If you’re starting up as a business, you’ve probably already had that moment where you realise how important having an IT infrastructure is going to be.
The trouble is, that realisation isn’t a cheap one. IT can be costly – but, since it forms the skeleton that keeps most businesses upright, it’s not something you’re going to want to approach with a penny-pinching attitude – after all, getting IT wrong can lead to prematurely closed doors for small businesses.
There are plenty of people who’ll tell you exactly how to effectively bootstrap your marketing or sales efforts – but far fewer who’ll walk you through getting maximum value from a limited IT spend. With that in mind, we’ve put together a handful of tips that’ll help you manage your IT infrastructure while keeping a close eye on your account balance…
Look at using less well-known software
Software can cost a lot of money – especially when you get into the realms of specialist, industry-specific applications. That said, software can also be free – it just depends where you look.
There’s a world of incredible software available if you’re willing to explore ‘open-source’ options. Open-source is more than just a type of software too, it’s an attitude that suggests software should be accessible to everyone – and is often developed as a collaboration between a number of different developers.
There are plenty of open-source software applications that are household names. The browser FireFox is open-source; as is the blogging and web-development platform WordPress. Popular music-editing software Audacity is a free, open-source piece of software, much like the versatile media player VLC. While these are generally used by individuals, a little work can see you put together an ‘Office’ style package that will cater for your workforce admirably.
The beauty of open-source is that you become the licence owner – so, you can develop the software yourself. That’s not going to be a step that’s required for everyone – but if you have big aspirations and would like your own branded applications, you’re free to adapt the source code of the software to suit your needs.
It’s estimated that open-source software saves consumers in excess of £48 billion / $60 billion every year – money saved that you can use to drive your business forward instead.
Consider outsourcing your support
Recruiting, training, and maintaining an in-house IT team costs a lot of money, so, it’s no surprise to find that providers who handle of all this legwork on your behalf are becoming more and more popular with businesses of all sizes.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are, essentially, companies that are created to provide IT support – but on a contract basis. Rather than spend a huge amount of money to establish your own team, you’ll simply pay a monthly fee to use the MSPs team – and they’re on hand for everything; from security advice before you open your doors, to full managed infrastructure packages that will help you to tie together every system you need to get your business off the ground and soaring.
The beauty of working with an MSP is that every IT related headache that you might have is removed – and, while that sounds like an expensive luxury to have, MSPs generally tend to be significantly cheaper than gathering the same kind of experience in-house. In real terms, you’ll be sharing your IT support with a number of other companies – but, since 85% of an IT team’s time is spend simply ‘keeping the lights on’ for your systems, it’s generally not a problem if they’re not sitting in your office.
Of course, finding the right MSP is key to a good experience – but as long as you can find a company that can grow with you – and has a track record of working with companies of a similar size and industry to you, you stand to save a lot of money compared to managing an in-house team.
Buy as much as you can ‘as a service’
It could be argued the cloud-computing has disrupted the world of IT almost as much as the internet itself. Steps forward in internet connection speed have meant that software is increasingly held centrally – with users simply accessing these programs through an internet connection.
Google have somewhat pioneered ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) – in fact, they created a full range of devices that are simply consoles used to access their online services. Microsoft have developed their software offerings too – Office is now primarily an online service, with users paying a monthly access fee, rather than tangling with the often-complex licences setups of years gone by.
It’s important not to focus just on software when you’re exploring buying your IT as a service. Both Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are gaining traction as go-to solutions for startups and small businesses who may otherwise not have the spending power needed to access such significant resources.
PaaS gives your company the ability to access development and deployment tools within the cloud – allowing you to create and roll-out everything from simple applications for your user’s devices, to full, enterprise level software that would be suitable for running industry-leading international businesses. A service like Microsoft Azure can be bought in for a monthly fee – but unlocks development systems that would have previously cost thousands – if not tens of thousands of pounds or dollars.
Of course, developing your own platforms will often come second to simply running pre-existing applications, and, to do that, you’ll need infrastructure. Fortunately, this is catered for too; IaaS provides ‘virtualised’ services for business. Virtualised simply means that the storage or hardware that you’re buying into isn’t entirely yours – instead, you’re using a ‘virtual’ machine – part of the overall service that’s been ringfenced for your business. IaaS stands to save businesses a lot of money – since it often replaces the need for costly hardware – such as services, storage, and networking equipment. The lesson is this; next time you find a need for hardware – check whether or not it’s available as a service – because if it is, you stand to save your startup a significant spend.
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