expert as needed) to select reliable providers for your hardware, software, and services needs. Make use of professional reviews and feedback from other businesses in the same sector. Unless you are looking for a very bespoke, industry-specific product, you will usually have a wide variety of providers to select from.

Data security and back-up

The opportunities from bringing in new technology also brings in new risks to consider. Make sure a full risk assessment is conducted, and continue to make data security a priority. Implement robust cyber security measures (you may wish to consider Cyber Essentials accreditation as both a useful process to audit and create an action plan, as well as publicly certifying your own security credentials) and ensure you have a plan to back-up all data. As part of this, ensure you have documented your IT infrastructure, configurations, and processes. This documentation will be invaluable for referring to in the future, both when fixing problems or planning for further expansion.

Testing and quality assurance

Before implementing new IT equipment or software, be sure to conduct thorough testing and quality assurance to both identify and give the opportunity to fix any issues or glitches. If you haven’t already, ensure that your new equipment complies with relevant regulations and industry standards – particularly if being assured of this will be of value to customers. Conduct audits or assessments to verify compliance where necessary.

Monitoring and ongoing review

After going live with your new expanded infrastructure, implement monitoring tools to track its performance. This will also allow you to identify and address performance bottlenecks or issues.

After the expansion is complete, hold a review with your key staff to assess whether the goals and objectives were met and what lessons can be learned for future projects. Make sure you have a plan for ongoing maintenance, support, and the necessary updates to keep your expanded IT infrastructure running smoothly and securely.

Don’t hesitate to seek expert advice when necessary if you are uncertain about how to proceed. Plan properly, and you can successfully expand your IT infrastructure to enable your business to grow and enjoy IT performance that meets your needs.

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