It's a scenario you've seen too many times in too many places: unexpected volume overloads the computer system or the phones can't handle the flood of incoming calls. Could it happen to you? Not if you create an expandable architecture with the flexibility a growing business needs.
Overload was a problem facing Universal Tax Systems in Rome, Georgia, when the company developed an electronic tax-filing subsidiary. CEO Randy Tullos, 38, recalls the early days-when the industry's growth rate was in triple digits. "Sometimes we'd have to forward returns to the IRS within a couple of hours of receipt-and some of them require heavy number-crunching," Tullos says. The solution was not to buy the biggest computer system but to create a LAN that could be reconfigured to accomodate higher volume then shifted back when the demand passed. For example, after a snowstorm shut-down, Tullos had to send 10,000 tax returns in 30 minutes. "Machines were reconfigured," he says, "and we were able to send at 20 times our normal capacity." When it was over, the extra computers were returned to their usual functions.
Tullos says bigger, more powerful computers could have reduced equipment costs, but would not have provided the necessary flexibility. Also, expansion could be accomplished by adding low-end off-the-shelf PCs to the network.
"Build a system that can grow with you," counsels Tullos. "You'll avoid having to spend the intellectual capital to redesign your system every time you grow."