Related article: Nearly every business has at least some sort of IT requirement. Here’s an overview of what you need to think about when choosing IT for your business.
Here are the key things you need to consider about IT support. By logging in you can save this checklist to your profile for future use. (To register to join and enjoy the benefits of membership click on the link at the top right of the page. It will only take a few minutes to create your profile).
If you’re the sort of person who relishes, doing things like thumbing through IT catalogues, getting under the hood of a computer, making different devices talking to each other, experimenting with internet settings, and putting new software through its paces, then perhaps in the early days of your business you can be your own IT support department.
Even in the early days, when you might have few items of hardware and software, and only basic internet requirements, you should have some sort of contingency plan to fall back on if things go wrong. This might just amount to having done some research to identify and made connections with some local IT services you can turn to. If you have a bigger business, your contingency plans need to be much more developed.
Buying hardware and software direct from manufacturers or distributors may well be cheaper than going through an IT supplier. But unless you’re sure that what you’re ordering will do what you need, it could be a false economy. For example do you really know the differences between a top-end domestic router and a low-end business version?
Most businesses will need help in setting up a network. For example, there are hundreds of different routers on the market – choosing the one that’s right for your business isn’t likely to be straightforward. Similarly, deciding whether you need a server or a lower spec, less expensive form of storage device is a critical business decision.
Scalability is hugely important with IT. It usually requires specialist knowledge to keep an eye on the future when selecting technical equipment. For example, the desktop server you’re thinking of getting may be perfectly adequate for your immediate needs. But will you be kicking yourself in a year’s time that you didn’t get a rack version that can be more easily accommodated with additional servers you need because of business expansion?
If, like most of us, you see IT as a means to an end – helping you do business – you probably need to get others involved, at least to some degree. You could come to an arrangement whereby you pay for IT support at a pre-agreed hourly rate, e.g. £60. Or you could pay a monthly retainer for an agreed number of hours of support.
Some smaller businesses take a blended approach to IT support. They meet basic needs internally, for example by training someone to carry out on-going maintenance – such as, creating space by defragmenting drives and archiving old material, carrying out basic computer hygiene, and ensuring documentation is kept up to date. External support is used for more complex issues, planning and purchasing decisions.
The advent of cloud computing has been seen as hugely beneficial for smaller businesses who have neither the resources to develop adequate in-house IT support, nor to hire-in external specialists. Instead of adding to their overheads by acquiring routers, servers, etc, many businesses are simply paying a monthly fee to a cloud provider and letting them take the strain of hardware maintenance, data security and software management.
Realistically, most smaller businesses will need to outsource, a proportion of their IT support, be this with a local supplier, or an online (cloud) hosting provider. Whoever you make arrangements with, ensure that you have a service level agreement (SLA) that defines key aspects such as uptime, response times, resolution times, and compensation for failure to achieve these targets.
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