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IT for small business: Getting started without going overboard

Whether you’re a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker you almost certainly didn’t start your business with your IT in mind.

At the same time, there’s no kind of employee in any kind of business that isn’t infuriated when the Wi-Fi stops working or a device doesn’t run as smoothly as it should. 

The important question is: how do you think about IT just enough to get your business going – without thinking about it so much you lose sight of the bigger picture? 

Let’s look at a practical list of small business IT concerns to think about when you get started. 

The basics

If you’re just starting out, you need to get the fundamental pieces of tech for your people to work together. That’ll mean laptops, desktops or even tablets depending on how you want your people to work together. 

Then you’ll need to think about storage. The cloud is your best bet because it takes all the hassle of maintaining servers away from you. And if you’re using G Suite or Office 365, storage is integrated with all the applications you use so there’s even less hassle. 

But if you’re an architect’s firm, a creative agency, a contractor or any kind of company that manages big files that need to be worked on locally, you’ll need a server. 

You’ll need to worry about it a bit more but with a managed service partner, not too much (more on this in a second). 

Plan for growth

Think ahead: if you’re getting a server, you’ll need to keep it for a minimum of five years to get your money’s worth. 

You could use the cloud and a local server (many do) but when you’re just starting out it might be overkill. 

The key: think about what will happen when there’s 15, 20 or 25 of you. 

You definitely want to take care of your immediate future. But not at the cost of your near future – especially if you’re working with aggressive growth targets.

Security

This one can be tricky. On the one hand, most small business IT set-ups are too cavalier about security. Small businesses tend not to don’t realize how many threats are actually more likely to affect them because they’re small. 

The hackers may not come after you expecting millions of dollars worth of assets. But a lot of them are hitting hundreds of businesses for hundreds of dollars each. So it is in their interest to attack you. 

On the other hand, you definitely don’t want to go as far as a giant enterprise. 

Get yourself some practical basics like antivirus, patch management and secure Wi-Fi. But make sure you’re being consistent and you have the same plan of action across all your devices. 

You may also want to get someone in to train your team on security basics like spotting a phishing email. But again, see what makes sense for you.

Who’s in charge?

If everyone’s responsible for something, no one’s responsible for it. So make sure someone specific is owning IT. If you’ve got more than five people, you may want to get some outside help. For that, you can find companies that are happy to serve small contracts. 

A big part of this is admin access. If you’re one or two people, everyone can be the admin. If there’s more of you than that, make sure multiple people have access so that the whole office doesn’t shut down when one person goes on holiday.

A little planning goes a long way

It isn’t always easy deciding what platforms to use and if they’ll be suitable in the future but you’ll definitely want to do this with clarity and focus. 

It’s hard to get out of the wrong platforms later so take the time to think about these decisions. 

Most important, talk to someone about all of this. A friend, someone from the neighboring office, a family member. Anyone who’s done this before and knows about common pitfalls. 

At the end of the day, setting up small business IT isn’t the point of your business. 

But more and more, your IT is your business. So take the time to plan this out and get the answers you need. 

You can find out more about small business IT solutions right here.