Click, click and poof—you’re open for business.
In the Internet age, it can seem just that easy to start a small business. Entrepreneurs can access a variety of information and small business IT resources that make it easy to transform an idea into the next big thing. And it’s easy to see the appeal—from Groupon to GrubHub, successful startups are increasingly visible.
Coming up with a fresh idea is a great start, but it takes a lot more than that for a business to succeed. Startups need customized technology and solutions that can help the organization meet business demands without affecting the time, resources or budget needed to get an idea off the ground.
From networking equipment to hardware, software, mobile, systems and services, the list may appear daunting. Fortunately, startups have a few options for acquiring the right technology mix.
Community Tech Through incubators
In the last three decades, the United States has experienced enormous growth in the number of business incubators. According to the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA), there were only 12 incubators in 1980. Today that number is closer to 1,300. These incubators feature all kinds of business startups in a centralized environment and offer development resources, such as educational seminars, business advisors, mentors and networking events.
Some incubators also provide office technology in a shared environment for startups that can't make the investment. For example a Chicago-based incubator—called 1871—provides access to projectors, flat-screen TVs, printers, copiers, networking equipment and other technology essential for small business growth. For a moderate month-to-month lease, members have access to that technology, giving them a competitive advantage without breaking the budget.
On-premises Versus Off-premises
Building and maintaining an in-house, small business IT infrastructure can be challenging for an established business, let alone a newly formed business. Even for fortunate startups where budget is not a top concern, infrastructure still requires support from a knowledgeable and dedicated workforce. Thankfully, the evolution of cloud computing and other hosted services provides startups with access to enterprise-quality technology that won’t drain resources.
Small business entrepreneurs can rely on service providers for software platforms and infrastructure, scaling the services up or down depending on usage and budget concerns. At the same time, maintaining your IT off-premises means you save money on rental costs for server and storage rooms, as well as employee costs for supporting that IT.
Scaling Your Technology
Regardless of whether you maintain technology infrastructure on- or off-premises, you must commit to sensible spending. This means not only making sound IT decisions that get the business off the ground, but also anticipating what will help the business expand.
You should determine which technology decisions are immediately necessary and which ones you can put on hold. After some initial success, you can then plot a timeline for future IT investments, along with plans for when and how to do it. This future-focused thinking can help you better manage future deployments, while avoiding IT complications and budget concerns.
Jill Billhorn is the vice president of small business at CDW.
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