The Basics of New Business IT
If you are starting a business, you’re going to want to know about some technology must-haves for new entrepreneurs. After all, you have enough to worry about, and there’s no time to waste on stuff that doesn’t work. Creating an inexpensive, appropriate and scalable information technology plan before you get started can make a huge difference when starting a new business. The information technology decisions you make (or don’t make) at the inception of your business could have serious and long-lasting repercussions. Cost, administrative overhead, functionality and scalability are just some of the concerns that will eventually present themselves. So, how to get started?
IT Must-Haves for New Business Owners
A Domain Name
Securing your online identity is the first, and arguably most important, step in setting up your new business. Think of a domain name the represents your business and is easy to type and remember. If you cannot get your exact business name as your domain name, or if your business name is long and unwieldy, try to distill the essence of your name into your domain name. Remember, your domain name is your online representation of your business. Once it is out there, it is not easy to change. Take the time to pick a domain name you will be comfortable with for the life of your business. You can easily get a domain name from godaddy.com or a similar service.
Now that you have your domain name, leveraging that domain for your email address is absolutely mandatory. An email address that references your domain name lends an air of professionalism and weight to all your correspondences and printed materials. Nothings screams ‘new entrepreneur’ like a business card with a Gmail address on it. Enterprise mail, such as hosted exchange solutions, come with a number of features that you cannot get with free alternatives. Calendaring and collaboration tools alone are worth spending a couple extra bucks a month. Most hosted mail solutions also include guaranteed SLA up-times that consumer services do not.
A Decent Computer
Of all the technology must-haves for new entrepreneurs, this one is the biggest no-brainier. You need a computer that works. You might have a nine-year-old Dell laptop in your closet, but I implore you, don’t use that for your business. Before you enter the world of entrepreneurship, ensure you have a reliable, reasonably powered and relatively new computer. It doesn’t need to be a new MacBook Pro or a Lenovo Ultrabook, but it needs to work as expected.
There is no bigger handicap than working on a system that doesn’t work. Interruptions can cause errors and can lessen your capacity to concentrate. In fact, according to lifehacker.com, one study shows that it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back into the swing of things after an interruption. Hypothetically, if you were interrupted five times by minor computer annoyances each day, you could lose two hours of productivity. That’s ten hours a week, or 520 hours per year. That’s not even to mention the vein on your forehead that is about to explode! Do yourself and favor, use a computer that works.
There is no way to sugarcoat this, if you need expensive software to perform your job, you need to purchase it. If you cannot afford to purchase that software, perhaps you are not ready to start your business. Downloading cracked or pirated versions of software is NEVER an option. Not only will you be exposed to possible fines and prosecution, but you will also find yourself on a slippery slope of deviousness from the get-go. Research alternatives or open-source software. Leverage freeware or shareware. Be resourceful, but never steal. Above all, be sure to include mission critical software (and hardware) in your initial business plan and budget before moving forward. There’s nothing worse than facing a deadline and not having the tools to deliver. If your business requires proprietary software, than this is the ultimate technology must-have for you.
A Data Storage Plan
There is one inevitability in business. Over time you will begin to accumulate stuff. Physical stuff and electronic stuff. Electronic files tend to pile up like cars on a snowy Georgia highway. It is important to have an idea of how to organize and store these files before you get buried in them. Onsite file servers are still popular options for businesses without large mobile and remote work forces. For those business that have decentralized work forces, cloud-based file servers and collaboration options bridge the gap between far-flung employees. Whatever option you choose, it is also of paramount importance to put some thought into how your flies will be arranged and organized, and who will have access to which folders. After all, you don’t want to give your new employees access to financial and HR files. Getting on top of this from the beginning will simplify how your business runs on a daily basis.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
Have you considered what would happen if you company was severely compromised by and natural disaster, a fire or corporate sabotage? One thing that I can assure you is that your clients will be sympathetic with your unfortunate circumstance up until the point where it starts to cost them money, time or reputation. Especially in business-to-business companies, it is imperative to get the basic functions of your business back up and running as quickly and easily as possible after tragedy strikes.
This all starts with a solid backup plan. There should always be three copies of your business data: production data, local backup and offsite data. Production data is that data that you work on day in and day out. Local backup is used to restore files in the event of hardware failure or accidental deletion. Offsite backup is used to restore business functions as part of a disaster recovery plan.
Your disaster recovery plan could be as simple as stipulating that, in the event of a disaster, all employees will work from home on personal laptops, while utilizing your data in the cloud. It can also be very complicated, requiring secure remote locations and contingency plans that stipulate how and when replacement hardware will be purchased and implemented. It depends greatly on the size of your business and the industry you are in.
Ask for Help
People and colleagues are willing, and sometimes even eager, to help new business owners navigate the waters of commerce. Networking groups are great ways to find like-minded and talented professionals that could help you and give you advice. In some cases the advice might be free, and in others in might be provided at a discount. Either way, don’t allow budgeting issues to keep you from asking questions. Many businesses offer advice and guidance to all kinds of businesses and are happy to do so. Just remember, when someone is kind enough to help you, pay it forward. Be generous and others will be generous in return.
If your budget allows, contracting with a IT Managed Service Provider will help pave the road to profitability. Often times, it is not as expensive as it is perceived to be and your ROI will make the investment worth it. This is especially important for businesses in industries where technical performance is the cornerstone of success.