At the core of our work and social lives, connectivity and online functions like email, e-commerce, apps, and instant messaging, seem to dominate everything we do in the modern world.

By Steve Briggs, chief commercial officer at Seacom

Made even more apparent by the lockdown and its restrictions, few businesses can trade effectively without connectivity, and a reliable data network has become a must-have for all businesses, regardless of size or sector.

When it comes to small businesses, a few desktops connected to a modest file server just doesn’t cut it anymore – tapping into advanced computing and networking technology is just as important for SMEs and start-ups as it is for large enterprises and multinational corporations.

Connectivity opens endless doors, enabling scalable growth for small businesses. Setting up a connected network is not only key for communication between employees and customers, and coordinating a company with email, social media, apps, chat, and online meetings, but it also allows for easy access to core business operations like analytics, tracking and budgets.

Finding new ways to leverage connectivity to get more done and be more efficient is a sure-fire way to set your business apart from competitors. However, ill-informed decisions and careless actions can have negative implications on your business for years to come.

Getting your small business network right is critical, so let’s explore the various options available before you jump in.


Determining your business needs

A good starting point is to consider your unique business needs before investing money and time into building the ideal IT network for your small business. What are your connectivity needs right now, and how could these change in in the next few years? Your network will need to grow as your company does, so it’s important to think about the future and an expanded network that can keep up with your evolving demands.

Evaluate your office space and current setup, the number and kinds of devices your company uses, the applications your employees run, and the levels of access you’ll need for security purposes.


Deciding between 4G or 5G

Fifth-generation wireless technology is gaining momentum and for good reason – faster download and upload speeds, more efficient networks, theoretically allowing for lower overheads and a boost in productivity are just some of the benefits a small business or start-up can reap from investing in a 5G connection.

However, while 5G does offer several transformative improvements, it is worthwhile to note that it is still very new and won’t be replacing 4G completely. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every business, and that’s why assessing your business’s unique needs is so important before you decide which technology to adopt.


Deciding between DSL or fibre

Another key consideration to make is the type of Internet your business needs.

While DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is more dominant as it’s been around for so long, fibre is increasingly becoming available and cheaper as it gains popularity. Representing the future of Internet connections, fibre is easy to run and offers unmatched gigabit speeds – up to 100 times faster than DSL.

Because of its lightning-fast data speed, increased performance, and added durability and reliability, many businesses have switched from copper to fibre optic cables to future-proof their network. Especially when their operations are heavily dependent on the Internet and back-ups are made regularly to off-site locations – fibre empowers companies with the added advantages of cloud services.

However, fibre is not always available, and DSL is often the only type of Internet that’s accessible in smaller towns and rural areas. So, the location of your business and the connectivity providers in your area will determine your available options.


Considering cloud-based services

The ideal companion for your chosen connection, cloud computing delivers added resiliency by continuously backing up sensitive company data, off-site.

Potentially even more important for small companies than large corporates, cloud technology minimises operational costs, and IT expenses by providing cloud-based storage, software, and infrastructure solutions. Additionally, cloud-based services drive productivity, collaboration, and innovation, allowing smaller businesses to compete on a bigger scale.

However, as a business owner, you may be concerned about keeping your information safe in the cloud. The key is finding the right cloud service provider – a reliable partner that will walk you through contingency plans in the event of a security breach. The right vendor, coupled with services that focus on data encryption and identity verification, will lead to better cloud safety.


Considering cybersecurity services

Speaking of safety, ensuring that your business’s equipment is digitally secure in order to safeguard employee payroll details, user logins and passwords is crucial, too. With the rise of cyberattacks, your small business can’t afford to be considered an easy target, especially during uncertain times like these.

Cybersecurity awareness is imperative for businesses in today’s climate – be sure to educate yourself and your employees on potential risks and threats. There are so many resources out there and specialised security experts that can help you establish a secure network with advanced anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection for peace of mind.

At the very heart of your operations, your IT network has the power to determine how successful and long-lived your business will be. Therefore, building a reliable, secure, and flexible network that can evolve as your business does, will help set up your organisation for a more profitable, smooth-running digital future.