Start-ups are appearing everywhere. Since the global recession, millions of people in the UK have decided that they would prefer to work for themselves rather than work for someone else.
Despite improvements in the global and national economy, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. In 2015, 608,100 new businesses were incorporated, up 4.6 per cent on 2014 figures. According to the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE) using Companies House data, there were 650,000 new companies founded in 2016. Hundreds of thousands of new businesses have been established since.
Technology has been a key driver in this revolution. Cloud-based software provides many of the applications needed to run a business. The World Wide Web has created a global marketplace and the ability to reach customers nationally and internationally.
However, for many new entrepreneurs, one of the biggest challenges is managing their IT estate. Not just the computer hardware used in the office, but also the cloud applications, data storage, communications, business’ virtual network, company websites and the cyber security and compliance implications of all of this.
Without control over the IT estate, it can be a struggle to get ROI from technology solutions, benefit from the promise of flexible and scalable IT solutions, win new clients, manage work, take payments and grow.
Below we outline three key IT essentials that entrepreneurs and start-up business owners need to make their IT work for their business.
Three IT Essentials for start-ups
Have an IT strategy
It is very easy to end up with a fragmented IT estate with multiple different systems and solutions, and no clear picture on exactly what your business has. This is an issue for a number of reasons. Without clear visibility on what you have, how you can you ensure it is secure?
With new legislation like GDPR this has further implications: how can you protect the personal data of your customers, suppliers or staff if you don’t know where it is?
Furthermore, if you don’t know what you have, how can you get real value from it? Many IT solutions promise to deliver cost savings and efficiencies, but most are underutilised because business leaders don’t know how to use them fully.
Therefore the first thing that you need to do is audit your existing IT so you know what you have; consolidate this where necessary (you may find you have redundant systems and applications); and then document your IT strategy based on business objectives.
Ask yourself, what do you need in the short, medium and long term to allow your business to grow, reach new markets and expand your team? With this information you can find the best solutions for your business and keep control of your IT estate.
Have an IT security policy
No business is immune to cyber attack and small businesses are particularly vulnerable because often they don’t have sufficient defences in place. A breach or other IT incident can be very damaging for start-ups, destroying trust with customers and preventing sales.
The first step to implementing robust cyber security measures is to develop an IT security policy. In fact, in many instances a clear IT security policy (a document that all staff adhere to) can prevent many cyber attacks. You still need security solutions, but if everyone complies with your IT security policy, insider attacks such as phishing emails and social engineering threats can be averted.
Along with your IT strategy, the IT security policy will also help ensure that any new IT assets are properly integrated into the existing estate.
Get expert support
Entrepreneurs and start-up business owners often wear many hats. While a company is in its infancy you might need to be the chief operations manager, marketing director, and product designer.
However, the IT director’s shoes are not easy to fill, owing to a rapidly evolving technology landscape and the equally fast pace of cyber threats.
IT can also be barrier to success. The wrong systems, a lack of scalable solutions, and the inflexibility of some IT services can prevent your business from achieving its goals. That’s when expert support is needed – someone who can look at the big picture and identify the right solutions and align them with your business.
Employing an IT manager or support analyst at this point in your business’ development is probably not an option. You’ll need someone with a wide range of IT skills to manage your entire IT estate, and salary costs for this level of experience are likely to be prohibitively expensive.
That’s why many start-ups turn to outsource partners like Pro Drive IT for their support and services.
Offering a comprehensive range of IT services including cloud, cyber security, IT service desk and business continuity, the start-up gains a complete IT team at an affordable price.
It’s not just start-ups or small businesses using IT outsourcing either. Many large companies and enterprises find they get better ROI by building a partnership with a trusted provider than running a large IT team in-house.
Bruce Penson is managing director of Pro Drive IT