(Editor’s note: Jonathan McCormick is COO of Intermedia. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

Technology experts touted 2010 as the year that most businesses would start re-investing into their IT infrastructure, but 2011 seems to be the year where real dollars will be spent.

Many start-ups don’t have a dedicated IT manager on staff. But, someone needs to assure that the company’s tech tools enable not only smooth operations, but also growth. The right tools are critical to increase productivity now and avoid growing pains later. No matter which tools you pick, it’s important they come with 24×7 support – a virtual IT department, if you will.

Here are a few to consider:

Voice: Hosted PBX – Most small businesses do not have a professional main number with greeting. Instead, they use their cell phones or regular consumer telephone service. A hosted PBX service can operate as an affordable “virtual receptionist” with a professional greeting, call routing to your existing phones, and voicemail that forwards messages right to your email. The service can expand as the business grows to serve as your entire phone set up, with unlimited domestic calling and other features. It helps you look big now and operate more efficiency down the line.

Email: Hosted Exchange – Businesses already running Exchange in-house are often running old hardware to do so. The danger here is more than the cost of that server’s upkeep – a service failure can result in lost data and cripple communications. Hosted Exchange solves these problems because it’s delivered securely online to power Outlook. You keep the productivity and outsource the headaches. If you’re not using Exchange or another business-email solution today, consider one. They’re the key to unlocking all the great features of Outlook, like calendar sharing to set appointments, and assuring your email and the files within it are backed up properly.

Security: Email Encryption –Do you operate in a regulated industry like finance or healthcare? Your business may be financially accountable for data leaks. A comprehensive email system can address email security for your business, encrypting sensitive information so it’s read only by the folks who should be accessing it – and no unwanted third parties.

Collaboration: Unified Communications (UC) –SMBs spend approximately 14 percent of their time duplicating information such as forwarding email or making phone calls to confirm if a fax/email/text message was received and managing unwanted communications like spam email or unsolicited time-wasting phone calls. UC can cut this time by bringing together tools that employees already use to communicate with each other, customers and partners in one place.

Mobility: Flexible Remote Capabilities – It’s not just about the BlackBerry anymore.  Now there’s the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows 7 Phones to choose from. Businesses can no longer expect to support just one platform for employees There are many tools on the market that allow businesses to easily keep mobile devices in sync with email, calendars, and contacts. What you do in one device or computer is updated in the other – tablets, phones, etc.

Online backup: Various providers – Losing data hurts growth – All it takes is a spilled cup of coffee on a keyboard, and years of customer records and other key information can disappear. Many small businesses are seriously damaged by this sort of incident. Online backup automatically backs up your computer to a secure site you can access online.

24/7 Support Be prepared – If you don’t have an in-house IT manager, make sure you have access to top-notch support from your IT provider. The last thing a company growing at a rapid pace wants to worry about is having access to support in the case of an emergency.

Startups need to be forward-thinking when it comes to growth. Overhauling their services multiple times is a waste. The above tools, though are both cost-effective and can be quickly and easily expanded to accommodate later expansion. By adding even some of these tools now, it will save your IT department headaches later and allow your business to function more like your larger competitors.