For a startup with limited resources, it's difficult to know how best to spend their IT budget. To help navigate this challenging environment, Ash Patel, Director of Business Transformation at Cobweb Solutions, shares his top tips on the key technology priorities for startups.
1. Consider a mobile business
The first step is to consider making your startup ‘mobile.’ Should your business be office-free, with employees working from home or the road, or would you prefer the capability to work remotely when needed? For a business just starting out and seeking to keep costs to a minimum, the benefits of running a mobile office are vast, from lowering rent and overheads, to improving the strength of your customer relationships, and leading to happier, more productive teams.
If you choose a cloud-based virtual office there are a few critical IT considerations to bear in mind. Firstly, ensure employees are equipped with the right tools. This means providing a laptop at the very least, a mobile and perhaps even a tablet. Alternatively, consider implementing a BYOD policy, whereby employees can work off their own device. In this case, it’s essential to factor in issues around compatibility and information security further down the line, and of course, make sure you have reliable IT support in place too!
Whether your business is a one man band or a team of 20, when empowering staff to work remotely, it’s essential to ensure they have access to the information they need at all times. This applies to all business processes and communications, from invoicing to sales data and telephony. Cloud-based productivity tools, such as Office 365, not only enable access to email, calendar and file-sharing from anywhere with an internet connection, they also save on investment in hardware. Win-win.
2. Recognise data security is a priority
When starting a business, implementing a strong data security policy may not be at the top of the agenda, but it is vital for a business to thrive. Thankfully, there are some simple measures you can take to safeguard your confidential data, and protect your businesses assets and reputation.
In the first instance, consult a specialist to identify your security requirements. When it comes to practical steps you can take immediately, protect your wireless network with a password, and use secure apps or virtulisation technologies to ensure that sensitive data is encrypted and can only be accessed by authorised users. Exercise some control over access to sensitive data, and restrict the use of removable media, such as USBs, where possible. Keep software and web browsers up to date and install anti-virus solutions on all systems.
3. Use a data storage provider for scalability
For a startup seeking to grow quickly, cloud solutions are a practical means of storing data. Cloud storage increases flexibility and scalability for a business, and in terms of cost, it’s becoming increasingly affordable as an alternative to conventional on-premise storage systems.
Moreover, storing information under a secure cloud provider agreement both limits the chance of a data security breach and provides backup in the event of an IT disaster.
4. Embrace the liberating effects of cloud services
Infrastructure no longer serves as a bottleneck for businesses innovation. In the past, IT systems were physical - based mostly in fixed office locations and focused on servers and desktop PCs. However, the advent of cloud services provides businesses of all sizes with the means to use on-demand, pay-as-you-go services, such as file and e-mail servers and storage systems, which can growth with the business.
Furthermore, as the demands of modern business become increasingly diverse, the need to have 24/7 access to business data is greater. The ‘always on’ availability of cloud services, such as Microsoft Lync, facilitates hassle-free collaboration and communication within the small business.
By investing in cloud services from day one, you can manage day-to-day business processes, from customer accounts to payroll systems, and offer enterprise solutions at a fixed and low monthly cost. Excellent news in terms of delivering both more bang for your buck and a tech set up that grows with you!