1. Lose the office altogether!
Renting office space is one of the biggest regular expenses against your business. As well as rent, telephones, utilities, and even management fees all make a dent in your business finances.
Think about what – if anything – you really need from being in an office. Is there any reason why you, your colleagues and staff could not be just as productive working from home?
Would your employees appreciate not having to commute to the office every day? Would they be more productive if they had the capability to work from home minus the commute or drive to and from the office? Phone calls, email and video conferencing can be utilised for updates or general communication to keep up to date on how work is progressing.
Taking advantage of these opportunities introduce cost efficiencies while leading in your field with the use of cutting edge technology to empower your business and workforce.
You, your colleagues and employees will enjoy the benefits of a truly progressive and flexible work environment, created by you.
2. Move Your Email To “The Cloud”
Email is an important IT service, alongside your telephony services. It is often your main method of generating and nurturing business. You need assurances that your email service will always available. Regular or prolonged outages can be disastrous and cost you potential business.
Cloud Computing could be the answer. Your business would not need to spend any more money on hardware or software for backup, server and resilience solutions…
Whether it be Google’s Gmail, Microsoft’s Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail), or any other web based email, your business benefits from almost 100% availability in the Cloud. You will not lose any of the functionality you currently have with your current onsite solution.
Moving your email offsite is one of the simplest and most common areas of IT to begin your migration to the Cloud. It allows you to dip your toes in the water, so to speak. You will get to see the benefits of Cloud Computing, while evaluating its compatibility for your business.
You can run the Cloud email solutions alongside your existing email solution to trial it’s suitability for your business. If you decide it isn’t for you, you can simply stop the Cloud solution and continue with your existing solution.
Cloud based email solutions offer (but are not limited to) multiple email addresses for your business and plenty of storage for email attachments. Working on documentation at the same time as colleagues (because any changes can be tracked) and calendar sharing is also possible, as well as being able to filter emails into folders (labels) in exactly the same way you do now.
Removing the need to spend money ensuring your email servers are running, upgrading the hardware and software, and not forgetting power, reduces your business expenditure. As with internet telephony, the costs of Cloud email solutions are often minimal and flexible. Once these benefits become clear to your business, you may be ready to take the next step…
3. Move The Rest Of Your IT To The Cloud
Once you’re happy that your email service is secure, you may be ready to adopt further Cloud services. The two major players in hosted email are also major players in Cloud application services.
Microsoft Office 365, and Google Apps provide a natural progression from simple email for small businesses. The ability to create, edit and share emails, collaborate on documents, presentations, websites and more, all from any internet connected location is very powerful.
Microsoft’s offering isn’t fully a cloud service as you still need local installations of Microsoft Office on your PC (or any laptop or Microsoft tablet). This also limits your options when considering which devices to buy. Microsoft Windows, Surface Pro tablets and Windows Mobile all run Office 365 when it is installed on them.
Apple Macs can run Office too (you have to procure the Mac compatible version), but Android and iPhone handsets need specific apps. Google Apps is fully Cloud based as they are solely accessible through an internet browser. This means that not only can you use any device to gain access, you can start a document on your Macbook, edit it on an Android tablet and add it to a presentation on a Windows PC. Both charge very reasonable monthly fees per user, while guaranteeing 99% uptime.
It is a natural response to worry about the security of your data, if you’re considering moving it to the cloud. If your data is hosted elsewhere you can no longer ‘see’ it so it seems vulnerable. In reality, the opposite is true. Something like 80% of data theft, or malicious attacks originate from inside an organisation.
The image of the sneaky hacker accessing your data is a myth in terms of the real effects. Also, the servers holding your data, in your office, are at risk of failure, power cuts, fire or even theft. Does your onsite data have a reliable backup strategy? What happens in the event of an accidental deletion of business critical data?
Google and Microsoft are specialists in the field of hosting data securely. Not only is your data stored on multiple servers, it is replicated across geographical sites. This means that if any of their servers experience a hardware failure, or the site has a power cut or fire, your data is still available from another site. All of this means that any system failures or outages will be invisible to you, meaning no interruption or downtime to your productivity.
Also, as Cloud solution providers they are certified and compliant in various security protocols, data protection acts, and contracts guaranteeing the integrity and security of your data. Can you say the same about the server in your office? In short, it’s in their interests to ensure that your data is both safe and always available.
Also consider features already mentioned, including video chat, instant messaging, shared calendars, email and contacts, company websites, tracking changes in documents, plus the flexibility to do all of this while on the move. It is clear to see the benefits that these solutions can bring to your business.
4. Scale your IT along with your business
As your business grows, changes and flexes, ensuring your IT keeps up can be complex and very expensive. Gain more clients, take on more staff, or start more projects, and your IT grows too. More email servers, disks for storing data and the power to run it all, cost money and will need upgrading every few years. If your business shrinks, or you only need staff and resources for a short term project, you can’t then send all that new IT back. With the Cloud, you can.
As Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 charge per user / per month or year, they are scalable. Taking on new staff for a short term project? Just add extra users and pay only for the time you have them. When the project is complete and your temporary staff leave, you remove the user accounts and stop paying for them.
Email and data storage are automatically created when adding users but aren’t deleted when they leave. This means that you don’t lose emails or data created when they worked for you, and you can reallocate those emails and data to long term staff. These Cloud solutions really are as flexible as you need them to be.
5. Change Your IT Solution(s)
Ensure that your business is getting the best value it can from your technology. Many small businesses can’t afford, or don’t need a full time onsite IT person. Many, however, also “make do” with the traditional IT support method, which is also as follows:
- Your PC starts to run slowly, or doesn’t start up.
- You contact your local IT support, who attempt to trouble shoot and obtain more information about the problem.
- If they are unable to resolve the problem this way, they will redirect a ticket to the appropriate team (given the information they have) for resolution.
- Someone arrives and fixes the problem.
- An invoice follows, and includes a breakdown of costs plus VAT.
- Similar to needing an emergency plumber, you begrudgingly accept that the cost is a necessary evil.
As well as getting the most from your IT, you need to get the most from your service provider. You need to be clued up enough to know what questions to ask, so that you are made aware of anything you need to know, should the information not be offered at the time. For example, when negotiating a break / fix (you call them when something stops working, they come along and fix it) contract with your service provider, ask for a comparisons with a proactive monitoring solution which may save you money and provide the peace of mind that goes with knowing your service provider is acting in the best interests of your business.
How valuable would it be to you, if your IT guy was monitoring your systems and fixing any problems when they arise? How about if they did that without the need to visit your office? All this without you even knowing there were ever any problems until you were sent you a report that detailed exactly what they’d fixed that week/month/quarter/six months/year?
These reports can also used to spot trends, or show where improvements can be made. Those improvements may not lie in buying expensive hardware, but may be in changing the way you use your Technology. If they could do all of this for a monthly fee, it may turn out to be cheaper than the hourly rate you currently pay.
What if you didn’t have to sign up to lengthy contracts, but could go month to month, knowing that if you ever wanted to change or end the agreement you only had to give 30 days notice? That service provider would become a trusted advisor, working with you to enable your business to grow and be more profitable.
A good service provider or IT consultant will do all of these and more, with no obligations on your part, whilst developing continual improvements to the services they offer you.
Cloud evangelist Paul Goggin started Innovo Consulting with a mission to turn the perception of technology in the workplace as an expensive but necessary evil on its head. Innovo does this by working with small businesses to unleash the power, flexibility, and cost efficiencies the right technologies can bring, helping them change the way they work and compete with bigger competitors. Paul can be contacted on 07789 263 636.Website owner? Google+ is a complete no-brainer for you. Connect with me there now...