• United States

Analyze, support, grow: Part 1

Aug 19, 20043 mins

* How to find your technology identity

What is a small business? A simple question with a complicated answer.

The government defines businesses by number of employees, except when using revenue. Vendors like to use number of employees or number of computers. But think about it. You can have a large number of employees but a small number of technical needs, like a lumberyard with lots of employees and inventory but not many computers. Or you can have a small number of employees and huge technical needs, such as a one-person graphic design firm or a three-person firm selling products globally on the Web.

So if you let vendors sell you products based on how they define you, rather than what you really are, you’ll  get the wrong products and services. And replacing those as you grow will hurt.

So this week, I’ll help you define your technology identity and how you want to grow. Next time, I’ll help you find the right consultants and dealers to do it.

First, inventory your technology investment. Look at your internal systems and outsourced systems, such as a Web and e-mail host. Then find your company’s tech identity on this list (the numbers are guidelines, not absolutes): 

* Stand-alone systems (1-10 computers).

* Peer to peer (2-20 computers).

* Dedicated server (1-50 computers).

* Multiple servers and/or departments (20+ computers).

* Single location (1+ computers).

* Multiple locations (2+ computers).

Second, see how well you’ve managed each of these support details and the sub-details you must control:

* Security (hackers, spam, viruses).

* Connections (wired, wireless, remote).

* Types of computers (desktops, notebooks, servers, specialized servers).

* Applications (operating systems, office tools, special business apps, custom apps).

* Business continuity (data backup, power protection, disaster recovery).

The best way I can show all this information is with the Tech Matrix I’ve begun at It won’t be finished for a while – there are a lot of boxes to fill in – but I wanted to give you a sneak peek so you get the idea.

Follow down the list of technology identities until you find yours, then read what’s under the Hawaiian shirt. Each tech identity covers each of the support details listed above, hence, creating a personalized technology matrix for your business.

For example, if you have a single computer in a single location, your security issues are considerably different than someone with multiple locations. How about multiple servers but a single location? You have different connection issues than someone with a small number of computers in multiple locations.

Note how little here involves number of employees. You can have a dedicated server for two employees or a dozen locations with four employees each and no dedicated server. You might have 100 computers and use a single server or have three employees and need a specialized Web server cluster to guarantee constant availability. 

Even though I haven’t finished the matrix, you can still give some serious thought to your various support  details. Are you comfortable, for example, that your peer-to-peer network is secure against hackers, spam and viruses? Do you feel confident in the data back-up system in place for your multiple locations that don’t have a centralized server? If not, next time we’ll talk about where to get some help to ease your mind.

Everything listed must support your business, not provide technology for technology’s sake. If your firm works great now and can grow with a single location, then ignore the support details relating to multiple locations. Let your business push you to expand your systems and network – not the consultants and dealers.