This article was originally published back in September 2010 but due to several recent conversations, I decided to post it again both here and on our newsletter.
On occasion, we get asked for advice on helping new business owners on getting their IT technology started. What, Where and How much are common questions that are posed about starting a medical practice or a traditional office.
1) What type of technology hardware do you need? Things to consider are: Laptop or Desktop?
Today, laptop computers are as good as desktops but provide the convenience of mobility (and in some cases touch screen) capabilities.
They tend to be more expensive and are not as flexible when it comes to upgrading but in most cases, a good laptop will do the job unless you have specific needs for the desktop configuration.
In some cases you may need a specific physical requirement for small factor PCs or customized units that fit with medical devices. In the dental, orthodontic and optometric industries, there are a lot of options for mounting computers to stations, chairs, walls, under desks etc. which makes it convenient to operate with minimum desktop real estate.
2) Which Internet access is right? With today’s bandwidth demands, there are many options for internet access. From the traditional base internet service for normal office usage, interoffice fibre connections, to individual wireless mobile connections, the options are as plentiful as the variety of office scenarios.
3) Be aware of your software options. Depending on your business industry, different software may be required. In most cases, an office suite which has word processing, spreadsheets and presentation tools are standard fare along with a bookkeeping package and a communication tool for email.
These are always EXTRA costs that are sometimes overlooked when considering the price of a computer.
Further to that, you must consider the following software: Antivirus, Antimalware, PDF creation/reading, printing/scanning applications, faxing software (if not using a traditional fax machine) and in most cases for business a CRM package if the bookkeeping option is not sufficient.
In the medical, legal and accounting fields there are several industry specific software suites that have their own technology requirements. Knowing what these are before you purchase your technology is always recommended.
4) You have data now, it is time to Protect it! The first step is to make sure antivirus/antimalware tools are operating correctly.
The second step is to have a backup. There are several backup options from traditional external hard drive devices, to fully automated online services (like ours at www.backupmycomputernow.com.
One way or another a backup is ESSENTIAL.
We usually recommend both a local data backup for quick and easy “unerase” type recovery and a full offsite image backup for disaster recovery planning.
5) Remote access or “cloud” services make things convenient. If you have a separate office and need to access data from home or from other locations, remote access services are available to allow you to work from any internet connected computer in the world in a manner that works as if you were sitting right in front of your computer.
These days, remote services are cheap, affordable and easy to implement.
Cloud services can also be useful in some situations when comparing the cost of a monthly cloud subscription versus a capital purchase of software but be warned, Cloud services can have some risk and questions about data ownership, data location and security.
6) Printing technologies are abundant. Most printers for businesses (except photo printers) are generally bundled in a multi-function unit for both printing and scanning (and faxing).
These multifunctions can come in inkjet or laser options and it is important to consider the toner or ink needs of the unit before you decide.
Laser units generally will provide lower cost per page and last for thousands of pages as opposed to inkjets which have higher per page costs and need to be replaced more frequently. Laser technology for colour has improved significantly however high end inkjets will still out perform in the colour photo world.
Also consider wireless printers, network printers (for shared use) and the accessories such as paper feeder, depleting, borderless printing and speed.
7) Scanning is standard today. Where scanning technology has plateaued in the market, everybody can take advantage of scanning in paper documents for the purposes of storage, faxing, emailing or copying.
In the multifunction units, all the scanners are pretty much the same and can do everything from black and white low resolution faxes to full size colour photos.
A scanner may not be used all the time in everyday business, but it sure comes in handy when you need to whip off a copy or show somebody via email what you are talking about.
8)Smartphones for continual access. Most business users today have some sort of Smartphone or tablet.
Blackberries, iPhones and android devices are very common and come with built in software to synchronize to your most pc configuration. Ensuring that your choice of Smartphone is reliable and fits in with proven user reviews can be very productive over purchasing fancy untested technology which may or may not work and cause more headaches that anything.
With new phones and technology coming out every day, it is important not to get to wrapped up in the hype unless you are prepared to handle potential issues that come up with the newest technology.
9) Conferencing tools can make communication easier. With applications like Skype, Pamela, Gotomeeting and Webex etc. more and more communications can happen right from your pc with the addition of a webcam or microphone headset.
Online tools that provide free worldwide communication, video conferencing and meeting capabilities have to be considered when buying your hardware and accessories.
They can save you a bundle on communication costs but you need to pick the right tools.
10) Maintenance pays in the long run. Just like any other tools, your technology needs periodic maintenance to ensure that it is all operating correctly.
This can vary from software updates to physical cleaning of cooling systems.
If you are not on top of the technology knowledge, hiring an IT service provider (even if only on an annual or semi-annual basis), can be the difference between your technology getting a 3-5 year return on investment or dying prematurely and requiring replacement.
One of the biggest mistakes for new owners is to undervalue their infrastructure needs. In today’s technology, everything runs on computers and high speed networks. Not having a budget to maintain the infrastructure on a regular basis or even in emergency situations, can mean the difference between coming to work or not being able to work.
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If you have any questions, feel free to contact us anytime.