As small business owners reflect on their successes and challenges over the past year and consider the year ahead, some will anticipate increasing needs for IT infrastructure, internet services, and website capabilities. A growing business may need to adopt new digital tools, launch a new site, or simply add capacity to an email service. Upgrading a service is not necessarily a straightforward process for non-IT professionals, however, even if the new service or capacity is considered “plug and play.” Making changes, performing monitoring and maintenance, and a range of other necessities take time and expertise. Growing small businesses rarely have the combination of both to dedicate to something outside the business’ core.
As they grow, therefore, many organizations would benefit from switching to managed hosting ahead of time. This will allow them to meet demands that are not only increasing but meet them in an efficient and timely way.
Avoiding The Guessing Game
One of the advantages of Managed Hosting services for businesses experiencing a growth spurt is that system or website stats can make relatively clear to a hosting professional what kind of upgrade will be most beneficial, and how much additional capacity is needed.
Businesses with new customers or big orders to fill often find they are too busy satisfying their clients to pay close attention to their system performance. This can mean that even though they know it is coming, they are not aware of how soon it will be needed until they experience performance degradation or service disruption. This is the most difficult time to figure out the specifics of an upgrade, even if the choice is belatedly made to switch to a Managed service.
A more orderly process and one which is most likely to avoid both losses of revenue and excess costs is to perform reviews at regular intervals and make decisions for the coming interval based on data.
Some experts recommend that SMBs develop IT infrastructure plans that look three to five years ahead, and divide IT projects into phases. This allows them to continuously meet business objectives without paying for capacity or capabilities they do not yet need. Dedicated cloud hosting provides even more freedom to avoid the challenge of timing capital expenditure. This freedom enables the business to add new technologies or incrementally increase resources on demand. Developing a long-term plan without expertise in cutting-edge technology can be difficult. This is where the knowledge of a Managed Hosting provider can directly impact the return-on-investment of technology spending.
Managed Hosting customers can also forecast their traffic or workload for the quarter, year, or however far ahead the business is comfortable to look, and then leverage the experience of their service provider to make rational decisions about how to time their infrastructure growth. An eCommerce operator with sales peaks every year over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, it may be best to provision that new server in October, or even September. This allows you to leave sufficient time for testing even before the other preparations that will inevitably have to be made, like setting sale prices or updating your catalog.
The guessing game is one of the factors which frequently prevents SMBs from making the IT investments that they know they need. A survey by CompTIA found that roughly two-thirds of SMB executives consider technology a primary factor in pursuing business objectives, yet 40 percent admit they have invested less than they should in IT. For growing businesses, this challenge often becomes a resource allocation issue, in that dedicating staff time to an upgrade is difficult when everyone is occupied performing core business functions.
The amount of time necessary to upgrade a server or integrate an application varies significantly, but businesses rarely have a highly variable amount of staff time to dedicate to them. Turning the task over to specialists can both make the process more predictable, and also prevents any surprises or overruns from taking employees away from their core responsibilities.
Any kind of system upgrade, from adding a server to achieve redundancy to implementing new software, requires testing before it goes live. Not only does the amount of testing time necessary vary significantly between different kinds of changes, but also between changes of the same kind to systems or environments that are different. A single upgrade can require further changes to ensure compatibility, and even knowing how many changes are necessary often involves its own process, as recently discussed with regards to the end-of-life for PHP 5.
A business running a WordPress website that is going from a simple web presence to a dynamic engagement point for a growing customer base can allocate its own internal resources to building on its success, and increase the chances of successfully making the necessary changes by putting Managed Hosting services to work for them.
Increasing Digital Regulations
Is your business expanding its customer base to include regulated industries like banking or healthcare? Are you planning on handling personal data from European users or customers? The responsibilities of online service providers, retailers, and other organizations have increased, and are continuing to do so. Even identifying the applicable rules can be difficult. Maintaining compliance with them as they change, however difficult, is necessary to avoid fines and preserve the business’ reputation.
Europe’s General Data Protection Rule (GDPR), which applies to all businesses serving European customers, went into effect in May, but companies able to demonstrate progress towards compliance have avoided hefty fines so far. Regulators are promising that will change in 2019. California’s Consumer Privacy Act will introduce some of the strongest rules for and restrictions on collecting and storing customer data to the U.S. When it comes into force at the end of 2019, a range of state and national businesses, particularly those trading in user data, gain a set of responsibilities relating to data collection transparency, disclosure, and deletion. More regulations are expected to pass in different markets around the world in the year ahead.
Fortunately for companies navigating this global shift, web hosts have been serving regulated industries such as finance and healthcare through similar increases in responsibility. Quality Managed Hosting providers can leverage that experience in regulated industries to help businesses maintain compliance with changing regulatory requirements. A Managed service may also include compliance scans or assessments to help a business make sure they have it right.
Anticipate Challenges and Opportunities to Grow With Managed Hosting
Planning for a big year in 2019 means anticipating numerous challenges and opportunities. Challenges that are not core to the business, like website and email system maintenance, can be delegated. This prevents those challenges from interfering or causing a distraction at a critical moment. With a company such as Liquid Web, Managed Hosting can be a valuable tool for growing businesses preparing for a year of growth and change.
Melanie Purkis is the Director of Liquid Web's Managed Hosting Products & Services. Melanie has more than 25 years of experience with professional leadership, project management, process development, and technical support experience in the IT industry.
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