If you’re starting up in business, or you’re looking to expand, there’s a good chance you’re going to need some kind of IT network to support your plans.
The trouble is, it’s hard to say how much a business network should cost. For some companies, it will represent 50% or more of their overhead costs. For others, a modest setup that involves employee’s devices will suffice.
Here, we’ll look at a few different options – and explain the most cost-effective ways of creating a solid IT foundation for your business.
What is a network?
The term ‘network’ might sound like something that’s reserved for large companies with hundreds of employees – but in actual fact, even the most modest businesses often have a network.
In essence, a network is a number of IT devices connected together. So, if you’ve got a laptop, a computer, and a printer – you’ve got a network.
Now, in a traditional sense, a network is a little more sophisticated than this. For many companies, a network is a number of central servers, each doing a specific job – providing applications and services to your employees. For example, a company may have a data server and an email server in their headquarters, and end users may use personal logins to access those services from their devices – either elsewhere in the building, or in a different geographical location.
A set up like this is often quite costly initially, but is generally easily and inexpensively grown to accommodate new users as your business expands and changes.
What are the costs involved?
Since every company is a little different, the costs involved with setting up a network vary enormously. As a result, it’s very difficult to pinpoint an exact price.
That said, there are some cost-saving options that’ll reduce your setup and running costs significantly, whether you’re planning a modest network that’ll get your small business up and running – or you’re putting together a sophisticated network that’ll power an enterprise company.
Let’s compare some of those money-saving options to more traditional (and costlier) ways of getting your IT in place.
Using a managed service provider
Although the idea of servers and applications tend to be the part of IT networking that people consider to be the most expensive – it’s actually staffing costs that represent the largest chunk of operation expenditure when it comes to IT.
Recruitment is likely to cost your business at least $3,000 for every hire – and even the smallest IT team is going to need 2-3 people to keep the company lights on.
When you’ve got a team onboard, you’ll need to make sure they’re up to speed with the relevant accreditations, as well as making sure you’ve got cover and emergency plans in the case of sickness, holidays, resignations, and the host of other issues you can run into with employed staff.
The good news is, you can completely side-step the cost of creating your own IT team by using one that’s all setup and ready to start work.
If this sounds appealing, you should look at finding a good managed service provider – or MSP. An MSP is a specialist IT company who provides their knowledge and skill to third-party companies. As such, they can generally get started at a moment’s notice – and come equipped with up to the moment best-practice knowledge about IT and your industry.
This kind of knowledge means that an MSP is likely to be able to save you money in other areas of your company’s tech too. From reducing your connection costs – to using expert knowledge to make sure you’re using complex solutions like SD WAN as effectively as possible, a managed service provider is likely to slice your IT costs down to a manageable size.
Using ‘as a Service’
After you’ve dealt with the cost involved with a team that can manage your IT, the next largest cost you’ll run into is likely to be the devices and applications that’ll build your network.
If you’ve taken a glance at the costs involved with these things, you’re probably expecting central servers to costs thousands – and hundreds of dollars for every installation or user you’ll need for software packages.
Fortunately, there’s a new way of paying for tech – and it’s all thanks to recent leaps forward in cloud-computing.
The ‘as a Service’ model is a phrase you’ll see attached to a number of different business networking components – such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
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Essentially, buying as a Service is a way of unlocking the very best and latest tech – but without making an outright purchase. For example, buying Microsoft Office for business could cost hundreds of dollars for every license required – but if you purchase on a pay-monthly basis to access the same services via the cloud, you’re likely to find that your cost is a fraction of the price.
From a cash flow point of view, this obviously has enormous benefits – but in actual fact, there are far more benefits than just saving costs. As well as the fact cloud-based applications mean your managed service provider can access them from their remote location, you’re also going to have the very latest version of all software – so you’ll never need to worry about re-purchasing licenses every few years.
The same is true of services that used to require physical devices in your office. Where a mail server was once a device that sat in a server rack in the corner of your IT department, it’s now a service that you can simply pay for each month. Rather than a dedicated piece of hardware, your mail server will be virtual – part of a much bigger system provided by Microsoft or another large tech company.
The great news is, this doesn’t just mean reduced costs for your business, it often means significantly improved security too – as taking on a IaaS provider is a much more challenging option than hoping to break into the data of a small business.