IT Budgeting 101 & What to Invest in for 2021
by Jack Drummond, on Dec 7, 2020 5:11:16 PM
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a DOOZY and has presented business owners and technology providers with an unprecedented set of unique challenges, from remotely provisioning new computers to mastering the art of the tastefully appointed videoconference background. As the year (thankfully) comes to a close, we’ve compiled a list of great end of year investments to make to ensure you get the most out of your technology in 2021.
We advise clients to upgrade the organization's Macs every 3-5 years depending on use case and technology changes. Waiting past 5 years is gambling with saving the capital expense versus the potential lost time/increased security risks. The end user will usually have a slower computer (which hurts productivity), software compatibility and security updates become less likely, and if something breaks Apple may not make the parts to repair it any more.
Budget for Upgrading to M1 / Big Sur
You may have caught Apple’s announcement of new computers featuring all-new M1 processors last month. This is big news as the last time Apple made a change like this was in 2006 when they switched from PowerPC chips to Intel.
As in 2006, at release not all software has been optimized for the new chips, which means that certain applications will have to run through Rosetta 2, an emulation technology that allows the older software to communicate with the new processors. Certain applications may work better under Rosetta 2 than others, so now is a great time to add a few M1 computers to your fleet so you can test them out with your software/workflow in anticipation of a wider rollout when Apple moves the whole lineup to M1.
The good news is that the M1's are getting rave reviews from the techies testing the benchmarks.
Upgrading network equipment is highly dependent on a few things: how much you have/plan to grow, the quality of the current network gear, and technological advances. Some people can sustain the same network for 5-7 years while others need to grow into new bandwidth, have better security controls, or account for more users.
Budget for Updated SD-WAN/Security Appliance
When was the last time you thought about your organization’s security appliance? If it has been a few years, now is a great time to look into an upgrade. An older security appliance often will have lower data throughput, which can act as a bottleneck on your network and limit your ability to take advantage of faster internet speeds. We see many clients paying for a gig from Verizon and they have no idea their firewall only gives them access to 250 mpbs.
Also, if your security appliance is older and no longer supported by the manufacturer, you might be missing out on important updates that guard against newer security threats.
Upgrading to a newer Cisco Meraki security appliance will make access to your organization’s network and assets faster and more secure, which will continue to be important with the continued emphasis on remote work into 2021.
File storage upgrades are very dependent on the amount of data you have/plan to have, the speed of access, and the available technology. We recommend clients have a setup with proper backups and quality in the first place so if a hard drive fails, you don't have to scramble. When your business needs change or the technology is beneficial enough, you'll want to think about upgrading to a new file storage system.
Budget for Shared Storage Upgrades
Is your organization still using an Apple server for shared storage? Apple discontinued the XServe in 2010 and has spent the past 10 years minimizing the Apple server platform, no longer featuring dedicated hardware or a standalone server operating system. However, there are several great alternatives to fill the void.
If your data storage needs are minimal (documents, pdf files), it might make sense to migrate your shared storage to a cloud-based solution like Dropbox. You’ll have all of the advantages of shared storage (version and access control, ability to access files from anywhere) but without the hassle of maintaining and backing up server hardware.
For applications that require rapid transfer of large files locally (video editing, graphic design, etc), we recommend moving your shared storage to a Synology NAS. These fantastic network attached storage devices run a very basic OS and can be customized in a variety of different RAID configurations to best suit your needs. They are great at quickly and efficiently sharing out files without wasting resources on legacy server functions that have mostly been moved to other services (like email hosting).
Device management, sometimes called "MDM," is a line item that many SMBs don't have in their budgets, but it's something that has both security and productivity benefits to the organization. The budget for this item will depend on your organization's complexity, size, and IT capabilities. We include it on all of our Managed IT contracts.
Budget for Best-in Class Mac/iOS Management
With many employees continuing to work remotely deep into 2021, remote management of devices will be very important. Jamf Pro is a best in class Mac management tool that provides security, supercharges and streamlines deployment and application management, and uses policies and scripts to customize devices for optimal user experience. There is an onboarding fee and then you are paying monthly per Mac and iOS device enrolled in the software.
Anti-Virus/End Point Protection
If you haven't invested in AV or next-gen end point protection, 2021 is the time to start. The stats for breaches only continue to rise and doing nothing is negligent. See some of our other security suggestions here.
Budget for AV/End Point Protection Made for Mac OS
Your budget for end point protection should consider what devices people are using. Many AV companies don't invest in Mac OS protection nearly as much as they do Windows OS protection. Getting specific comparison sheets will help you see feature loss. It's also important to understand if the software will slow the computer down since some end point protection software can tax the CPU.
Jamf Protect is a Mac specific endpoint protection with AV and EDR that leverages Apple's built in security functions. Also, providers like Sophos tend to have good data on their Mac OS protection and would give one tool if you have both Windows and Macs.
Please, please invest in backups for your organization's data. Everything from your Office 365 to your user's endpoints should have backups. The more business critical the data (think: accounting server, active client files), the more quantity of and diversity of backups you should have. Between the rise of ransomware, equipment failures, natural disasters, and user error, there should be enough there to motivate you to pay for this.
Budget for Backups
Endpoint backups for per users can be super simple with companies like Code42 and Backblaze and usually run anywhere from $6 to $10 per user per month. Backing up servers, file storage, and other critical services is usually based on the amount of data and sometimes other factors like downloads. You'll want to consider an onsite/local backup (for speed of data restore) and an offsite, non-local backup to account for any larger scale disaster such as a hurricane or tornado in your region.
Managed IT Services
Not an IT professional but still handling day to day IT tasks yourself? It might be time to invest in a managed IT services agreement. For less than the price of a single employee, you can have a team of IT professionals at your fingertips, as well as a dedicated account manager to assist you in laying out your strategic IT vision. This investment can help you get out of the day to day grind of providing ad hoc support for your users and allow you to focus on growing your business in 2021.
Learn more about Managed IT Services and how we help clients with everything from IT budgeting to user IT problems.