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Thursday, 19 September 2013

Need a Cost Effective Small Business IT Solution? No Problem!

Starting and running a small business is challenging and despite there being a million books on the subject there're no definitive guides to doing it right. Also, the organisations set up to help you are usually run by people who've never done it themselves (sound familiar?) which often makes them more of a hindrance than a help.. In short the whole thing can be daunting.

cloud-woman

One aspect that bites most on the bum is IT, but you know it's a lot easier and cheaper than you think so long as you don't speak to an IT company when looking for a solution! With the advent of cloud based services and reliable broadband it's super cheap to set up and run a cost effective and robust small business IT system with zero in-house expertise or expensive IT support contracts.

In this article I'm going to show you just how you can be up and running in no time at all with no investment in expensive and unnecessary kit.

Web Based Solutions

All the software I'm going to recommend is web based, well we are a company of web specialists so what did you expect? This means:

  • No hardware to maintain/manage
  • No software to update
  • Access to all your stuff from everywhere
  • It's all backed up and secure
  • If your office gets hit by a flood (or something) you just work from somewhere else
  • Staff can work remotely
  • You're always using the latest and best software
  • There're no IT worries!

Of course you might argue that being dependent on an Internet connection is a real disadvantage but how often does that happen? The fact is broadband is reliable and if your Internet connections's down it's usually sorted very quickly. If your Internet connection's down a lot speak to Zen, they do great Internet.

So, let's crack on with the advice starting with your company's financial records.

Small Business Accounting Software

If you're serious about your new company you need to be serious about your new company's accounts. Step one is to secure the services of a good accountant, trust me it's money well spent, but for the day to day running of your business including issuing invoices, paying bills, tracking cash flow etc you need some software. Don't be tempted to use spreadsheets etc, please, just don't do it...

I'm going to be bold here and suggest you are not seduced by Sage, things have moved on from the days of clunky impenetrable accounting software and for less than £20 a month you can be up and running with a system that's easy to use and will genuinely help you to run your financials efficiently. My favourite is Kashflow (note if you click that link and sign up we earn a few pence but that's not why I'm advising you to consider using it!).

I've suggested Kashflow to a number of business associates and every single one, without exception, has raved about it. One even said it helped to transform his business. It makes sending invoices a breeze, you can even do it from your smart phone, paying VAT becomes painless and you always know exactly what you owe and what you're owed. It's accounting for everyone.

There are other similar systems but as I haven't used them I'm not going to recommend them, that doesn't mean they won't be just as good. The bottom line is web based accounting tools exist, they work and they will help you and your business to succeed and remember, it's web based, no software to maintain, no backups to take, access from anywhere using any device.

Now on to email.

Small Business Email Systems

Email's an essential business tool. When it's down your world can seem quiet and lonely and you quickly start to realise just how much you rely on it. This allows IT companies to prey on your fear and sell you complex and often expensive MS Exchange based email systems you simply don't need.

We love Rackspace email and here's why.

First it's hosted by Rackspace and Rackspace rock. They're the kind of IT company you can enjoy interacting with. They love what they do and their hosted email solution is bomb proof.

Mailboxes cost about £1 each per month. For that you get 25GB of storage (that's a lot of email), an archiving option, spam protection (theirs is legendary), virus protection, a shared calendar that can synch with other calendars if required, email groups, aliases and the list goes on. In short Rackspace email is, in my view, the perfect small business email solution., there's not much else to say so let's leave it there and talk about file storage.

File Storage

One of the reasons IT companies sell you a server you don't need, a server they supply and maintain, is to store your stuff. Most of your stuff is probably Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents with some PDF's and other bits and bobs thrown in.

The funny thing is, if the IT company are doing their job properly they will replicate your in-house servers files into the cloud just in case your server goes pop. Here's an idea, why not just put your files into the cloud and bypass the expensive server whirring away in the corner?

There are lots of suppliers of cloud based storage services and one of the biggest is Dropbox. Their strap line is "your stuff, anywhere" and it really does provide exactly that. Other big name providers of these services include Amazon and Google so whoever you choose you're in good company.

Plan options with Dropbox start at FREE which is quite cheap and even their business plan for 5 users and unlimited cloud storage is only $750 a year.

With cloud based storage there are no backups to worry about and it goes without saying you have access to all your stuff, all the time from all your devices. Oh and while we're on the subject of backups when was the last time you checked your backups actually work, waiting till you need them isn't a sensible plan!

There are many other benefits to cloud based storage including the ability to share your stuff with others. No more trying to email your 50MB Powerpoint masterpiece (did I mention how much I hate Powerpoint?), no sir, just email a link and that's the job done. Simple!

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So Where Are We?

OK, so let's recap. So far we've parted with hardly any money, we've got a best in class simple to use accounting system, our email system is bomb proof and costs pennies and our files are safely nestled away in the cloud either for free or much cheapness. It all seems too good to be true, doesn't it? Well guess what, it isn't, all this stuff works wonderfully well and allows you to do what you do best, run and grow your business.

With these basic requirements in place, and not a server to be seen clogging up your office, you'll avoid headaches, be kind on your bank account and have total peace of mind. Of course you may decide to use the money you've saved to buy a Mac and throw your rubbishy PC in the bin. If you do your IT headaches will further diminish!

If you've found this useful please share it with others using one of the many widgets floating around this web page. If you want more info don't hesitate to get in touch. Most of all, give your new start business the best possible chance of success by using these fantastic low cost web based solutions.

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