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Technology Investments for Small and Medium Businesses

Where should you invest your money and resources?

By Cathy Garland

Technology investment decisions may seem daunting to a small or medium business owner. There are many options and vendors anxious to get their solutions into your environment. It’s easy, however, to make decisions that you come to regret without a clear plan of how technology will be used to support and advance your business initiatives.

In the late 1990s, software vendors started churning out products that transformed business computing. Technologies such as email, and databases that stored a multitude of data, were seen as innovations.  Today, it’s BYOD, data warehousing, and the cloud. The many flavors of each can be mind boggling if you’re unsure of technology initiatives, or unless you have a strong technology partner who can assist.

There are multiple questions to be answered in order to be confident of technology investments:

  • What is the purpose of the purchase? Is it meant to run the business or build the business?
  • What is the true “all-in” cost to purchase and support the investment? (Don’t forget training for staff and support)
  • What is the lifecycle of the purchase?
  • What is the ROI? Calculate hard and soft costs.

So, where do you start? With investments that either:

  • Replace or reduce manual effort
  •  An analysis should be performed regarding how much effort is required to fulfill a task, as well as the likelihood of errors.
    •  If you buy a piece of software that replaces a task that takes 15 minutes per day – where is the payoff?
    •  If you buy a piece of software that replaces a task that takes 10 hours a day – the payoff is more obvious.
    • There are utilities and other software applications that automate manual processes, which are cost effective and provide a hands-off approach.
  • Ensure business continuity,
    • What is the cost of downtime? How long can you be down before you suffer a financial loss?
      • How do you know your systems are down? Are you alerted so you are able to notify customers (if needed), or do your customers inform you?
    • What is the loss of reputation worth? How do you evaluate this item?
    • Do you consider outsourcing IT Support?
  • Help your company grow,
    • Don’t get so caught up in running your business that you forget to work on building your business.
    • Don’t forget that technology exists for a reason. A number of the solutions are tried and true business innovators that can put you in a positive light with your clients, existing and potential.
  • Protect your assets
    •  Individuals and businesses buy insurance policies as a matter of business practice. Technology “insurance” also needs to be considered
      • Backup solutions provide insurance against data loss
      • Security solutions provide against data breaches
        • Redundant systems provide against hardware failure

What you should avoid:

  • Cool fads that offer little or no business return,
  • Expensive solutions that promise to change your whole process flow, but are unclear on the details,
  • Vendors that don’t mirror your attitude about business investment and risk,
  • Bleeding edge solutions, unless you can absorb the potential cost of mistakes and delays,
  • Solutions that have no lifecycle documented or appear to be under-capitalized.

While you could miss out on the latest new and imaginative solutions by avoiding these types of technologies, you have to temper what will help with your business focus, and what could distract your resources, and offer little if any return.

Technology and Companies that support small business efforts:


  •  Freeware/Shareware – There are a number of solutions out on the market that are free and referred to as freeware or shareware. Be careful that if you choose to use these types of software in your environment that: 1) they don’t have hidden Trojans or malware, 2) The licensing allows for free use within your environment.

A few years ago, Winzip was on most corporate desktops. It was downloaded by corporate IT departments because it was a great file compression tool. The only issue was that if you read the licensing agreement, it clearly stated that if you used Winzip in a corporate environment, it was not free.  Microsoft eventually included a file compression tool free with their operating systems.

  • Focus on SMB Market – There are technology companies that have divisions focused on the SMB market. They offer competitive pricing for solutions. Microsoft has done a great job of absorbing technologies that complement their core offerings.  Utilities such as Netmon and Filemon are free tools, as well as hundreds of others that Microsoft offers. Dell purchased Quest, which has excellent IT management tools.
  • Choose a locally based technology partner- Invest your time and efforts into forming relationships with technology partners who are either local or members of your Chamber of Commerce. These companies will take a vested interest in your success.

In short, don’t allow the technology area to overwhelm you. Take a measured approach to technology, such as you would with other business decisions. Run your ROI calculators, limit your scope, and pick strong partners. You’ll have a greater chance for success with your business initiatives by making smart technology choices.


By: Cathy Garland

Cathy has worked in technology for 29 years with the focus being infrastructure operations. Having worked in the telecommunications, legal and financial services industries, Cathy draws upon her process-oriented mindset to assist companies with implementing technology risk frameworks. From PCI to SOX, Cathy has experience in implementing, assessing and guiding companies to a suitable risk footprint. She can be reached at


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