Below are ten steps to the perfect Home Office IT setup
1. Choose the right hardware
Computer hardware refers to physical elements such as computers, servers, printers and your choice of this has a significant impact on how you work.
Sometimes spending a little more can save you thousands of pounds over time by increasing productivity, but sometimes a cheap and simple solution is the best. Before purchasing any computer hardware, speak to a trusted expert (or possibly more than one) so you match your needs and budget precisely.
2. Software for success
There are a huge number of software packages tailored for business success and so selecting the right ones can be daunting. Most businesses need to at least consider the following: operating system (e.g. MS Windows 8), Email, Word processing and Web Browser. In addition, other useful software to consider is a PDF reader (as many documents are sent in this format), accounting package and possibly a desktop publishing package (for producing professional looking documents).
The key to choosing software is to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve. For example, you don’t need an accounting package if you are outsourcing your bookkeeping. And remember, there are some packages that can be downloaded for free, such as Open Office, or that are provided with other services (e.g. when you open a new bank account you might be offered a free accounting package)
3. The name is in the domain
Your domain name is what usually appears in the website address after the www and is also used in the second part of your email address (after the @ symbol). As these are often the first “branding” a prospect sees it’s important to make the right impression. It’s also worth noting that it can help play a part in your search engine rankings which in turn can help promote your business, so select this carefully. A domain name that is not being sold by an existing company can be registered for just a few pounds so don’t be stung for hundreds or even thousands unnecessarily.
4. Website wonders
It is not necessary to spend thousands of pounds on a feature-packed website when you first start out, but a holding page with your contact details and some basic information is a must. Most domain hosting companies such as Go Daddy and 1&1 come with basic online web design functionality.
It’s vital for any business to ensure that its computer systems are secure and the data kept safe; in fact most companies couldn’t operate if they lost their business data. The key actions to take to ensure your systems are secure are:
- Install and use anti-virus software
- Keep your software up to date with the latest patches – they often fix loop holes that viruses use
- Don’t open attachments to emails unless you are sure what they are and who they are from.
- Use strong passwords – at least 8 characters using letters, numbers and other symbols like !, $, etc
- Install a firewall and ensure it’s set up correctly
- Make sure you have a backup
6. Broadband basics
If your business relies on the internet, then you need to ensure you have a broadband service that is dependable. Many small businesses simply look for the cheapest option and that usually translates to a broadband package designed primarily for residential use. Business broadband packages generally offer a more reliable and more secure service.
Choosing the right package can be daunting but many internet service providers (ISP) now offer exclusive packages that address many of the concerns about running a business online, or being reliant on the internet for information or communication purposes.
7. Support – who are you going to call?
Who are you going to call if things go wrong? You can’t afford downtime and inefficient working so make sure you put in place quality IT support.
8. Backup Basics
Most businesses understand how vital it is to protect the data on their computer systems. Yet despite this, a recent survey shows that less than 50% of SME’s routinely back up their data. And half of all companies that do lose their data go out of business overnight.
Unfortunately many businesses don’t realise the importance of backing up until it’s too late.
A comprehensive back up system for a PC or laptop can be put in place for a monthly fee that is little more than the cost of a cup of coffee so there’s no excuse. It could be the most important investment you make.
9. Sorting Spam
Spam accounts for 45% of all e-mails and costs business world-wide a total of $20 billion a year in lost productivity and technology expenses, according to the Radicati Group, a market research firm in Palo Alto, CA -Wall Street Journal.
Most email packages come with a reasonable level of spam filtering but if you find too much is getting through then there are more enhanced services that you can put in place.
However, remember that there is no true 100% definition for what spam is. It really depends on what the business or individual considers to be Spam. Any anti-spam filter has to adapt and learn about the individual users tastes and what Spam he/she wants to receive and what to discard. All solutions are a compromise between stopping unwanted intrusions and filtering email whilst ensuring business continuity. Speak to your trusted IT advisor for the best advice.
10. Print and Produce
All in one printer and copiers work well and are very affordable nowadays – you can purchase a great system for around £100. For those extra special documents it’s worth considering using one of the high street printers that provide a range of services for small businesses.
If you do a lot of printing and rely heavily on your printer then consider leasing – there are some excellent deals around for even the smallest business.