IT Solutions for Small Business
The importance of IT Solutions for Small Business cannot be understated.
You may consider or are in the process of setting up your own small business. Setting up your own business is a monumental task by itself. Many business owners don’t put too much effort and planning into IT and technology. There are more pressing issues to worry about. However, choosing the right IT solutions can make your business more productive and life less stressful. Choosing the wrong technology can greatly impair or even break your business.
There is no size fits all because every business is different.
IT Solutions every small business needs.
- Email System
- Domain name
- Accounting system
- Office system
- Auto responder
I could list more systems but I believe this is the least every business needs to run their operation successfully.
1: Email Systems
This is probably the most important system for any business but quite often overlooked.
Yes everybody has an email account but what type of email account.My view:
See the list below of the different types of email accounts and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Free web-mail accounts (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail)
Most popular free web-based email accounts.
They usually work quite well for a very small business and are accessible over the web and are free.
They don’t look professional
I would only recommend Gmail and only if your business has no domain name and web presence. It may be suitable for contractors.
Email with your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
The email you get when you sign up with your ISP.
Not always reliable, limited storage space, you are bound to your ISP, does not look professional.
I would not recommend this type of email system for your business, though I have seen it many times.
Email system with web hosting provider.
This the most common email system for small businesses.
Free email with web hosting provider. Email matches your domain name (firstname.lastname@example.org) and looks more professional. Multiple email accounts.
It can be slow and unreliable at times, Web-mail access not always good, sometimes limited storage space.
OK if you want cheap email but be wary of the limitations.
Third party email system
Google Apps for Works, Microsoft 365 and ZOHO are some of the most popular email systems around. They are complete collaboration and productivity suites and are far more powerful than just email systems.
Fast and reliable. Good web mail interface, collaboration and sharing files between accounts. Work on most devices (phones, tablets, computers) emails look professional with your domain name.
Price, cheap but not free. Needs to be set up.
I highly recommend this type of email system because of its speed, reliability and flexibility.
2: Domain Name
I believe every business should have its own domain. You need a domain if you want to use a third-party email provider or have a website.
Prices for domain names have dropped in recent years. You can get domain names for less than $20 per year.
The biggest challenge is to choose the right domain name for your business. This is not always easy since many domain names are already taken.
This where planning is essential. You may want to select your domain name at the same time you select your business name. Once you have chosen and registered your name keep records of your login details, renewal period and name of your domain name provider. You will need the details at some later stage. Keep a payment reminder and don’t let your domain lapse. If your domain has expired you have no access to your email and website. Also, anybody could buy your domain and there is nothing you can do about it.
Every small business needs a website.
Again you need to plan. Your website is your virtual shop front. You have to think what message you want to send to the public.
Before you contact a web designer you may need to make notes of the requirements and the features you want.
Your website should at least contain a home page, a page that describes your products and services, a contact page and an about page. You may want to add a blog and links to your social networks.
If you like to add and change content you need a content management system. (CMS)
It all sound complicated but it is quite simple. The CMS we recommend and use ourselves is WordPress.
It is easy to install and is supported by most hosting providers. You can read more about WordPress here.
The next thing you have to decide is hosting. That is where your website resides. There are many hosting options and companies. You can read more about hosting here.
Some web designers offer hosting as part of their package, but I recommend you get your own hosting.
Your web designer needs to access your hosting details to create and upload your site.
Before you start, insist you have full access to your hosting provider and the WordPress back-end login.
If your web designer refuses, look elsewhere.
4: Accounting Systems
If you run a business it is a requirement to keep records of your transactions.
You can use a simple spread sheet or a fully blown accounting system.
An accounting system is more efficient but also more costly.
There are not too many accounting systems in Australia. The main ones are MYOB, Reckon, Quickbooks and Xero. Most accounting systems moved into the cloud and need you to pay a monthly subscription fee.
Talk to your accountant, he may has a preference for a certain accounting system.
5: Office Systems
This may be your easiest technology decision. You may likely already have a PC or Mac with Microsoft Office installed.
If you buy a new computer get one with Microsoft Office installed. It is cheaper that way.
Like many software companies Microsoft offers subscription version of their software. This may be an option for you.
You will need a printer, scanner and copier. The best option is a multifunction device (MFD).
There are many models and brands available. Choose a model that is big enough for your printing volume and has wireless capabilities. The main cost of a printer is not the purchasing price but the consumables like toner, drums and cartridges.
If you use Mac computers verify that your printer is Mac compatible (some printers are Windows only)
6: Auto Responder Email
It is important to keep a mailing list for your business.
In the past it was expensive and time-consuming to send letters and promotional material to every customer.
With a mailing list you can automate the whole process.
You cannot send 1000 emails at once. Your email system would be overwhelmed. Some provider may even block the emails.
You need an auto responder to handle that kind of volume.
The easiest way to sign up with a service like MailChimp or Aweber.
MailChimp offer a free account for up to 2000 emails per month.
You can also link MailChimp your WordPress site. Every new subscriber will be automatically added to your MailChimp mailing list.
You need keep track of your customers. You may start or with an address list of your clients but as your business grows you may have to consider a CRM (customer relations management) system. CRM’s are complex to set up expensive and have a steep learning curve. I wont go into the specifics of CRM’s in this article since it is a large topic by itself.
Planning your IT and technology needs are just as important as any other aspect of your business. Failure to do so can greatly impact or even break your business.