Whether you are starting up a new business from scratch or expanding operations from your spare room, IT has to be near the top of things you have to think about. The differences between domestic and business computing are vast – even if you only have one or two employees. And if you’ve come from a large organisation with its own IT department it will probably come as something of a surprise to realise just how much work they must have been doing all day!
Here are six key things to consider when planning your small business IT.
1. Your internet service
The internet is critical to most businesses, whatever their size. What you probably don’t realise is that, contrary to all the television advertisements and flyers from the major domestic suppliers, speed is nowhere near as important as bandwidth. This is the measure of the amount of data than can flow through your connection at any one time. If you have a shared line (as most domestic internet connections are) and too many people try to use the internet at the same time, it gets clogged up and slows down. If you’re a business, you need to make sure that you’re one of a small number of other businesses using your internet connection. The contention ratio is key.
2. Software and hardware upgrades
It is the nature of technology that it is always moving forwards. Tech companies work hard to make their software and hardware work better, faster, stronger, and more intuitively. In the process, the old stuff gets left behind and becomes obsolete.
Whether you like it or not, you have to keep up. Don’t believe that you will achieve any measure of success by hanging on to old technology for as long as possible – you’ll be slower and more vulnerable to problems than your competitors. As a small business owner it is essential that you keep well informed of changes in the pipeline, and set aside a regular budget for upgrades.
3. Email continuity
Without the ability to send and receive emails, most businesses would fall apart. When planning your IT, make sure that you include a facility to ensure email continuity, in the event that your server goes down or you lose your internet connection.
4. Protecting your data
Make sure that you always have an up-to-date copy of your data backed up and stored somewhere else (on a different server, in the cloud, etc.). This is not an expensive process, but you do need to think about it and plan ahead.
5. Business continuity
Protecting your data and email continuity come under the general heading of business continuity – in other words, planning how you would keep your business working if fire, flood, or other disaster struck your premises. I gave detailed advice about business continuity in my earlier blog post, Do I need an IT disaster-recovery plan?
6. Remote working
Being able to connect to the office from home or on the road is becoming increasingly important for many businesses. In addition, the flexibility of being able to work from home can be attractive perk for employees. Indeed, from this month, any employee with more than 26 weeks’ service has the right to ask for flexible working, and you, as the employer, will have to consider it seriously. The technology is available to make it possible – the only thing to do, if you haven’t already, is test it out.