How do small businesses without on-board IT staffs decide what computer HW and SW they need and which ones to buy?
As a manager in larger companies it was hard enough getting a full-time IT staff to do adequate business cases and decent market analyses. In smaller companies we have "just done it" with the idea that each decision was pretty small, but later we ended up spending more replacing an inadequate solution (especially if you factor in disrupting the staff). How have you dealt with this? Is there a decent internet resource that won't take me more time than it is worth to sift through it all?
Much good information and answers.
I would add: keep it simple. If you have basic IT needs, know what they are in layman's terms (a contractor/vendor should help), know what metrics or standards you will need to measure performance- bandwidth cost/gig, uptime ratios, etc.- and go from there.
If a vendor or consultant can't keep this easy, then look elsewhere. They should help you keep them accountable.
Hi Douglas, we wrote a blog post that I think may help you determine what types of hardware and software to invest in: http://hub.am/1j6bSIA It gives a high-level overview on building an IT strategy (which includes buying HW/SW/apps for your business) based on business goals, your business' dependency on technology, and planning for the future.
Once you get down the basics, you need to do your research on each one, which is where a lot of business leaders tend to get stuck because there isn't enough time in the day to run your business AND do the necessary research on this stuff (especially when salespeople are biased, as are bloggers and websites).
Hope this helps in some way! Here's the link again. http://hub.am/1j6bSIA
Hi Douglas, I can well understand your problem, I do work in the IT Industry for Large corporates, and lately national Government. However I have been on the other end of this as a small business owner, but believe me the problem is no different, it is just more costly, and there are numerous corporates with diabolically designed systems, because large vendors and consultancies have taken advantage.
The issue is not to go looking for new hardware / software to replace what you have, the first thing to answer is what is the business Case and business process you wish a system for. Do not get dragged into whether it should be Linux or Microsoft, or whether you should be looking at Cloud services. We need to see what is the Requirement you are needing to fulfil now and over the next 5 to 10 years.
Will your business be static, or do you wish to grow it, or maybe expand by takeover, or MAYBE you just want a system that makes your business Admin easier and enables you to service your customers better to retain them.
Once you have cracked that and got it down in writing then maybe some of us can help in a Consultancy manner, with no ties or obligations to any particular solution other than a solution to your business dilemma.
I wish you good hunting for a solution.
Well, since I have diversified out of the IT business, maybe I can help? I have moved into more Health & Wellness services and some products as well as hydroponics systems. It really depends on just what you NEED as far as systems. For simple bookeeping, it is hands down QuickBooks Pro. You can run it on most current laptops and all desktops as stand alone or in a workgroup with multiple users.
Hardware is pretty cheap these days as a cost of doing business. From workstations to laptops to notepads to smart phones it all has the ability to keep you 'connected' as much as you desire.
For web services, it depends on just what you need, simple web site for advertising (like most of mine) or active selling sites. You can easily set up sell sites using Amazon, and many others cheap or free (international use Alibaba.com).
There are more options and more decisions that you MUST integrate with your business plans. Best is to find a good consultant (local if possible) to utilize on an ongoing basis so he/she gets to know/understand your business and can help guide you. Often-times they can act as your IT Manager part-time or as/needed.
Ask other similar sized and similar positioned businesses in your area and check in on LinkedIn. Lots of helpful folks there in just about any area you can imagine; world wide!
Hi Douglas Brown,
I would suggest you to either hire a technical consultant or freelancers to help you out. You can use various websites like Freelancer, ODesk, Fiverr and Guru to opt for freelancers
Demands of company services levels can help so much to chose what HW/SW & resources capacity needed.
Since they have no IT on board they always go out and check for quote and specs of what they feel can increase or change the business to do more or deliver.
Outsourcing service can be a good option for you. We have customers in different countries, and provide our services including hardware, software, and even networking design and integration of telecommunications. Most of those are doing small business without any IT staffs. Actually, on the Internet, you and I may reach anywhere in the world. In addition, you may have more effectiveness to control your limited budgets for any specific purchasing.
We have a software development team in India, hardware design and manufacturing in China, networking consultation in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and our base is in Taiwan. However, you'll amaze the cost of our services versus what we're giving to you.
I would generally advise a small company to engage the services of a reliable local supplier who can undertake this work for you. But it really does depend on your definition of small. Small can be quite small in which case DIY is usually the option or, in fact quite large in terms of number of computers etc. and so warrants developing a specification prior to purchase. In doing so ongoing support is generally to be considered as well.
