Starting a business has, arguably, never been easier. In fact, you’ll find thousands of articles that are based around bootstrapping a startup business – the trouble is, almost all of those articles miss out one crucial element: IT.
Whichever way you approach it, IT is going to cost you money. For many companies, IT represents their biggest outlay, both in the time before they open their doors – to the on-going operational expenditure they make year on year.
So, how do you work around the need for big-money outlays on tech? You’re never going to mitigate the cost altogether – but there are a handful of ways you can slice that spend down to a more manageable level.
Find external IT support
A lot of the cost that’s involved with IT is down to the staff that you’ll need to support the network that’s going to keep your business running. In fact, small businesses that keep their IT support in-house generally report that 70% of the money they spend on IT goes on the people that actually put the network together – or answer the phone when something’s not working.
The truth is, supporting a business IT network is a lot of work. In fact, it’s likely to be too much work for just one person. Even if a talented individual can get you up and running, supporting your network is often a round-the-clock job – making it downright impossible for one, two, or sometimes even three people to keep on top of.
Not only do you need a number of people to support your IT, they very obviously need to know what they’re doing – which leads us to an interesting problem. Taking on IT staff can sometimes limit the breadth of their experience going forward; they become very good at administering your system, but less able to stay on top of the developments in the wider world.
So, what do you do if you want to sidestep some of these issues? Increasingly, companies are turning to managed service providers to set up and administer their IT. It’s not just your devices and business network that you can find support with either; some of the larger and more well-equipped services will even help you to develop and run your own applications for tasks and services that are unique to your business.
The beauty of working with an MSP is the sheer size of the service they are capable of providing. Chances are, they will have a significant size team – so cover is always there for you, and, the fact that they work with a broad range of clients means they’re always at the cutting edge of their field.
Make no mistake, the cost of creating and maintaining your own effective IT team is likely to be enormous – but a managed service provider will slice that cost right down. You’ll sign a service level agreement that outlines exactly what they’ll deliver – and, in exchange, you’ll hand over a monthly sum to keep them onside. That cost? It’ll vary on a huge range of factors – but you’re likely to be around one-sixth of the cost you’d expect if you wanted to recruit, train, and keep your own team.
Work with open-source software
Take a quick glance over a list of the most wealthy tech companies in the world and it’ll come as no surprise to find software houses like Oracle, Cisco, SAP, Salesforce and occupying some of the top spots. Providing software for organisations is enormous business, in fact, it’s like providing the air that businesses breath – without it, they simply couldn’t function.
Or could they?
The truth is, they probably could – it’s just that premium software creates a huge self-propagating marketplace. For instance. Microsoft create Office, which becomes a cornerstone part of how most businesses run. Moving away from Office becomes increasingly difficult – then, as costs change, many businesses simply do not have the time of resources needed to find and implement an alternative.
But don’t misunderstand – there are alternatives, and many of them do an equally good job – at a tiny fraction of the cost (and, often, for free).
Open-source software isn’t just a way of tracking down free applications – it’s a completely different approach to software and IT – one that suggests software should be free, with just changes and personalisation costing businesses money. If the idea of shedding those software costs sounds good, it’s worth exploring a resource like SourceForge, and explore the low-cost and free application alternatives that are out there.
Until recently, buying IT infrastructure meant purchasing devices that made it possible to run the services you need. Require an email exchange? No problem; buy the server and have it configured by a network engineer at your site. In fact, the same was true for a huge raft of tech – including software, storage, and a sprawling list that you simply could not operate without.
This represented a difficult pill to swallow, especially for small businesses with limited budgets. Big infrastructure like this cost thousands – but, without it, you had no network.
Now, thanks to enormous leaps forward in the practicality of cloud-computing, this is simply no longer the case. Virtual services power even some of the biggest businesses. Next time you watch Netflix, you’ll be streaming your boxset from an Amazon Web Services server somewhere. Expect Samsung to have their own infrastructure? Again, you’ll find that a lot of their data comes to you via AWS.
Now, virtually everything is available ‘as-a-service’ – that’s to say, not owned by your business as such; instead, just accessed through your internet connections and paid for on a ‘rental’ basis. While this kind of access is normal for software, it’s becoming increasingly popular for both bulky infrastructure and development platforms too.
So, next time you find an eye-watering price tag attached to a device, platform or service, look into the possibility of accessing that resource remotely. Afterall, that also means you’re passing the smooth running of that service to someone else – one less thing for your new managed service provider to worry about.