Small business information technology planning can be some of the most challenging and important of all. Larger companies typically employ dedicated Chief Information Officers with their own extensive staffs of specialized employees, and this allows these big businesses to think strategically about their IT needs. That produces real benefits over time, as these large-scale companies are able to plan for cost-effective IT solutions that will grow along with their needs.

In smaller companies, dedicated IT staff of any kind tend to be rare. Very few small businesses benefit from the strategic thinking of a Chief Information Officer, and not many more have full-time IT workers of any kind. Typically relying on it services that provide help as and when needed, it can be more difficult for such companies to partake in the long-term strategic thinking that is the norm at bigger ones.

That is starting to change, though. Instead of merely providing IT Consulting on a case-by-case basis when their clients ring them up, many IT consultants are starting to offer support of a kind that accounts for larger time horizons. At least one prominent information technology consultancy today even offers what it calls a "virtual CIO" service, attempting to supply clients with the kind of strategic thinking and guidance that is so common at and important to large companies.

What this means specifically will vary from one case to another, but some common factors do stand out. For one thing, this kind of information technology support will mean thinking about not just the IT answers that will make the most sense in the short term, but also those that will contribute to further growth and also support it.

For a company with a strictly short-term approach to accommodating IT needs, for example, it might seem to make good sense to add another network attached storage device to a network to allow for the sharing of more documents. While the initial expense might be low and the new asset might be easy to incorporate, a more strategic outlook could reveal that answer to be less satisfying.

A virtual CIO might instead recommend that the company could be better served by taking the opportunity to switch to cloud backup and document sharing, instead. While that could take a little more effort in the short term, it could easily pay off in terms of effortless scaling thereafter. Having access to that kind of more strategic thinking can be just as helpful for small companies as for large ones.