Why is IT for growth businesses like a hermit crabs’ shell?

This week I had the pleasure of attending a networking session at a design company called Hermit Crab. I was somewhat surprised to learn that office space requirements and IT solutions have a lot in common with hermit crabs.

Let me explain…

As we all know, hermit crabs live in shells and, as they grow, discard the shell they’re in and find a larger, more appropriate shell to move into. Businesses do the same with offices and I am, as a business, now in my fourth shell.

Combo started in a spare bedroom of my house. As I hired staff and the business grew, we were forced to relocate to the lounge room, which was significantly larger. Before we knew it, the house was too small and we were forced to relocate the office to a larger facility. After three years of ongoing growth, we had to move yet again – this time to a full commercial office space. So far this has been okay, but I can see a time when more space will be required.

So, over time, our office space requirements have expanded significantly. Likewise, we’ve had to scale up our computer systems and phone systems. First, we had one small, cheap PC. Then we had two. Then we added a cheap server, and then a larger server, and then two servers. Today we have several – some physical and some virtual. Each server has a purpose and is customised to the solution it provides, by experts who understand the demands placed upon it.

Had we started with the systems we need today eight years ago, we would have failed as a business – because the cost of the equipment, licensing and maintenance of those systems could not have been suitably funded by our business as a start up. So, the hermit crab approach has been sensible and worked well.

Today, we are becoming more modular with our solutions, thanks to the brilliance of virtualisation. This lets us add virtual servers as and when we need them, and expand hardware in a more modular fashion.

Smaller businesses still need to use the hermit crab approach until they reach a level where they can access the first module of a modular system. Alternatively, they should consider a cloud-based solution because they are elastic in their nature and don’t have constraints that one can grow out of.

Many people are adopting cloud-based solutions today, for this very reason. Scaling is no longer a concern, and physical equipment does not need to be replaced as growth occurs. This is going to change the nature of many IT business transactions over the next few years, and will have a deep impact on the IT server marketplace.

So what does this mean for your business? If you are in any doubt about how your business should make use of technology as you expand, it’s time to review your business plan and align your IT plans to the needs of your business. If you need help with this, seek a trusted advisor who understands the impediments IT can cause in a fast-growth business, and can work with you to design the right solutions.

Click here to read more IT Systems expert advice.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.

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