When you’re a small business it can be a challenge to kit out your business with the best tech, so we’ve written a guide on how entrepreneurs should go about it.
Can technology make or break a business? The short answer… yes. And with around 385k new registered businesses appearing in the UK every year, it’s increasingly important to pay close attention to your tech choices.
It can be difficult to know what the best device and solution combination for your business is. Do you need a tablet or a laptop? A landline or a mobile broadband connection? Often people just default to consumer tech and services, not realising that the business equivalent is better equipped for their needs. For example, can your home broadband connection guarantee the regular speeds and uptime that your business needs to run?
Similarly, having tech that’s just not fit for purpose will have a similarly negative impact; an old laptop with a 30-minute battery life essentially stops you from flexible working – you’re constantly stuck near a plug socket.
Another issue is skimping on security, whether it’s not protecting every business device (that’s smartphones as well as laptops), making silly mistakes like checking financial data on free WIFI connections, or not regularly updating your software and hardware.
What you need to know
The options for best tech, services and ways of working are seemingly endless, which is why we’ve put together an essential tech buying guide for small businesses.
Check out the main areas of tech buying below, which will help to inform your choices as you grow your business.
Infrastructure as a Service/Device as a Service
Setting up a business comes with many costs, not least of all the initial cash lump sum required for acquiring the essentials. As-a-service is a great option for businesses who need the latest tech and best infrastructure but might struggle to pay for it up front. A service provider will work with you to discover your ideal set up and then you pay a set monthly cost for the term of the contract. It’s an easy way to kit out your business and means you get the chance to renew your tech at the end of the contract.
• No large initial investment
• A service provider to recommend tech
• A service provider to manage your tech
• A manageable monthly fee
• Renewed tech at the end
Cloud-based applications are basically programs which are hosted remotely. You don’t store anything on your device; just log into it and start using it. This is great for businesses who don’t have the facilities to install huge programs or pay a lot for them. Like ‘as-a-service’, you can usually pay a monthly subscription for access, which takes the sting out of paying upfront costs of hundreds of pounds.
• No large initial investment
• Access to previously out of reach tech
• Access, it from anywhere with an internet connection
• No need for storage space or networking to share programs
When there’s no guarantee that you and your team will be working in the same building every day, let alone in the same country, having collaboration tools is essential. Using tools like Skype, Google docs or Yammer mean you can have conversations, share files and share ideas no matter where you are in the world.
• Cheaply and efficiently stay in touch
• Host meetings from wherever you are
• Share and collaborate on files remotely
Unified comms are basically the integration of all communication channels. It’s not one product that does everything but multiple products that work together, providing a consistent experience. These can include any combination of the following:
• Instant messaging
• Web and video conferencing
• Voice calling
• Data sharing
• Desktop sharing
• Number forwarding
Cyber security is more important than ever in 2017. Most of the biggest threats to businesses come from hackers and criminals looking to harvest your data. Understandably, many small businesses assume that they’re safe due to their size. While it might be easy to assume that big businesses are better targets, hackers quite rightly assume that most small businesses don’t have the security set up to stop them. Ensure that your cyber security accounts for the following:
• Training staff on best security practice (Bring Your Own Device etc.)
• Regularly updated software and firmware
• Encrypted files and data
• Antivirus on all devices
• Dedicated line and connection (essential for financial data)
When your office can be anywhere it’s important to have a connection that you can pick up and run with wherever you need to work. So, whether you’re working from home, on your commute, or in a coffee shop near the office, you’ll have a constant link to the internet and your business data. Travelling for business is another important consideration. If you don’t have a roaming connection then you’re forced to either pay a premium for extra data or rely on free WIFI hotspots, which are unencrypted and leave your private data readily available for any hacker who might be monitoring the network.
• Always on access
• Lower cost of data when travelling
• Better security than open WIFI spots
It only takes one rainy Saturday afternoon for you to realise that not all broadband is created equal. With lower latencies and user ratios, a dedicated business broadband gives you priority and dedicated bandwidth to ensure that you have the speed you need to run your business. Not only this, business broadband comes with guaranteed uptime, dedicated support and extras like business email and storage.
• Extra tech support
• Peace of mind
It’s essential to stay up to date with tech trends in order to make your business as robust and futureproof as possible. When you’re bringing the benefits of digital, mobile and cybersecurity into your business then you can be ready for anything.
To see how your business compares in terms of digital readiness to 5,000 other UK businesses, visit our Ready Business Indicator here.