Questions
Startups

4 important IT questions for Startups

When you’re starting up – whether you’re just forming your company, or you’ve been trading for a while – it’s likely that IT forms a significant foundation under your business plans.

That foundation is unlikely to be one that comes cheap either, in fact, IT costs usually represent over 60% of small business startup costs – so it’s important you take a moment to step back and ask yourselves some questions about whether or not you’re getting the most from the money you’re spending.

In the medium to long-term, it’s useful to keep up to date with the latest IT industry knowledge, but in the meantime, the following questions will help. Some of them can save you a little – some of them will stand to save you a lot, but with such an important part of your business as IT, it’s crucial that you’re doing everything you can to make sure your systems are working perfectly for you.

Who’s providing your internet circuit?

When something’s working – it’s tempting to leave it alone and concentrate on other parts of the business that are shouting more loudly for your attention.

It’s exactly this reason that sees businesses working with substandard internet connections – but still paying a small fortune for them every month. In reality, this could be costly you a significant amount of money – as internet circuit related downtime (whether that’s because of unresponsive applications or your systems right across the board) is shown to cost organisations thousands for every hour it’s occurring.

It’s not just money that counts when you’re dealing with an internet service provider – you need to also consider whether or not they’re keeping their end of the bargain when it comes to service:

  • Does your ISP adjust your service to meet your needs?
  • How quickly do fault-finding and fixes occur?
  • Do they understand what you need from them?

If the answer is no, even to just one of these questions – it’s worth talking to your service provider – and possibly looking at a change. There are ISPs out there who’ll bend over backwards to look after a fledgling business – so you don’t need to put up with anything but the best from your current provider.

Will you provide devices for employees?

For IT teams, this question somewhat splits opinion – because it hinges around the idea that employees might bring their own devices to the workplace and use them to conduct workplace business.

It might sound like a cheap move from employers – but actually, a great number of employees actually prefer it, and the studies back up their opinion. An average worker is likely to be 10% more efficient using their own device versus using a provided desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. So, in essence, letting a team member use their own hardware increases their output by just under an hour every day.

Obviously though, letting workers bring their own device enormously reduces capital expenditure costs – but it’s not without its careful considerations. Can you ensure data security on devices that are leaving the premises? Can workers use their devices to work remotely? Should they be able to access company networks out of the office?

Clearly, there’s no single answer that applies to every business – but if bringing your own devices sounds like it might work for your team, they’re well worth exploring in some detail.

Will you buy your equipment?

If the idea of having your team working from their own devices doesn’t work for you, then you’re likely to be staring down the barrel of an expensive shopping trip.

From PCs to networking infrastructure – then a host of devices that are simply there to connect your IT efforts together, you’re likely to be spending the most significant chunk of money your business will experience for years when you put your IT equipment into place.

The question is, why pay such a huge amount?

An increasing number of companies provide exceptional lease deals on equipment that’ll see you pay just a small percentage upfront, then a monthly amount. You have full control of your equipment and it can be used according to your needs – so in essence, you see no difference between a cashflow friendly monthly cost – and an upfront outlay that dents your finances.

The right answer for you is likely to revolve around your accountants plans – but is cashflow is king, then understanding your monthly hardware costs can be extremely useful.

Do you plan to have an in-house IT team?

While the cost of new IT equipment is significant, it can pale in comparison to the amount of money you’re going to need to spend on the people who’ll keep the lights on and keep it all functioning as it should.

IT teams are costly – and while it’s reassuring to know you’ve got a good amount of expertise in house, keeping that level of expertise up to scratch with training and accreditations is another challenge that can only be conquered with investment in costly courses. What’s more, it comes with the normal level of unpredictability you can expect from employees – and while that’s perfectly normal and justified, your IT equipment isn’t going to take holidays, resign or call in sick, so you’re going to need someone on site making sure the wheels keep moving.

If an in-house team is likely to be unfeasible for your organisation, considering using a managed service provider (MSP) for your IT requirements can make a lot of sense. Working with an MSP is simply subcontracting your IT support – but you’ll have a service level agreement in place that works exactly as you need it to – so if you need 24/7 support, you’ll find it. If you need someone to be able to get to your site within 24 hours, you’ll find it.

For most people, a dedicated account manager who understand your business and your systems and is at the end of the phone suffices. For this type of service, you’ll pay a small fraction of the amount you’d expect to pay an inhouse team – and if your account manager is ever away from his desk, you’ll be talking to someone else instead – rather than staring at a server with no clue what to do.

Again, an MSP isn’t right for everyone – but if finances are tight, it’s a great way to make sure you’ve still got the right people onside.