Every business today relies on information technology (IT) for almost everything they do. IT allows you to do everything, from creating reports and managing your accounts, to communicating with suppliers and customers. It allows you to manage your staff, build good relationships and links you to all your marketing tools, such as your website, social media and email lists.
For some businesses, IT is the essential component, used for everything from designing products, controlling stock and selling online. Without an IT solution, a modern startup business is going to struggle.
The IT Ingredients for Your Startup Business
Most startups don’t need highly expensive IT systems, but every start-up will require some IT. Whist you don’t need to be an expert, it helps if you understand some of the basics and the key issues you need to manage and grow your business using IT in the most effective and efficient manner.
In this article, we explain the 7 Vital Ingredients you will need to consider for your startup business.
1. Basic Devices
- Computers: Every employee is going to need access to a computer. Desktops are your cheapest option, but laptops offer more flexibility.
- Printers: Some businesses survive without a printer, but they are extremely useful. Watch out for running costs which can quickly spiral
- Specialist Technology: Retailers usually require point of sale terminals and a chip and PIN reader to take card payments. Other industries will also require specialist solutions for their products and services
- Network & Telephone Systems: You will need an internet connection and if you have more than one computer you will benefit from a network. Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone systems use the internet to make calls, making them more flexible and cost-effective than traditional phone systems.
2. Business Software
Operating System: This is the basic software that runs your computer. PCs come with Microsoft Windows pre-installed. Servers also require operating systems. This is a more specialised area and advice should be sought depending on your needs.
- Office Suite: This allows you to work with the most common business documents and files. Microsoft Office is the most popular and most of your employees will likely be familiar with this software.
- Email Software: A vital component allowing you to communicate with the rest of the business world. Microsoft Outlook is the most common. You will need an email service which is available from web hosting companies, IT suppliers and cloud email providers.
- Specialist Software: You will likely need other software applications to handle different business activities, such as accounting software, which can help with financial management and tax returns, payroll software to make paying staff easier and a CRM to track customer details and your contacts with them.
- Mobile Apps: Many office suites and other software packages offer mobile apps that run on smartphones and tablet computers.
3. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing services have become very popular. They offer more flexibility and can keep initial costs low.
- Internet Access: Cloud computing services are accessed over the internet. Instead of installing software onto your computer, you sign in online. You need an internet connection to use cloud computing.
- Lower Cost: The cost is usually via a monthly fee instead of one-off payment and will be based on the level of service and number of users.
- Flexibility: Cloud services aren’t tied to a single computer like traditional software, so you can access them from any computer or device, anywhere.
- Maintenance and support: Cloud packages usually include this. The cloud provider handles updates and security patches, and provides help when you need it.
- Data Storage: Cloud services store your data on servers owned or operated by the cloud provider
An internal network will allow you to connect up your computers and other devices.
- Share: With all your computers and devices online, you can easily share files and other data, as well as printers.
- Number of users: From a simple network with only a few users,to a larger business with a dedicated server, you can manage and run centralised applications, such as a customer relationship management system etc over your team.
- WiFi: A wireless network (‘Wi-Fi’) can provide extra flexibility. Most mobile devices can only connect wirelessly. All new laptops have wireless capabilities built in. Wireless is very convenient, but not as fast nor as reliable as a wired connection. Many businesses use wired connections for permanent desks, and rely on wireless for other parts of their building.
- Remote Access: Many business want to provide their staff with remote access to their network. For example, if employees work from home. It is difficult to provide remote access to your data unless you have a network server or use cloud services.
5. Internet Access
There are many different types of internet connection.
- Fibre Optic Connections: These are fast, reliable and available in many parts of the UK.
- ADSL: If fibre is not available to your business premises, you can use ADSL. This is slower as it’s delivered over a standard phone line.
- Dedicated Leased Line: If you have a larger business, you may require a dedicated leased line from a specialist supplier. These cost more but offer greater capacity and a guaranteed level of service.
Make sure your connection is sufficiently fast and reliable. Broadband packages designed for businesses usually offer more reliable speeds and better support.
You may need a faster connection if you are for the following:-
- Cloud Computing Services
- To upload or download large files
- For VoIP for telephone calls, to maintain good call quality.
6. Cyber Security
Your information is valuable to your business. You could suffer data loss through malicious attacks, such as malware and hacking, or by accident, through a hardware failure or human error. There are many ways to protect your IT services. But make sure you physically protect computer equipment from theft, and that you design your IT management with security in mind. Think about the following:-
- Access Levels: Restrict access using strong passwords. Use access levels to ensure people can only view and edit data they need for their roles.
- Anti-Virus: Use firewalls to protect your systems from online attacks and run specialist security software on every computer.
- Internal Safety Processes: Ensure employees understand the importance of following security procedures and make security part of employees’ contracts.
- Know Who To Contact: Make sure you know what to do in the event of a problem and who you need to contact for help.
7. IT Management Services
You may have a level of expertise, but the peace-of-mind brought about by working with an external IT service can be invaluable to your business and staff. As a start up you will likely need help in the following areas
- New Installs: You may need new equipment or software installed and customised. This might include installing cabling and setting up a network server, customising more complicated software such as a customer database and integrate new software with existing systems.
- Training: Employees often need training and support, particularly for new software. On-site training can be convenient and effective. A good IT supplier can tailor a support package to fit your requirements.
- Ongoing Support: Complex items like servers can be particularly demanding in terms of maintenance. For critical systems, you may want a maintenance contract which guarantees a rapid repair or replacement.
- Peace of Mind: For startups and smaller businesses, outsourcing support services is far more cost effective. With a good IT supplier, you can build a strong relationship, allowing them to really understand your business and deliver services you need.
For more information about the startup support offered by Wood ITC, contact us today.