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Unlike their enterprise-scale cousins, the IT departments within small businesses forever have to deal with variable and uncertain commitments concerning resources, budgets and project objectives. A smaller footprint often translates into a more challenging work environment for IT professionals. Paying heed to these four essential IT prescriptions will help you to make your network the most efficient it can be whatever the size of your organization.

Right-Size Your Infrastructure

Operating without a server works well until you connect more than three workstations to a network. After that, it becomes necessary to consider deploying a server. To this end, the server/workstation ratio becomes a factor. A practical server costing no more than a desktop computer can service 25 or more users, but for most small operations, a ratio of one server to ten users is ideal.

Prioritize Support for Critical Business Elements

If your business is brick-and-mortar retail, then your critical technology needs include some form of point-of-sale technology that enables you to accept credit card transactions. Make that your most immediate concern and finalize a decision on it before you sally forth on a mission to “isolate and eliminate the inefficiencies within your organization.”

If most of your staff sits at a desk during the business day, then having a good e-mail solution should be the first order of business. Managing an e-mail server is a pure slavery and a security nightmare. Try to outsource it to someone trustworthy and try to keep it out of your building for as long as you are able. If you need a little extra IT advice, you can find providers in your particular area to help align your infrastructure with your needs.

CAPEX vs. OPEX for Technology Spending

IT technology analysts (relying upon a report produced by the University of California, Berkeley) from CIO.com advise small businesses to view technology as an operating expense rather than as a capital expense. Why? Technology is always changing they say, so why think of it (and pay for it) as if it’s a permanent thing. Indeed, the cloud and the software as a service model put powerful business tools into the hands of today’s small business managers at a low monthly subscription cost.

Insist on Scalable Technology Solutions

With today’s cloud-based services, it’s easier than ever to adjust your technology spending levels up or down to reflect your actual needs. This will have a positive influence on your cash flow. A decade ago, much of this was impossible, but today you can purchase a single-user license for almost anything and scale up later as your business grows.

During the era of shrink-wrapped software, starting a small business meant making a significant capital investment in voice and data networking technologies. Today, software is a service, the phone system fits in your pocket, and flexible cloud computing has replaced “big iron” in the IT department. For these reasons, small business needs to rethink IT infrastructure and adapt their future thinking to ensure that they can keep up with a changing IT technology environment.

A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she's used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here .