IT Basics for Your Small Business
Although it is widely known that technology is needed for businesses to thrive in modern markets, implementing new technology and understanding the basics surrounding IT can be overwhelming. While your business may have limited resources, you will find that with a few simple steps, it’s not as complicated as you may think. This guide will provide you with an overview of the basics to get you started.
1. Consider what hardware devices you will need.
Every business needs basic hardware devices, such as computers (including desktops and laptops), accessories like keyboards, mobile devices (tablets and/or mobile phones), printers and storage devices, such as USB drives.
2. Consider what software you will need.
The software needs of your company may vary by industry, but you will need basic word-processing software, such as Microsoft Word, and a database program that will allow you to store and organize files and information relevant to your business. You may also consider:
- Point of Sale Software (Amber POS)
3. Set up a network server.
A network server is a central system that shares data and links together computers, allowing people to share data, share programs, back up information, use the same printer and more.
To set up a network, you will need a router that links to your internet broadband connection, a cable to link your router to your main computer (or server), networking cables and networking software.
Newer operating systems, like Microsoft Windows Vista and Mac OS X, include this networking software, so setting up your server is fairly simple and direct.
For thorough instructions, check out this guide from MakeUseOf, which covers setting up different types of networks
4. Utilize cloud computing.
Cloud computing is similar to a network, providing an online server that allows users to share documents and other files. Working on the cloud allows employees to collaborate online, which is particularly helpful if your employees are not all in one location. Working with a cloud server allows you to access your files anywhere, anytime.
The most popular free cloud computing service is Google Drive, which can be accessed through any Google account. Other easy-to-use and recommended services to consider are Dropbox and QuickBooks Online.
5. Set up a phone, voicemail and/or conference calls.
You have the option to set up a traditional office phone system or use various online services to set up and monitor a professional voice service. With online services, you get access to many features, such as video conference calls, that you may not have with a traditional service.
- Google Voice: This free service is simple to set up and can be connected to a current number. The service offers voicemail transcription and cheap international calls.
- Skype: Skype for business provides free conference calling as well as file sharing and group instant messaging.
- Grasshopper: This service allows you to set up multiple extensions that automatically connect to existing numbers. You can also get a toll-free number as well as email transcriptions of your voicemails.
- GoToMeeting: GoToMeeting allows for face-to-face meetings, video collaboration and screen-sharing amongst people in different locations—it’s great for companies with a lot of remote employees or business partners.
6. Set up a company email system.
There are many options online for business email systems, all providing personalization features and extra storage. These services have straightforward setups with thorough explanations of steps to take at sign-up. Some inexpensive recommendations:
- Google Mail: Google Mail allows small businesses to host up to 50 email accounts, all with a personalized domain name and 7 GB of storage.
- Yahoo Business Mail: Yahoo boasts unlimited storage for its business users and provides the option to purchase your own domain name and will host your business website.
- Name.com: A “one-stop shop” for creating your domain name, setting up your company email and creating your website. If you become a hosting customer, you will have free access to their email services, which provide numerous email accounts and combines all incoming mail into one inbox.
7. Hire an IT professional or computer consultant.
Although some technology tasks are easy enough to do yourself, there will be times when a professional is needed. Collaborating with a consultant will allow you access to someone who has an in-depth knowledge of IT and can help troubleshoot when problems arise. If you plan to set up a complex network system, or have special phone or computer system requirements, an IT professional may well be worth the cost. To find a candidate, ask other business owners for references or check on websites such as Elance and Craigslist.