SelfInformed

November 2014


IT Tip Of The Month

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Congratulations! You’re the boss of a small company! It’s both exciting and scary at the same time. You need to focus on bringing in revenue so you can provide for your family and your growing business. There are many necessary expenses but spending wisely can mean the difference between success and failure. Here are a few suggestions on how to save some money with Information Technology (IT).

There are a few basic IT needs that most companies can’t go without. In this article I will make a few suggestions regarding the most frequently asked about items. These are internet, phones, software, and disaster recovery.

Internet access is essential to just about any business these days. You will likely use the internet to research the competition, to seek solutions to problems and to build on your skillsets. Your internet connection will also help you communicate with your clients. When shopping around some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want you to believe that you need a “Business Class” connection. This usually means that you will get a more powerful internet connection with features that most small businesses don’t need and will be obligated to sign a lengthy contract. Avoid this if you can and go with the “Residential” internet connection like you probably use at home. My suggestion is start with the least expensive monthly plan, and upgrade as needed. This way you can spend just what you need but can adjust or switch ISPs in short order. This helps you leverage the best solution at the best price for your specific needs.

Phones need to be dependable. You need to be able to communicate with your customers reliably from anywhere. Conventional phone lines are becoming obsolete. They are expensive and not as flexible as newer technology; therefore, I recommend getting a Voice Over IP (VOIP) setup. A VOIP line works over the internet and is inexpensive and sometimes even free. They can be run on your computer or you can purchase a VOIP friendly desk phone for about $150. Additionally, they can also forward to other numbers (like your cell) and normally have built-in features such as voicemail and are accessible from anywhere over the internet. If you prefer to use your cell phone as your primary phone and your signal is less than stellar at your office (or other areas you frequent), call your provider up and ask if they’ll give you a cell booster (most will provide one for free).

Software is essential and can be quite costly but licensing is also very competitive. Shop around for alternatives. For example, instead of using Microsoft Office try OpenOffice or Google Apps. OpenOffice and Google Apps are both free, both allow you to open Microsoft Office documents when received and both cost nothing to use. Do you need to create a PDF file to send to a client? PDF files are a great read-only document format used for contracts, proposals and other materials you don’t want altered. It is not necessary to buy the software to create one. There are many products out there that will now convert your documents for free.

Disasters can strike when you least expect them. Your computer can crash or be stolen. Buildings can burn down and flood. Don’t store all your critical documents and data on one device or in one location. There are many online storage solutions available for free. If you were to lose your data would your business be able to recover? Having a reliable backup is perhaps the most important investment you can make for your business. Verifying that the backup is done correctly is just as important as creating the backup.

Of course everything I’ve said above makes certain assumptions. Every situation is different. Make sure you read the fine print and shop the competition.

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