Over the course of the last two decades computers have become an integral part of most functioning businesses, with their practicality and functionality not being emphasised enough. From increasing your online presence to automated inventory processes, computers can cover and assist in any number of tasks you need performed.
Computers are pillars for most businesses; however, an ever-increasing number of additional devices are being employed in different industries due to their convenient nature. There are a large number of items which need to be considered when setting up a small business to ensure the most smooth-running arrangement is put in place.
So, what are the fundamental items to consider?
First and foremost, you will have to consider what appropriate devices will be necessary to efficiently run your business. Setting out the parameters of what you need to do in the everyday running of your business will allow you to budget accordingly, without going overboard and spending hundreds, if not thousands, on devices which you and your employees will get little to no use out of.
The basic items for consideration are:
Personal Computers (PC’s): Running a Windows Operating System serve as a standard in most office-based businesses. When looking at purchasing a desktop computer you will need to contemplate how much computing power and memory will be needed to run certain programmes e.g. software which relies heavily on graphic and visual editing will require more processing power than a computer which mainly utilises MS Word and Excel.
Monitors: An essential item for any job which requires somebody to sit in front of their PC for extended periods of time. Choosing the correct monitor will allow you and your team to work more comfortably, with bright and clear colours displayed in a high resolution.
The quality of a monitor should be given extra weighting for any business which works within the creative industry, where image accuracy and colour are of the utmost importance e.g. video editing, graphic designers or photographers.
Another element to consider is the number of computer screens you and your employees should be using to optimise performance; research has shown that for many office-based jobs having two or more screens can result in a remarkable productivity upswing of 10% and 33% fewer errors. Of course, whilst your budget may not initially accommodate these additional purchases, it would be astute to keep this in mind when your budget would allow for this.
Keyboards and Mice: The accompanying hardware which oftentimes goes overlooked by many businesses but can provide a substantial ROI. Depending on the available budget and the amount of use these items will be subjected to, it may be worth investing into keyboards and mice which are more ergonomically friendly.
In addition to being more user centric they will also increase the work rate for office workers and graphic designers. As a baseline you should ensure that these attachments are comfortable and practical to use.
Laptops: Provide a more flexible alternative with greater user convenience than their desktop counterparts. Being portable in their design they are very useful for out of office tasks and have the ability to run high-end programmes which are comparable to a desktop PC. The caveat, however, is that they cost noticeably more for an equivalent specification.
Mobile Devices: Such as Smartphones and Tablets are business essentials, providing instantaneous access to information, from almost any remote location. These devices are also ideal for keeping your team in contact with each other, with added importance being placed on those employees who are very mobile in their daily work activities.
Depending on the available costings against budget it may be prudent to operate a policy such as “Bring your own device” to work, permitting employees to use personally owned devices within the workplace and allowing access to company information and applications.
An added benefit for modern devices is making use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) which allows you to make free, or very low cost, telephone calls over the internet as well as being able to configure this to forward all incoming and outgoing calls through this application. This means you can call any telephone in the world, and likewise any telephone can call you, regardless of what equipment or network the person you are calling uses.
Printers: Printers are an accessory that is very likely to be used throughout the everyday running of a start-up. From advertising and marketing your business to producing documentation to present to clients, having an in-office printer is a smart investment.
There are two types of general-purpose printers which you should compare when beginning your business. These are laser printers and inkjet printers:
- Inkjet Printers: Ideal for printing high quality photos and graphics – The preferred printer for any business operating within the creative industry.
- Laser Printers: Ideal for higher volume printing projects with a high degree of reliability – A printer with an inbuilt network connection would allow everyone within the business to operate it at the same time.
Alongside these printers it would be recommended to look at whether you require a photocopier or scanner. More often it is commonplace within many document heavy workplaces to purchase an all-in-one device which conveniently combines printing, scanning and photocopying into a single device.
Security Systems: If you have spent a substantial sum to install a proficient IT system, it would be shrewd to implement safety measures which will protect your investment. A straightforward and effective option would be to connect a security camera and alarm to monitor and alert you of any suspicious activity. The visibility of a few cameras alone can serve as a powerful deterrent just by being present and in view.
The above items cover the primary hardware concerns which any small business owner will need to consider and think about when beginning a business. Remember that not giving a sufficient budget and weighting to what fundamental items you will need when starting a business will only backfire on you in the long run.
All too often business are reactive in their approach to IT, only investing in items when the situation is already pressing. Setting up a capable IT system from the get-go will allow your business to hit the ground running and will prepare you and your team to overcome many obstacles.
Read ‘Part Two’ of our beginners guide to look at what Internet, Software and Cloud Computing options you should consider complementing the hardware you will put in place.