Buying new technology for your business or adding to what you already have can seem intimidating. How can you find equipment to do the job you need? And what's the best way to ensure the tech you buy will be compatible with your existing IT infrastructure?
Do you have a business IT system already?
If you're starting a new business or your company has no existing technology in place, you're in a strong position because you can build an IT system that fits your needs exactly.
However, it's more likely that you have some IT already, which leaves you with two options:
- Ditch what you have and start from scratch. This sounds like a good option if your existing business IT system is outdated or completely unsuited to your requirements.
However, in practice, this may prove challenging. It involves considerable disruption and may mean managing without any business system during the changeover. It’ll also require investment for which you may not have accounted.
- Upgrade or extend your existing computer system. Because hardware and software is fairly standard, it's usually possible to build on what you have. This is the best option for most companies.
For instance, a growing business could replace old PCs with laptop or tablet computers to introduce mobile working, add extra devices for new employees and upgrade to the latest web-based software while keeping the same office server and networking equipment.
What do you need from your new IT system?
When buying a IT device for your business, let your choice be guided by your specific working needs. Avoid making impulse purchases without proper consideration.
Think about what you can afford, too. Be realistic when setting your IT budget and be sure to understand the long-term implications as well as the short-term impact on your cash flow.
For instance, it may be tempting to buy cheap printers to save money. But the cheapest printers often need the most expensive ink - so over time you'll lose more than you saved.
This pattern will repeat itself with most pieces of technology. Typically, you'll spend more on maintaining and managing them than you will on the initial purchase. Make sure your budget reflects this.
Where to purchase a business IT system
There are two main ways to purchase a new system:
- Work with an external supplier. A good supplier will be able to help establish your requirements, look at what you're using currently, then recommend a solution to fit your needs.
- Do everything yourself. That means researching your IT requirements in-house, then buying and setting up everything you need. It's a lot of work and therefore usually best for companies with in-house IT staff.
Make full use of expert advice to understand how technology can help you work more efficiently. An external supplier can be an excellent source of advice, particularly to help you make choices about new products and the best cloud computing and mobile devices.
However, it's really important to involve your employees at every stage. They'll help you understand what the priorities for a new system should be.
Make your new IT system compatible
Unless you are starting with a clean slate, you will need to ensure any new equipment or software is compatible with your existing setup.
Test hardware and software before rolling it out across your business. Upgrading software or opting for new web-based versions can be particularly problematic; you may find older computer hardware doesn't support new software, or that new software can't open some of your existing files.
If you've changed or upgraded software, your employees may require training or help to use it properly. Budget time and money for this too, because it's no good having the latest applications if nobody knows how to use them properly.