IT strategy and planning does not come naturally to everyone. Unless you are an IT expert, it is likely that the IT support for your business will have grown organically, bit by bit. A typical small business scenario is to start out by using your own desktop or laptop computer and printer, plus your home phone number (and phone). Later on, you add a smartphone and maybe a tablet. An increase in workload is accompanied by the addition of an extra computer, and so it goes on.
The software you use is not built around your business. In many start-ups, software is a hotchpotch of publicly available (and often free) software and apps. You have probably developed your business processes to fit in with the available software. This situation can hamper your growth and certainly impact on your profitability in the long term. You need help to formulate an IT strategy that works for you.
IT strategy basics for a small business start-up
Keep your private life as separate from your work life as possible.
Have different email addresses for home and business if possible. Definitely set up separate social media accounts for your business – you don’t want potential clients to see what you get up to on holiday, or what you did as a student, via personal Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.
Buy a virtual landline, then forward it to your mobile phone. People prefer landlines, and you won’t have to put your private home or mobile number on your public website.
Backup and disaster recovery
Computer systems fail, often without warning. Backing up your data is crucial, yet many people forget to do it. If you have databases of orders, customer details, product information, or any other important stuff, you can’t afford to lose it.
Another aspect to consider is disaster recovery. A disaster doesn’t need to take the form of a fire, earthquake or flood. You need to be able to keep on trading if you spill coffee in your laptop, or your email goes down. Take the time to simulate a real disaster. Turn your router off for an hour, and then try to work out what you would do if this happened for real.
IT hardware and software support
Standardisation makes total sense, as it reduces maintenance and time. An organisation with a mixture of Windows, Android and Apple iOS operating systems will struggle. Document sharing, networking and printing can all turn into a nightmare, so get some consistency as soon as you can.
A server may seem a great idea to enable information sharing. However, consider if you really want the expense of buying and maintaining one of your own. You could opt to lease a ‘virtual’ server via an IT support company. Or, make use of one of the free services such as Google Docs.
You may need to buy or replace an expensive piece of important software or IT equipment. Getting someone independent to help you with your decision and to work with your potential suppliers if you are not technical, could avoid a costly mistake.