You find an independent I.T person like myself where I guide you through the process. I do what I consider Your Virtual I.T. Department. Leave it to an expert not some web site suggestions.
There are several good answers here. I have one that is a little unique:
Ask other businesses in your size range which IT firm they use, and are they happy with the guidance they get.
Look at the experience of the firms that get recommended to you. If an IT firm has been in business for more than 15 years, they must be giving good advice and service.
Most of my clients have been with me for 15 to 20 years. I don't advertise. I let my clients do that for me. My Economics and Finance degree is my edge over other IT firms. Also, I always ask a multitude of questions before even beginning to come up with a gameplan of the proper HW & SW a firm needs to win in the game of business. If you run into an IT firm that doesn't... keep looking.
As many have stated already it would be beneficial to solicit services from a versatile business technology consultant. This is someone who has business and technology expertise. They can help you navigate all the necessary details, but before hiring anyone look at your business plan/ operation to determine the business priorities first (Network & PCs, basic office functions vs. a Data Warehouse). In many companies this exercise would be tackled in the business or launch plan phases.
There are numerous SAAS (software as a service) providers and resellers for the above items. Services range from Email to ERP. You may have successfully used these types of services in the past.
Once you have your requirements list with your version of what is required, you can check with your network for personal referrals, your industry's society and/or local chamber of commerce.
There are a number of service providers that can provide 80% of your required IT services and potential recommendations for the remaining 20%. Use the services and manage the cost just as you would any other service (legal, accounting, etc.).
The answer is not a simple one, but one way to do it is talk to a consultant. IT consultants spend their time keeping up with technology while you keep busy running your company. The trick is to find a good consultant.
One thing to look for in a consultant is, are they selling you a product or are they helping you plan? A good consultant should work with you to produce a ongoing plan so you know what to buy and when. This avoids having sudden upgrades and expansion costs while making your growth smooth.
Sometimes it makes sense to pay a bit more in the beginning so you have less headaches and more options later, but each business is different, so do your homework when working with someone.
The answer is very simple, small companies hire services with companies like us to help them to make the right decision to purchase the right technology, if you need more help please contact me any time.
Typically, they do what we all do in the absence of better information; we use what we are familiar with for better or worse. Ideally, we would consult with others who have more experience than ourselves. This can be free or paid consulting advice.
I'd suggest hiring a local I.T. consultant to do an in house evaluation.
You can approach this two ways:
1) Pay them a flat rate for the evaluation or an hourly fee. They can tell you what to buy and you handle the I.T. purchasing, installations, support, etc.
2) Get a complimentary evaluation with the expectation that you make your I.T. purchases through the consultant and they become a partner in installation and support as needed.
Either approach can work for you depending on your needs and comfort level.
You really need the expertise so if you don't have staff members who know IT, then you should not proceed without expert consultants who not only know IT - but also know your business.
I might suggest you get an IT Consultant to come evaluate your needs. I believe they are a bit pricey but most of the ones I have worked with are honest and reliable. In this field all we have are our names. You might consider hiring a temporay employee to do your IT needs to come and go as you need them that way you do not have to carry them as a full time employee with benefits. You can read reviews on products but without working knowledge of them or what they do you may be wasting your time. I recommend doing it right the first time. It may be an investment but it is worth it for your business.
This is a question with many answers. For the bigger decisions there are consulting firms out there that could do the shopping for you or at least help you. No matter how you do your shopping though, these are some key things to remember.
Spend some time before you shop and figure out everything you want to do.
If you don't know what you want, how can you expect someone else to.
You need to at least be able to tell the sales manager or Engineer what you need to accomplish.
Shopping for Hardware is a little easier than shopping for Software but do your due diligence. Knowing what your software needs are can help you with the hardware decision, and the hardware seller can usually suggest a fit based on your software needs.
Research things on the Internet. It is hard for an Integrator to compete with the big box stores, but even if you need an integrator that can provide and install for you, knowing the internet pricing can help you negotiate with the integrator.
You the customer should always be in control of the project, and any and all communications and contracts should spell that out. Both sides will have to do their part to finish a successful project but don't leave yourself without avenues. Make sure you are only responsible for paying for a complete project, and hold at least 10 to 20% for final completion and training of you and your staff.
It depends of the necessity. No matter how tiny the company is, you need to have a meet with all colleagues whom are part of the project.
Not matter if there area 2 or 1 computer with only a documents suite program installed, you need to talk with stakeholders and of course, ask the opinion of one expert IT specialist, to be sure you are taking the best decision.