Having covered the initial hardware considerations in ‘Part One’ of our guide to setting up an IT infrastructure for a small business, we will now cover what internet, software and potential storage requirements your business may need in the foreseeable future.
So, where should I start when looking beyond my Hardware Needs?
Internet Connection: High-speed internet is an absolute must for any business, big or small, with this being even more predominant in start-up businesses whose success or failure can be decided within the first six months to a year. If your business is not based in a managed office then it is vital that you find, implement and use an adequate internet setup.
Using old-school dial-up access is just too slow in todays age and will limit the potential of your business. Having high speed internet gives you loads of options which you wouldn’t have using a dial up connection. These options include; being able to back up data online, using VoIP (as referenced in ‘Part One’) and generally having access to online services and websites at a much faster, and more convenient rate.
For a reliable and speedy internet service, installing a fibre optic connection would be recommended if possible, as it is available in many areas of the UK. There are many fibre providers including BT, SKY, TalkTalk and Virgin.
If fibre in not available in your area then using ADSL will suffice, however, it is slower than the fibre optic alternative due to it being delivered over a standard phone line. Another option that may be worth considering for more remote businesses is wireless or satellite broadband. Options such as this are best discussed with an IT support provider or a supplier directly.
The speed of your internet can serve as the very essence of startup if you aim to do a considerable amount of business online e.g. running an e-commerce website. Make sure you review who your provider is and that they offer dependable and comprehensive support should you need it, as well as getting a package offer which guarantees a certain service level and priority customer care.
Having a solid internet connection is just as important as the processing power of your main devices, with most interactive programmes being heavily integrated into online features. The majority of your businesses digital demands can or will be managed online in the cloud.
Web Browsers: This browsing software is generally free and allows you access to the internet so long as you have a provider. The most popular choices are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
How do I protect my Businesses Interests?
Data Security: Losing data can be the downfall of any business, be it small or large, and this is particularly true when confidential client information is lost, or worse yet, stolen.
It is not uncommon for some small businesses to keep all of their company data on a single desktop or laptop, this includes all proposals, accounts and specific work documents. It is not hard to imagine what the negative consequences of a hardware malfunction or your laptop gets lost could have on your business.
Because of this it is incredibly important that your businesses data is secure and backed up, with your local network and each individual work station having a firewall in place, and an antivirus programme acting as another layer of protection for your router.
Antivirus/Firewall Internet Protection: Having access to the internet means that malware, viruses and hackers also have access to you and your data. As such it is imperative that all of your devices which have online access are given adequate protection to ensure you, and your business interests, are not left vulnerable to an attack.
Some of the most highly recommended and highly used anti-virus protection programmes include; Bitdefender Antivirus 2019, Norton Antivirus Basic and Kaspersky Anti-Virus to name a few. Nearly all firewall and protection programmes offer free/trial versions, with their comprehensive versions requiring an annual subscription.
What Office and Communication Software should I use?
Office Software: An office suite allows you and your team to work with common business documents and files, with a large majority of small, medium and large businesses using Office 365. Microsoft offers its own line of subscription-based cloud version of Microsoft Office called Office 365 which offers numerous office-based applications and programmes. It is very likely that your team will be familiar with this software and MS Office 365 offers affordable and individualised packages which are ideal for small business owners.
E-mail: This is a key communication instrument for your business and picking a good email service provider can drastically affect how you and your team are able to message each other and manage all of the emails you receive.
Within the Office 365 package is MS Outlook, a capable email client which offers a clean and professional interface, with online data storage and has a far higher degree of integration between email, contact lists, calendars and tasks.
How can I set up a Network?
Setting up a network is an excellent way to get to most out of all of the devices and workstations present within a small business. Using only a single broadband connection it is possible to connect multiple users and devices together to share information. Using different software resources and sharing items such as printers and files is guaranteed to improve your team’s efficiency.
If you have less than five employees then it is possible to use a basic network. The foundations of a basic network are a wired or wireless router which is connected to the internet and issued by most broadband internet providers.
On the other hand, if you have a larger employee base it would be recommended to have a server which manages your network and stores all of your business files. A server is usually a computer dedicated to this task and allows the use of centralised applications such as customer relationship management software.
Cloud-Based Servers: Although an alternative and more frequently used option is connecting to a secure cloud-based server. This is not a physical server and as such is an ideal place to back up information to in case hardware issues arise. Using the Cloud means that you can scale your business practice easily and is being used increasingly by smaller businesses to store their data.
What is Cloud Computing?
As mentioned above, Cloud computing has no physical servers in your office space but is instead where you log in and access services over the internet, rather than having software installed onto your computer. Most cloud services charge on a subscription basis and fees are based upon the number of users and the services you require.
It should be noted that whilst the upfront costs of using cloud services are cheaper, in the long run they tend to be comparable to standard software installed onto a workstation.
The advantages come from their high level of flexibility, being able to instantly change the number of employees who have access to their services. On top of this, most packages include maintenance and support, with the service provider being responsible for the security and upkeep of data.
A strong internet connection will be required for any services which require the movement of large quantities of data, as such it is not always appropriate for a business which does not have access to a fibre optic connection.
Before signing with any particular cloud service provider ensure that they are a reputable brand with a strong track record of security and stability. You need to double check that the provider also offers a guaranteed level of uptime.
The above items cover the primary software concerns which any small business will need to consider and think about when beginning a business. Whilst there is a tendency to allocate a large portion of your IT budget to meeting your hardware needs the attached software should not be given any less emphasis.
Choosing the correct software to match your team and businesses goals will undoubtedly have a huge impact on your success! This is where an IT Support company such as ourselves here at Flyford Connect can help guide you and offer a free no obligation IT Audit.
Read ‘Part Three’ of our beginners guide to look at accounting and payroll software, hiring an IT consultant and whether you should have a website.