Industry talking to customers What's this? Starting Up and Scaling Up as a Solo IT Tech Published: April 14th, 2016 By: IT World Canada Staff So you’ve been charged with single-handedly building and maintaining the company’s entire IT infrastructure. And the only thing smaller than your network closet is your budget. Don’t panic. With a few smart purchases and good decisions, you can maximize resources, minimize costs, and keep IT operations running smoothly. Here’s how to tackle (or dodge) some of the toughest hardware and software challenges that lay ahead.Streamline computer purchasesSmall businesses typically only buy new computers when one breaks down or when there’s a sale at the local Best Buy. The result is an untenable mix of makes and models, operating systems, and software versions that will be a daily headache to maintain.To make it easier on yourself—and ultimately the whole company—work with your CEO to plan for PC upgrades and negotiate of a bulk deal from a single vendor. When you deploy them, use a standardized image that includes all the operating system settings and software the staff needs. These steps will save time, increase productivity, and drastically improve and simplify security.Choose open source softwarePart of your job will be to squeeze the most out of an airtight budget. One way to keep costs down is to use open source alternatives to licensed software. These programs are usually free to download and use and are compatible with their commercial counterparts’ file formats. They also provide the flexibility and customization that small businesses need.There are open source options available for everything from productivity suites (OpenOffice) and accounting applications (TurboCash) to CRM software (Open CRX) and content management systems (Drupal). Most will let you take them out for a test drive.Use hosted VOiPMany small businesses are opting for VOiP over landlines to reduce costs while maintaining business-level functionality. But on-premises VOiP means more hardware in your stuffed server closet that you have to configure and manage.With hosted VOiP, the system comes pre-configured and ready to deploy. New users can usually be added with a click and you can customize settings based on their role. Subscription-based VOiP systems also have a lower upfront cost. And because the service provider takes on the daily management and maintenance responsibility, it reduces the burden on your taxed resources.Organize and consolidate server hardwareSmall business server rooms present plenty of IT challenges. You’ve got to procure the necessary network hardware, squeeze it into tight spots, and keep it all running optimally with minimal resources. To hit the ground running, make a thorough list of your needs and priorities, and search for a solution based on those parameters. Make sure the setup you aim for fits all your needs and leaves you room to grow. Although a custom solution may seem like a big investment, it can be particularly beneficial for small businesses who need to keep a close eye on budget – and can pay off as the company scales.APC by Schneider Electric’s InfraStruXure for Small IT Spaces incorporates racks, cooling, backup power and power distribution, and management software into one comprehensive solution. Custom, modular configurations can scale from a server closet to a small data center, leaving you plenty of room to grow. These systems reduce deployment time from weeks to hours, and can reduce strain on your network and you.Managing a small business IT infrastructure solo isn’t for the faint hearted. But with the right strategies and solutions you can ensure you and your company stay on top.