Your business needs the right combination of information technology to be productive and competitive in the modern business environment. If you are starting a new business or you are a sole trader, you may be able to get away with a simple set up in the early days, but as your business grows and you have to handle more clients and employees your IT needs will also expand.
What questions should I ask when setting up my small business IT?
- How will I store my data? Keeping your business data secure is a top priority. The traditional approach is to house a physical server in your place of business to store and access all of your data. The benefit of this is that the server is independent of other server providers, but it could still be compromised by fire or water damage (or in some cases, theft). In recent years, cloud storage has become very popular, with many options online to store your data securely. These are much less likely to be compromised by physical damage, but can be more susceptible to online attacks. Either way, you should backup your data regularly to keep it secure.
- How will I communicate? You probably already have a mobile phone and a personal email, but you may not want to use these for business purposes. Keeping your business and personal matters separate is a good idea, and having a custom email address that uses your business name gives an impression of credibility. If you do set up a business email, you will have to determine which email client you wish to use, and you may require an IT support consultant to help you set it up correctly.
- What sort of network do I need? The most basic network consists of a router connected to a phone line, which your computer connects to through an ethernet cable. You will need to purchase a plan with your preferred ISP provider to ensure that the internet connection is active. If your business has more employees, uses a central server or requires extra security, consider hiring a networking professional to assist you in creating a more sophisticated office network.
- What hardware do I require? You will probably need a smartphone and a computer if you wish to be competitive, but consider what your other needs may be. If you are communicating regularly with clients and customers online, you may benefit from a microphone and webcam. If you are performing a specific service like artwork and design, you may choose a drawing peripheral, or high quality sound monitors if you work in music production. You will need to research your industry and ensure that you have the tools of the trade if you wish to be competitive.
- What software do I require? The most basic requirements are an operating system for your computer (iOS and Windows are the most popular), a word processing program (like Microsoft Word or Google Docs), a spreadsheet program (like Excel or Google Sheets), an internet browser (like Google Chrome or Internet Explorer) and an email client (like Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook). As your business grows you may need a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system or some Warehouse Management Software. If you are offering professional services, there may be specialised software unique to your industry. Creatives of all kinds use programs from the Adobe Creative Suite for everything from design to video editing, whereas Architects and Engineers use precise modelling software to visualise their designs prior to building them. There are sophisticated programs designed for recording and editing sound, analysing data and predicting trends, modelling human behaviour, tracking financial markets and buying shares, and for nearly every other industry.
IT support professionals are experienced at setting up the right system to support your particular business needs. While simple IT setups can be done yourself, if you want to ensure the security of your data as your business grows, it is highly recommended to seek professional advice and assistance. IT support professionals can also provide you with ongoing maintenance and support services to ensure that your software stays current and your hardware is well-maintained.