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What Technology Does My New Business Need?
By Ramon Ray
Congratulations, you've opened your new business! As your hands run over the new furniture and you wrap up a few things with your lawyer and accountant, you're probably starting to wonder what kind of computing infrastructure you should consider for your business.
Many businesses have very similar needs, which I'll outline below. Depending on the specific needs of your business, there will be some particular technologies you'll need that other businesses have no need for. Here are six things your business must have in the beginning in order to be successful.
Local Technology Consultant
You have an accountant (for obvious reasons) and a lawyer (for even more obvious reasons)--having a local technology consultant or solution provider is no different. Get references, see what past work they've done and, like an employee, give the relationship time to mature to be sure they're working in your best interest.
A good place to find small-business solution providers is at Microsoft's Small Business Specialist Program (www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness).
High-Speed Internet Access
For those businesses who are only online or do a significant amount of business online, your internet service is the life blood of your business. You must ensure that the vendor providing the service offers very reliable service and support.
Your computers must be set up in a network with a file server and shared internet access.
Those who are dealing with large files such as graphic artists, design shops or others must have very powerful computers to be able to quickly manage and store the files. The memory you use backing up 100-word files that a very small law firm might deal with is much smaller than backing up 100 hi-resolution photos.
If you have a wireless network make sure it's secured as well. The second phase of your security plan is to ensure all of your data is backed up and that you have a recovery plan in place. If you came to work and found nothing but a hole in the ground, what would you do? What plan would you have in place to recover your data onto other computer systems? That's how you have to think.
If your business retains personal information of your customers, especially financial information, social security information, etc, it's even more important that a professional security consultant work with you to ensure your information is secure. Your network must be secure, but also your online applications. Hackers can go to your website and use "back door" holes in the online software to access your database if the online application or database isn't properly configured.
You can easily build a website on your own using tools from Homestead Technologies, Microsoft Office Live or many other web-hosting companies. You can also hire a website developer to do this for you.
As your business grows you'll find that filling your website with as much customer-facing information as possible will a) reduce the amount of inbound e-mail and phone calls to your business, and b) customers can serve themselves from your website and be happier.
If you're in a regulated industry it's vital that you have systems in place to archive your e-mail to ensure it complies with government regulations for your industry.
Ramon Ray is Entrepreneur.com's "Tech Basics" columnist and editor of Smallbiztechnology.com. He's the author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses and has helped thousands of small businesses use technology as a tool to grow. Ray currently serves on the board of directors and the technology committee for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.
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