Having adequate cash is almost always a challenge for startups. No matter the type of business, early decisions in a cash strapped environment can have critical consequences down the road.
There are myriad decisions startups face and one key area is the company’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, many startups do not devote enough planning and budgeting for their IT infrastructure needs.
As a result, precious dollars are misspent and opportunities are missed.
The first step in putting in technology that will work today, and tomorrow, is to do enough research to determine what your choices are. Beside the fact that there are many choices, it takes good decision-making to properly select from those choices.
Let’s start with phones. No matter your business, you will need phones and maybe a phone system.
The usual step is to call a phone company and sign up for one or more phone lines, get your phones and get ready to talk to customers, vendors and the like.
But this approach leaves out some important choices. For example, how are you going to control and integrate your contacts?
A phone system sounds like a huge investment for a cash-challenged business. However, telephone systems can be “rented” through companies who provide hosted systems.
With a hosted system you can get phone numbers and have access to a robust phone system for a small monthly fee. These systems normally offer features including voice-mail, integration with your cellphone, conference rooms and many other features.
There are enough features to allow a startup to have the same powerful tools enjoyed by established enterprises.
Another major infrastructure decision for a startup is determining what kind of computers are needed. Here, the choices are many and the decisions can get very complicated, very fast.
And, the danger of wasting or misspending precious dollars is huge.
Many new businesses use a spare computer from home or buy a system they like using. They may go to a computer store to buy a system that is on sale and seems to fit their needs.
Unfortunately, these decision-making processes too often lead to poor, expensive decisions.
For example, some systems that work well at home may not run the business software that is needed. Some software may require faster and more expensive processors — the computer cannot think fast enough to support the program.
So, instead of starting with selecting computers, the startup needs to consider all the application software they will need, then use the software’s processing requirements to determine the minimal computer requirements.
In one case, we were brought in as a consultant because a business had purchased a number computers that were on sale. As the computers came with the Home version of Windows, they were a constant, expensive problem when used in a centralized file sharing environment.
They then had to pay for new licenses and our help de-installing and installing the proper operating system. The “deal” they got on the computers was totally wiped out — plus some.
Going along with purchasing the right computer is finding the right monitors. That means matching the monitor with the routine tasks of the employees.
Buying a cool, high-resolution monitor may be a waste of money. We have found that people who need to do a lot of text editing decide that using two monitors, or one 23-inch monitor, makes them more productive.
It is easier to work with two or more open documents when you have more real estate to work on.
Then there are decisions about a copier, a printer and so on. The best road for startups, is the multifunction device — not multiple devices.
There are very good ones available at very reasonable prices. These devices can provide very high quality printing, color copying, scanning and faxing.
This gives the small business tremendous flexibility while keeping costs down. Planning and research is again the answer.