IT for Startups
The best tools to give your business the best start
When starting a business you have a lot to think about. From securing your first sale, to making sure you have the correct insurance in place, building your brand and a thousand other things. So to help reduce the list of things for you to think about the below article covers some great tools to use when starting a business that don’t cost a fortune.
Probably the most important tool you will need is going to be emails and file storage. Whether you are starting a service or product business having the ability to store all of your files together and send and receive emails is vital. We would recommend Microsoft365 Business Basic. There are other plans available however they are more expensive and include things you are unlikely to need straight away. Microsoft365 Business Basic gives you 50GB of Email storage in Exchange, 1TB of OneDrive Storage as well as access to Teams and the online versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. If you want the desktop versions of these apps they are available on the next plan up (Microsoft365 Business Standard) but the online versions should work ok or if you are a Mac user you can use the Apple Equivalent Pages, Keynote, Numbers and Mail for free. This means you don’t need to pay separate subscriptions for Email and File Storage. Microsoft365 Business Basic gives you the ability to setup a custom domain to give your emails the professional look rather thank sending from @outlook.com for example.
Business Basic is great as it’s not overly expensive per user per month and by using Microsoft365 you have the ability to add licences as your business grows as well as upgrade as you need more features. For example as you start to grow your team you may want to centrally manage devices so you have the ability to assign Microsoft365 Business Premium to your users which includes Intune Device Management functionality. By using other emails providers, as you start to grow you might find yourself having to migrate and move into Microsoft365 taking up your valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere. By starting in Microsoft365 from the outset you make it easy to grow your tech setup as your business grows.
To access your emails and files your going to need a computer. Now depending on the type of business you are running and what you are going to be doing on it you are unlikely to need an high spec machine, for example if you were a videographer or web developer. If your main requirement is to reply to emails, send invoices and setup your website there are standard devices that are more practical and in budget. I would recommend the New MacBook Air with M2. Maybe not the cheapest device on the market and definitely not the most expensive, the MacBook Air gives you the portability with the power needed to get through your to do list. As with the MacBook Air with M1 the MacBook Air with M2 features a fan-less design. For starters this shows how the power of the M2 chip allows you to action power hungry tasks without the device breaking a sweat and needing a fan to cool it down, but without the fan it means the Mac can be made thinner and reduce the weight, without the fan, this will also improve the battery life.
The MacBook Air with M2 can be configured with up to 24GB of Unified Memory and 2TB of SSD storage. MagSafe also remains with the MacBook Air as with the previous generation, which is great at protecting your Mac should the cable be abruptly pulled, as the cable magnetically connects, it can disconnect after a sharp movement preventing the Mac from moving. You also get 2 USB-C ports that can also be used for charging, as well as connecting to an external display and data transfer. The one downside to this device is that the charging all has to be carried out from the left hand side. What was great about the MacBook Pro’s with 4 USB-C ports, when they were first released, was that there were 2 ports on each side which mean you could charge the device from any port on any side as well as connect a display, transfer data or connect to Ethernet from any port on any side. This makes it easier to charge and to connect to other devices and networks. Although you do get a 2M cable with the MacBook Air, sometimes being able to connect the charger to the other side is more convenient rather than having to bend the cable around.
When it comes to communication you probably need two tools. Online meetings and phone. Now some would say that for meetings you can use Microsoft Teams which if you have Microsoft365 Business Basic, Standard or Premium then you get Teams included and that for phone you most likely have a mobile number so why would you invest in other tools. However on the meetings side when we are asked about the best tool to hold online meetings we always recommend Zoom. Don’t get me wrong Teams does the job, however for the best meeting experience, the greatest flexibility and greatest call quality, nothing quite compares to Zoom, plus as you grow your business you have the ability to invest in other Zoom products to further enhance the meeting experience, as well as integrate those with other meeting solutions such as Teams. Zoom meetings allows organisers and participants to easily join and manage calls as well as integrate with a large variety of different apps that you use everyday to automate your tasks, reducing the admin time.
On the phone front, as mentioned earlier you could use your mobile number, however as a founder and startup owner you wear many hats and have a lot of responsibility as well as there always being something to do, but there are times where it is important to switch off from your business and take time for yourself. Having a separation from work and personal is crucial. By using Zoom phone not only do you separate your business from your personal, but you also give yourself a professional number on your website, emails and marketing material. This improves the reputation of your business and adds trust to your brand. Zoom Phone is easy to setup and use and gives users the reliability required when it comes to business calls.
On Premise Telephony Solutions have served businesses well, however they do not provide the Scalability, Mobility or Ease of Management that can be offered with Cloud Based Solutions. With over 1500 integrations, Zoom will work with your other systems to create a single joined up experience, that is compared to only 700 for Microsoft Teams. We find Zoom as a whole is easier to use, less memory intensive, and provides a better overall experience no matter what Zoom Product you are using. Zoom are also releasing new features on a regular basis and are developing new products such as Whiteboard and at home devices to further improve the communication experience to help with users remote and home working setups. What is great about Zoom is it’s scalability. Going from one user to 1000 is easy. Just add the licences and create the user. As your startup grows you can onboard new users quickly and bring new Zoom products into your tenant such as Zoom Rooms which in my opinion is the best meeting room conferencing facility without breaking the bank. Zoom Rooms not only allows you to have Zoom calls for all you in person participants in one room to meet with remote attendees but you can also join Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Teams meetings without additional licensing, meaning that you can arrange or attend calls on any platform.
Last up is Adobe Creative Cloud. Not necessarily the cheapest investment, but when putting your brand together there is no better tool. Adobe Creative Cloud Applications can also take some time to learn and use effectively. It won’t just be an investment in money but in time, if you have never used the applications before, however its the best tool to help you create a logo, brand guidelines and other assets you need to start your business. Adobe is a market leader in the Creative Application space with very few others coming close to the level of functionality required for creatives. Yes its quite an investment, but with your brand being the first thing customers see it is definitely a worthwhile investment.
We hope this article has helped you understand what IT might be required to start a business or which solutions are best to achieve your goals. At the end of the day your focus should be on building your business rather than getting your IT in order to aid in growth.