Every startup must face the question of how to manage its technology needs. Startups with huge budgets may put too much money and emphasis on technology. Some may not put enough attention on it. Learn what the typical issues are that small businesses face, and get ahead of them for your business before they become a problem for you.
The Data Storage Problem
You have a diverse work force. Some staff work in the office on a desktop computer. Some are on the road with their laptops. Some may use their tablets or smartphones to review or change information from a customer’s waiting area. How do you keep everyone connected to the same information?
One way small businesses manage their data is to use cloud storage. Cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive let you store data for many file types. Files can be edited, printed or shared with other people, inside and outside of the company.
You can create a collaborative work environment where staff work together on various materials such as marketing and sales brochures. Once completed, you can share the files with your customers or link to them from a website.
Access to your information in the cloud can be from any place where you can get onto a network. You can use any browser or special apps created for smartphones and tablets. Many of these services offer free use with options to purchase more storage space as needed.
The Information Access Problem
While cloud storage is an easy and affordable way to manage your company’s information, it’s not the complete solution.Mistakes happen and you may find yourself missing some data or unable to access it all in the cloud. In 2011, Flickr deleted an IT architect’s account containing thousands of images. Flickr said it was "human error" on their part.
Maintaining backups of your information on site and storing sensitive data locally protects your intellectual capital. Sarah Purewal in PC World suggests using network-attached storage (NAS) in your office. These are special hard drives that connect to your network. Anyone connected to your network will have access to the information on the NAS devices. You can even create a private cloud on your network. This allows your team to access company information from your network much like they would on one of the other cloud services such as Dropbox.
The Information Security Problem
According to a small business and data security study commissioned by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Symantec, most small businesses are not prepared for a security breach. More than 10 percent of SMB operators said that no one in their office was responsible for data security.
Enable a data firewall to prevent someone from breaking into your computer network. Require staff to log in to the network and change their password every 60 to 90 days. Use a virtual private network (VPN) that controls how people access the company’s network from outside.
Create a data security and Internet usage policy and require your staff to read and understand it. Also, implement a good anti-virus program to catch those files that staff inadvertently let onto the system.
The Technical Resources Problem
Some small business owners will rely on a friend or relative to help out with their technology needs. You may even hire some staff that are "good with computers" and tap into their knowledge when there’s a problem. This might result in some cost savings, but will also likely result in delays and errors. Creating a relationship with a professional technical support company early on is a good investment.
During your startup phase, you don’t want to be bothered with technical issues that leave your staff scratching their heads. Get in touch with a professional company that offers support on site or over the phone so you can keep your business running smoothly.
For a little financial buffer, apply for an American Express business card and only use it for your technical support. This way you’ll always be able to get the right support for your company when you need it.
Anticipate and Plan for Technical Problems
During your startup phase, plan for little problems to happen and have a way to address them. The more prepared you are for these events, the less impact they will have on your business.