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IT investments make up more than 3 percent of all corporate spending. However, every company views this investment differently. For many, the right IT infrastructure is considered the most important tool for productivity and customer relations in the toolbox. For others, it’s a necessary cost so employees can access their emails.

It’s important to consider how technology is used in your company. After all, how productive will your employees be if they are twiddling their thumbs while their computers’ hourglasses are spinning?

Treat IT as a Tool, Not a Cost

Companies that pinch pennies by using old technology are wasting time and resources. For example, the average mid-range laptop lasts only four or five years before the hardware slows down significantly and the battery life becomes almost nonexistent. Invest in higher-quality machines upfront, and you’ll save money in replacement batteries or new laptops down the road.

Employees waiting on frozen screens to come back to life aren’t the picture of productivity. In any other context, sitting around and waiting isn’t acceptable work behavior. Expecting employees to be productive without investing in equipment that supports their productivity sends a mixed signal, at best.

Without a crack IT team in place, you might not have the expertise to use technology to its full potential. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your IT investment into a valuable resource. With these tips, you can use your IT to boost revenue rather than cutting it to save costs.

1. Give employees tools that work

The minimum standard for your company’s laptops, printers, and internet modems should be that they work when you turn them on. The more time employees spend waiting, the more money your company loses in productivity.

You should also invest in some level of training for your employees on the tools they’ll use. Many IT vendors include initial training services in their contracts to help everyone become familiar with the new system. You can also designate an in-house superuser to find ways to further optimize different features and to solve problems that arise.

2. Put your mail and CRM on the web

Although IT security requires you to keep a lot of your operations within the walls of your company, you can easily put your customer-relationship management (CRM) and business applications on the web. With affordable platforms such as Microsoft Cloud and Google’s G-Suite, things like emails and ad campaigns can be managed and kept up-to-date much more efficiently.

In most cases, this decision comes down to cost-effectiveness. As long as employees can access these applications easily and securely, you might find it more efficient to host them on your in-house infrastructure. However, to streamline routine maintenance and updates, it often makes the most sense to keep them on the cloud.

3. Get regular tune-ups

As with any well-crafted machine, keeping your IT infrastructure running smoothly will require routine maintenance. Someone will need to regularly install software patches, monitor antivirus solutions, and manage data backups for both productivity and security reasons.

It’s no different from the maintenance needed to keep your car running reliably. You don’t want to wait for a timing belt to break before you take your car in for a tune-up. Likewise, you don’t want to wait for your infrastructure to collapse before you pay attention to your system’s soundness.

4. Be strategic about data access

Data security is the law in most industries, but the penalties for noncompliance shouldn’t scare you away from innovation. After all, staying compliant isn’t necessarily difficult or expensive. For instance, your in-house IT superuser can lock down sensitive information or assets and then grant access to off-site salespeople when necessary. Two-factor authentication is another easily implemented solution that adds extra security and is often required for compliance.

5. Outsource your IT needs

IT encompasses more than just workstation equipment and laptops. Until you can afford to hire an IT department of about three people, it’s probably best to outsource your needs. A high-value IT company will include network services, vendor relations, project management, and hardware maintenance. For optimal results, partner with a trusted IT services company that can offer training, support, and maintenance services to speed up and smooth the transition.

Even if you don’t know all there is to know about modern business tech, you can still turn your IT infrastructure into one of your most important assets. You just have to focus on what your company and employees need and give it to them.

Want to know more about whether your business is properly secured? Download my company’s guide on five easy ways for small businesses to protect themselves from online threats.

Read more: Outside-In: How Your IT Department Has To Change Now!