“So, what IT do I need?”
Now, there’s a question. It is something akin to “How long is a piece of string?”. There are rarely one size fits all, and it completely depends on what your business is, what it does, and how many people are in at the start. Every business these days needs some form of IT.
The great thing about IT is that it can be tailored to meet your needs exactly.
And I’m here to help. I’ve given you some golden rules when it comes to IT for your start-up…
Your basic needs
You really don’t need to spend any more than you absolutely need to, especially when starting up. (This is a good rule for business in general!)
If your IT needs are fairly basic such as a bit of word processing, some spreadsheet work, invoicing, a bit of internet use, you don’t need anything high-spec. A few hundred £ will get you a PC or laptop that is more than fit for purpose, and you can always upgrade later when funds allow.
If your business is, for example, producing complicated 3D CAD renderings, then you will need to get something up to the job to begin with. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending thousands on a high-end workstation. You can look at the second hand or refurbished market to get you started.
Free software (yes, free!)
Fortunately, you don’t need to be spending a fortune on software either. Your business will need software to operate – at the minimum a word processor for letter writing, spreadsheet for looking after the numbers, an email client for sending emails, and possibly some form of invoicing software.
Most people think they have to have Microsoft Office. This is pretty much the de facto standard for office suite software, it is so widely used and you won’t go too far wrong with it. You can have a version of Office 365 for as little as a £60 per year subscription, which is great value.
Even better value is FREE software! Yes, absolutely free. For office software, there’s OpenOffice and LibreOffice which can save into the same formats as MS Office. OK, in use they aren’t quite the same as MS Office and they don’t have all of the advanced features that MS Office has. But, they do 80% of what 80% of people need most of the time and have the major advantage of not costing a thing.
There’s free software for all manner of things. For graphics, take a look at Paint.net. For invoicing, there are several options, I use Express Invoice, and there is a free version of that too. There is also a range of free email clients, such as Mozilla Thunderbird and Opera Mail. That’s just a few examples, and the good news is there are plenty of others.
Keeping your data safe
You also need to consider your data security and legal obligations (yes, it’s GDPR!). If you are running a business, it is recommended to be using the latest or current version of Microsoft Windows Professional or a supported version of Apple Mac OS.
Your operating system should be regularly updated with security patches (which is a software update to fix a security weakness in a program) to prevent hackers, malware, and ransomware. This is actually a GDPR requirement. Microsoft do this automatically on a regular basis. Some people complain about this, but these updates are necessary and miles better than the alternative.
Windows 10 Professional also has the ability to encrypt your data, which makes it inaccessible to anyone else. This is worth doing, especially on laptops which can get left in taxis and on trains.
Backup your data!
I’m sure many of you have been in this unfortunate position at some point. You open your laptop to update some information, and lo and behold, you can’t find the document anywhere. To avoid really slowing down your operations, get into good habits from the start and backup your data. This can be done using Google Drive or on Microsoft OneDrive, which keeps your information saved in the Cloud, or by copying data to an external hard disk – ideally both!
The good news is that Windows 10 has the facility to back your PC up, and even better, it can be scheduled to run automatically in the background. Set this up – it takes moments and can then be forgotten about until such time as you need it. Here’s a step by step guide to help you do it.
Protecting your kit
Anti-virus and malware programs are well worth having. There are plenty of applications to choose from, both free and paid for. You’ll get more functions with the paid versions, and generally, these are low cost and good value. If money is really tight, you can get free versions which work perfectly fine. Some good free programs are Malware Bytes, Spybot Search & Destroy, Avast, AVG, and Kaspersky.
YOU are the best way to avoid viruses and malware. Use your common sense, be careful and vigilant – don’t click on that dodgy link from the strange email! And choose not to install that iffy program you don’t know the origin of.
IT for your premises
Of course, as your business grows, and you make the move into larger premises or open a new site, you will have the money to invest in new and better IT. Great!
As well as thinking about upgrading your PCs and laptops, you can introduce technology like digital signage in your windows or reception area. Take a look at some ideas for inspiration. Digital signage ranges from wall-mounted displays, touch screens, and freestanding signage units, to dynamically changing displays (e.g. for playing videos), interactive digital whiteboards, menu boards and much more.
If you’re moving into a bigger office and regularly entertain clients and stakeholders, digital whiteboards like this can really make the most of your meeting rooms.
Ask an expert
If you’re still asking “What IT do I need?” and don’t have the knowledge when it comes to IT, ask an expert. There are many of them out there. They might not be the cheapest places to buy from, but you will be tapping into years of experience, which can save you making an expensive mistake. It’s better to pay a little more for the right thing than to get a small discount on the wrong thing.
A good expert in any field will always add value and save you money and hassle. Also, leaving it to the experts saves you time, which you can then spend earning in your business.
Robin Cook is Director at FHE Technology, supplying the right IT solution for your needs. Make the whole process of finding your perfect kit as painless, fast, and easy as you can by contacting Robin by email or phone 01452 611454 for no-obligation advice.