So you are thinking of starting your own business. Congratulations. It’s a big step that can be very rewarding and hopefully profitable, but it requires planning and organization. Many would-be entrepreneurs are experts at their chosen profession, but do not know how to even begin to put together a solid and scalable IT infrastructure. In light of that, I’ve put together a checklist of IT-related items to consider when starting a new business.
Internet Access — High-speed internet access is very affordable nowadays, but you need to confirm with your prospective landlord that it is readily available for your office space. Plan to spend between $140 and $200 per month for a quality high-speed line from either Comcast or Verizon.
Email — Hosted email is the norm for small companies in today’s business world. In general, it is affordable, reliable and relatively easy to get started. If you plan to use Microsoft Outlook to read and respond to email, I would recommend going with Microsoft Office 365; whereas, if you intend to perform most of your dealings using a web browser, Google’s Gmail could be a viable solution. Most importantly, remember that your company’s level of professionalism is usually greatly increased by using your own domain name in your email address (as in firstname.lastname@example.org) rather than something such as email@example.com.
File Storage — Your business will inevitably generate documents, spreadsheets, and/or presentations. Where are you planning to keep them? Consider one of the many different cloud storage alternatives if you want access to your files from any location where you have internet access. If most of your users will generally be in the office daily, consider the traditional option of a local file server. Whether cloud and/or local file storage, ensure that you have a common location available to increase efficiency within your company.
Data Protection — Securing and backing up your data is something that must not be overlooked. Some key features you should look for in anti-virus protection include real-time protection from threats, behavior-based protection against emerging threats, and centralized administration so that multiple devices can be managed through a single pane of glass.
It should go without saying that you should back up your data. You’ll want to have at least two copies, one that is kept on-site and one that is kept off-site. That way you’re covered in case one copy fails or a catastrophe causes you to lose the original data and on-site copy. Automating backups is also prudent so you are not relying on someone to run backups.
Phones — Your new company will hopefully be receiving many phone calls from customers. With today’s voice over IP (VoIP) options, your company will not be forced to dump five-digit dollar amounts on a new phone system and you can still enjoy all of the benefits that those units offer such as messaging, call forwarding, conference calling, etc. Be sure to look at all available options before choosing a voice solution, because VoIP is not always the preferred solution.
Starting a business can be overwhelming. There are so many items to cross off the to-do list. You want to save money by cutting corners when you can, but trust me when I say there are certain corners that should not be cut. Your best bet is to work with a qualified IT vendor to make recommendations for implementing strategies that will work now, in the future and in keeping a technological advantage over your competitors.
Rich Kenney is vice president of Wilmington-based TechSolutions Inc., which has provided skilled technology services to small and mid-sized businesses since 1999.