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5 things I learned in (home) school today – and how they can help your small or midsize business

Challenging times call for big changes in our lifestyles and our businesses but learning fast, and moving fast, is what SMBs do best.

In recent weeks, many working parents have taken on a second job, becoming the primary educator of their children as schools have been closing across the country. Distance learning is not a new concept, of course – online universities, e-learning, and MOOCs (massive open online courses) have become wildly popular over the last few years. However, adoption of these newer technologies at wide scale has been a steep learning curve for both educators and parents.

Small business IT solutions.jpgI’m speaking from experience here (at least on the parent side) as a new distance-learning facilitator-mom myself. But given my “day job” as an HPE leader with a passion for small and midsize businesses, it’s perhaps not surprising that I keep seeing some intriguing parallels between this new experience and the challenges that SMBs are facing. Here are some tips that should be useful – for parents and SMB decision-makers alike – as we all scramble to reach the make-it-work line in today’s difficult environment.  

1. Get the basics – and conserve your cash

Before issuing any homework, parents’ scramble to find an old laptop, computer, or extra iPad that the kids can use to access online resources. Coming up with the cash to purchase new hardware may not be possible, so we research our options: How can the kids get to their applications another way? Can I get loaner or refurbished equipment at a good price, or pay on a monthly lease? Is there a way to achieve our goals without buying a device? Or, if I do decide to fork out for a new device, how do I make sure I don’t buy too much compute power – or too little – for what I need?

Weighing IT solutions for your business is often a similar process. You know the work your employees need to accomplish and the right IT infrastructure that is needed to fuel growth and/or productivity but, inevitably, the question of affordability crops up. Thankfully, there are lots of no-compromise, low-cost options out there and you may want to evaluate how to leverage cloud-based services. If this is the case for your business, explore pre-owned solutions and innovative financing options from HPE Financial Services. If you’re in the market for new equipment, HPE offers a range of affordable servers and solutions designed for SMBs.

2. Understand that you’ll be managing a mixed environment – and that’s the norm

The teachers have sent five emails with five different log-ins to a half-dozen applications to deliver your kids’ lessons for the day. They cover a variety of subjects, usually delivered seamlessly in a classroom via a caring teacher. But at home, it’s nowhere near seamless. You may not know how to manage the applications or which should be consumed where. One might require a touch screen and navigation works best on an iPad. Another needs a keyboard for typing practice. Another works only in a web browser on a desktop.

Your IT landscape at work is no different – the applications you use daily are likely running in a mixture of on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud infrastructure. However, as businesses grow and get more complex and the “curriculum” becomes more advanced, managing the movement of applications and data across this mixed environment brings practical challenges, such as rising costs and security vulnerabilities. Consider right-sized servers that provide a highly secure, consistent experience across these hybrid cloud environments.

3. Make workflow the heart of the solution

Focus not just on what gets done, but on how it gets done. Planning out a schedule for your kids is one key to success. Mixing in some exercise, snacks, and free play to break up the learning times offers relief not only for young learners but also for hard-pressed parents, as they navigate the myriad applications and environments. 

Too often we treat IT projects as an inventory of applications, hosting environments, and capacity requirements. What we may want to think about more often is the business processes that channel your employees’ activities. Whether the core process improvement that you’re considering is accelerating product development, running the back-office supply chain and financial operations more efficiently, or delivering a seamless customer experience, placing your technology choices firmly within the workflow context will raise your chances of success.

4. Use the power of trial and error – but anticipate the hidden costs

As wonderful as our educators are to switch overnight to teaching our children virtually, we parents are still constantly looking for additional games and activities to occupy our kids. We browse every applications, books, or programs that seems remotely educational. When we download something new, sometimes we don’t know if the quality will be any good, or whether a monthly subscription will be worth it. Then again, we might discover something wonderful if we risk it.  

Similarly, cloud-based services for remote IT management and disaster recovery for your business have their attractions, and they’re worth investigating. However, it’s important to understand any limitations when it comes to data security and data availability – as well as the risk of unpredictable monthly fees, cost overruns, and lack of technical support – as you make your IT decisions.

5. Leverage your community of support – and connect for advice

The silver lining in is that many are trying to figure this out as well - whether it’s through parent groups, video-conferencing with teachers, or sharing personal tips and tricks with co-workers. There’s no one-size-fits-all support system – but we could all use a little advice now and then.

It’s the same with IT. Every business is different; the nuances are always there, in the unique applications, processes, environments, and usages that each company generates. But businesses typically have a lot in common, too.  As your SMB scales and adapts to address today’s business needs, consider tapping into IT expertise that has helped thousands of companies just like yours. HPE can connect with you and help you figure it out.

Whether it’s learning how to make virtual education work or optimizing the IT infrastructure of your small or mid-sized business, adapting in dynamic environments is what we all do best. Let us know how HPE can help you. 

Learn more about HPE SMB solutions.

Stay well,

Sandy

Featured articles:

 

Sandy Ono
VP of Marketing Strategy, eCommerce, and SMB Marketing
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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About the Author

Sandy_Ono

I lead Marketing Strategy, eCommerce, and SMB Marketing worldwide at HPE. I drive SMB customer analytics and insights efforts to formulate our go-to-market strategies and define our marketing and communications campaigns to engage with small and midsize business audiences across the globe. In addition, I drive our eCommerce strategy and run global operations to serve both Enterprise and SMB customers with our B2B solutions.