IT for Start-ups: What you need to know
Over 660,000 start-ups launch in the UK each year. The entrepreneurs behind these new ventures have plenty to think about - from meeting a need in the market to developing their business model. But one consideration that they should not neglect is their IT systems.
At Nimbus Blue, we think of IT as having three main buckets:
You have to consider the security aspects of all three.
In this blog post, we’ll go through each of these buckets to determine what should be included in IT for start-ups. Although each start-up is different and hence, will vary in its typical IT needs, there is a range of practical IT considerations to bear in mind.
Unpredictable cashflow and limited capital are characteristics of start-ups. These can tempt start-up founders to buy the cheapest kit. We advise that you think twice about this for a few good reasons:
Trust: In the fast growth stage of a young business, you need reliable hardware. Such businesses are building a reputation and must avoid being let down in this critical
Productivity: Many start-ups are dependent on their hardware to do their work. If your systems work faster, it means you will too.
Investment: When investing in equipment that you expect to last for say, three years, ensure that it is capable of handling the increased demand you will place on it.
A good, mid-range laptop will cost you around £600 and upwards plus VAT. A desktop would be slightly cheaper, coming in around at least £500 including a monitor.
Regardless of the device, it’s worth getting the maximum (often three years) manufacturer's warranty with the item. This is not the same as a third-party seller, (like PC World), but originating from Dell, HP, Apple etc.
However, if you are a tech start-up and therefore, undertaking more technical processes, it’ll need hardware of a higher spec to keep up with the software - which is our next bucket.
A website and domain-specific email addresses are a minimum these days. These don't need to be fancy, but they are both needed to add to the start-up's credibility.
The wide range of choices in CRM, email, storage and hosting cloud-based software is both good and bad news. It’s easier to find solutions, but it can be confusing. Ensure that systems integrate with each other in the most efficient way possible for your start-up.
As a rough estimate, any software comprising a minimum of email, Microsoft office subscription, and cloud storage costs around £25 per user per month. Even if you’re only a one- or two -person company, you may have to pay for the equivalent of 5 user licences. Don’t let that push you towards purchasing consumer-grade products - they’ll come back to bite you later!
Depending on their future goals and IT operating maturing level, IT support could be a significant expense for start-ups. Cash flow and limited capital may push start-ups towards cheap monthly fees. It's a £1 monthly gesture towards the fact that IT exists.
The problem arises when IT challenges start. The IT provider will hit the start-up with much higher bills, due to the time and effort needed to work on the fix.
The other end of the scale is fully managed IT support. With this kind of support, the start-up commits to a certain fee per month. Some months, this fee will seem huge, and other months, it will be tiny compared to the work the IT provider has had to do.
Either way, the fixed fee helps cash flow by providing a predictable outgoing. Also, with the right provider, the investment will be rewarded as you grow and your IT keeps pace. Make the choice that makes the most sense to you as a start-up, considering growth and cash projections.
IT security for Start-ups
Your options lie on a scale from reasonable and affordable, to proportionate and preparatory. It is just as easy to blow the entire budget on security, as it is to underestimate its importance for your start-up.
IT security is a moving target. Hence, start-ups must analyse their processes and ask themselves:
â— What are the biggest risks to my start-up from a security point of view? You are likely to have higher risks if you are out and about often.
â— Do you trust your current IT providers? You might consider accepting only certain standards. For example, cloud-based software that is externally-audited, or has a certain level of guaranteed uptime.
â— What controls can I put in place to address my risks? Talk to an IT support company to help find a solution that works for you.
The basics include disk encryption and anti-virus software. Multi-factor authentication is key for critical systems, systems that if breached or stopped, could compromise cashflow, business reputation or confidential information.
For all the three areas (hardware, software and management) decide what is affordable and relevant. But most importantly, think about what will scale with your business. The last thing your business needs is an external product that hinders business growth or one that requires a complicated, costly migration.
No matter your venture, don’t just ask what do I need today? Follow up with what will I need tomorrow.