IT Competitive Advantage: 6 Qualities a Business Should Have

Being competitive in business can mean different things to different people. To a software engineer, it means a well-designed product. To a department head, it means hiring good workers. To a marketer, it means a strong message and differentiators. Naturally, IT leaders think it’s about the technology – and that’s a fair assumption. After all, technology is the common current that powers all of these lines of business and corporate functions.

Did you ever consider that technology (no matter which industry you're in) could be a business driver – and actually enable you to outpace your competition?

When it comes to technology choices, business investments need to be cost-effective, practical, and user-friendly. But today they can be all that, PLUS allow you to achieve powerful business adjectives.

Adopting these six technical characteristics of a highly competitive business can help you achieve the edge you need to leave contenders in the dust:

1. Highly Available.

Speed and urgency are critical for today’s businesses. There is no time for downtime when your employees are trying to meet deadlines or responding to customers. The failure of even one server on your network can bring your applications, your systems – and your business – to a screeching halt. The term “high availability” refers to a system or component that assures a high-level of operational performance for a given period of time – typically measured by uptime (e.g., 99.99% availability). Technology solutions such as proactive network and server monitoring can track and manage performance around-the-clock to ensure that your business is supported continuously. Monitoring your environment means that issues are identified and resolved before they become a problem, ensuring that your systems remain highly available – and you remain competitive and ready for business. While there is no such thing as 100% uptime, modern technology services that leverage the cloud can get extremely close, and ensure that if you do go down, you can quickly recover.

2. Scalable and Agile.

If you’re like most companies, one of your goals for being in business is to grow your business. But if you are cobbling together technology solutions as you add employees, new capabilities, and new applications, you’re setting yourself up failure (dramatic but true). Today’s cloud options offer SMBs a viable option. The benefits of public cloud services (e.g., Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services) begin with their cost-practicality, which can reduce IT costs by more than 35%. Cloud services also provide the ability to scale services up or down as your business grows, as you add employees, or in response to “busy” and “slow” seasons. The cloud’s near-instant delivery method opens up valuable and game-changing benefits and capabilities without the capital investment or resource commitments of a traditional on-premises IT environment. The resulting agility enables your company to respond quickly to today’s constantly shifting market and technology landscapes.

3. Responsive and Recoverable.

Have you ever tried contacting a business whose systems were down or experiencing technical difficulties? It can be extremely frustrating and that is the last position you want to put your customers, partners or employees in. A disruptive event can be anything from a power failure to an act of cyberterrorism. The fact is, disasters happen, and humans make mistakes (such as clicking on a malicious link). The most competitive businesses have effective and tested plans in place for responding to and recovering from a disruptive event QUICKLY. In a recent survey by Forbes and IBM, 78% of surveyed companies were found to face unplanned and unnecessary disruption risks for their critical applications, despite having a business continuity (BC) or disaster recovery (DR) plan in place. Even more scary, only 28% of all surveyed completed monthly testing for their plans.  By leveraging cloud technology and subscribing to a managed disaster recovery service, your business can benefit from a comprehensive and resilient plan to prevent downtime and data loss.

4. Mobile and Productive.

Today’s mobile technology offers flexibility and productivity benefits to your employees for the good of your company. Your on-the-go employees need convenient access to corporate systems, applications, and information – anywhere, anytime, and from any device – and require business-class, cloud-based technology solutions to do so. Whether they're traveling, working from home or visiting clients, they need access to company files and documents in the same way they'd access these things from the office. The most competitive businesses are leveraging tools like Microsoft's Office 365, enabling their employees to maximize their productivity without sacrificing the security of corporate data. Today, 63% of confirmed data breaches involve leveraging weak, default, or stolen password, so it’s more important than ever to secure your users’ devices and identities as well as your corporate data from getting leaked. Thousands of competitive businesses are already leveraging the Enterprise Mobility + Security services in tandem with Office 365 to achieve mobility without sacrificing security.

5. Secure.

According to a recent report in Small Business Trends, 43% of cyber attacks target small business; 48% of data security breaches are caused by acts of malicious intent, human error, or system failure; and 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of a cyber attack. While most small business certainly are concerned about risks, and some are even required by industry regulations to comply with certain security standards, the report notes that most SMBs “feel they don’t store any valuable data.” The reality, though, is that SMBs DO store a lot of valuable data. An IDG survey pointed to data storage as the leading reason businesses will move to the cloud in 2017 for both security and efficiency reasons. Not to mention, IT departments will have to manage 50 times the amount of information, 75 times the number of files and 10 times the number of virtual and physical servers, with only 1.5 times the number of IT professionals to manage it all, by 2020. In addition to the cloud, there is now an abundance of affordable tools available to small and midsize businesses now that can safeguard businesses from the rising amount of recent threats. 

6. Analytical.

You can't measure success without tools to measure it by. Small and midsize businesses have traditionally struggled with gathering, streamlining and analyzing data in order to extract valuable business information and set realistic KPIs. Enter the cloud. Cloud-based data tools, such as Microsoft's Power BI, give businesses of all sizes a streamlined, single view of their most critical business data. An affordable and dynamic analytics dashboard that is powered by the cloud can allow you to monitor the health and progress of your business, create rich reports and access your data on the go. Having this data and analytics at your fingertips empowers your team members to make quick, confident decisions and lets you collaborate with key stakeholders to ensure that everyone uses the right data.

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