Starting a new business is an exciting, but also daunting, prospect. There are many things to consider, and one of the most important is how to set up and manage your IT systems. As a start-up business owner, you will need to make a number of important decisions about your IT infrastructure, from choosing the right hardware and software to implementing security measures and creating a data backup and recovery plan.
To help you get started, here are some key IT tips for start-up business owners:
Choose the Right Hardware and Software
One of the first things you’ll need to do as a start-up business owner is choose the right hardware and software for your needs. This will depend on the type of business you’re running, your budget, and your specific needs. Some things to consider include:
- Computers: Each employee will need access to a company managed computer, wherever they work. If employees work outside of the office or on the move, a laptop may be the best option. In the office you can use them with a docking station, screen and keyboard which will allow you to work as if you were using a desktop PC. If your employees won’t work outside of the office and need more powerful computers, desktop computers may be more cost effective.
- Networking equipment: Wherever you work, you will almost certainly need access to the internet. To facilitate this, you will need wired or wireless connectivity through WIFI access points, firewall/router, and a switch. Any equipment you invest in must accommodate your growth plans over the next few years.
- Software: You’ll need a range of software to run your business, including productivity tools (e.g., word processors, spreadsheet software), project management software, and business-specific software (e.g., accounting software, customer relationship management software). Most of this is available on a cloud subscription basis (SaaS – software-as-a-service) which reduces the initial capital investment and gives you flexibility to scale up and down as you grown.
Implement Security Measures
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to protect your company’s data and systems from cyber threats. A multi-layered security approach is required to defend against the various methods that a cybercriminal will use to attack your systems.
This means implementing a range of security measures, including:
- Firewalls: A firewall is a piece of software or hardware that helps to protect your network from unauthorized access. When you reach the milestone of getting your own office space, you will need a dedicated hardware firewall with active security subscriptions to act as the first line of defence for your network. These are available on a monthly subscription to reduce the initial capital expenditure.
- Antivirus software: Antivirus software helps to protect your computers from malware (e.g., viruses, worms, Trojans) by scanning your system for known threats and removing them.
- Encryption: Encryption is a way of encoding data so that it can only be accessed by someone with the correct decryption key. Encrypting data can help to protect it from being accessed by unauthorized individuals. Encrypting your computers and mobile devices is easy, inexpensive yet extremely effective (particularly if your device is lost or stolen).
- Two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of security that requires users to provide two forms of identification (e.g., a password and a code sent to their phone) when logging into a system. This makes it much harder for hackers to gain access to your accounts.
Be Careful with Serviced Offices. They are an excellent option for small businesses that are growing or not yet ready to commit to a commercial lease, but often they do not properly invest in fundamental IT security measures. Typically, you will be using network and internet connectivity provided by them. Ensure you work with an IT consultant that can help carry out due diligence on the managed IT they will be providing you with before you sign the contract!
Create a Data Backup and Recovery Plan
It’s important to have a plan in place for backing up and recovering your data in case of a disaster (e.g., a cyber attack, hardware failure). This should include:
- Regular backups: You should make regular backups of your data, ideally at least once a day. This can be done manually or automatically using backup software.
- Offsite storage: It’s not enough to just make backups – you also need to store them in a safe, secure location. This could be an external hard drive, a cloud-based storage service, or a physical location (e.g., a bank safe deposit box).
- Recovery plan: You must have a plan in place for when a disaster occurs.
Outsourced IT Support
In addition to the above IT tips for start-up business owners, it’s worth considering the importance of outsourced IT support. Outsourcing IT support can be a cost-effective way for small businesses to get the IT support they need, without having to hire in-house staff or maintain an expensive IT infrastructure.
There are several benefits to outsourcing IT support, including:
- Cost savings: Outsourcing IT support can be more cost-effective than hiring in-house staff, especially for small businesses that may not have the budget for a full-time IT team.
- Expertise: Outsourced IT support companies typically have a team of experienced professionals who are up-to-date on the latest technologies and best practices. This means you can access a higher level of expertise than you might be able to afford in-house.
- Flexibility: Outsourced IT support gives you the flexibility to scale up or down as needed, rather than being tied to a fixed team of in-house staff. This can be especially useful for start-up businesses that may not have a clear idea of their IT needs in the early stages.
- Focus on your core business: By outsourcing your IT support, you can free up time and resources to focus on your core business, rather than having to worry about IT issues. This can help you stay competitive and grow your business.
Overall, outsourcing IT support can be a valuable resource for start-up business owners, helping them get the support they need without breaking the bank. However, it’s important to choose a reputable and reliable IT support company, and to make sure you have a clear understanding of the services they will provide and the costs involved.