How to Start a Business – Technology

If you are thinking of starting a new business or have just taken the plunge, Shortlands Computing can help advise you how best to set-up your technology. First, we are a growing small business ourselves and can speak from direct experience. Second, we are experts in IT for businesses just like yours!

As well as registering your company, sorting out finance, banking and branding all it can make your business more efficient and profitable to have the right vision for your technology. Here at Shortlands Computing we don’t try and persuade you to spend more than you need to. In fact, we often suggest low-cost and sometimes free options. But spending money on the right technology at the start of your journey can mean significantly lower bills not too far down the line.

It’s also hard to choose an IT consultant. How do you know they have the right skills and experience? One important factor is to make sure you are receiving independent advice. As well as a proven track record in helping businesses like yours locally, a good IT supplier will be familiar with technology from all suppliers such as Google, Microsoft and Apple. They should also be extremely familiar with all makes of PCs, Apple Macs, servers and the various cloud providers in the market today. Be careful if an IT supplier is linked to one product or company or offers a bundle of services they resell for a monthly fee. Their communication skills will be paramount too – can the explain complex options simply, in a way you can understand?

 

About Shortlands Computing

Strive for long-term, trusted partnerships with our customers. Recommend what’s in our customers best interests based on a deep knowledge of technology and deliver it smoothly.
To deliver on our promises.  To keep you fully informed.  To turn-up when we say we will. To refund our fees on any work you’re not happy with.
We are highly skilled in all technology so we solve problems fast. That saves you money.
Take a look at the testimonials on this page. If you want to speak to anyone quoted for more details on our business IT support services, just ask!

What Others Say

Robert is a minefield of IT information. ORB outsourced our IT business to Shortlands Computing 18 months ago and we haven’t looked back. Robert is extremely thorough and always looking to find the most suitable solution both in terms of budget and requirement. We have recommended him to other businesses and would do so again
J Heald, MD, ORB
Shortlands Computing advised Tresell on a new network and proposed sensible, good value options that have worked really well for my consulting business. They have also provided remote access support from time to time to resolve issues with my computers and printer set-up. I recommend Robert wholeheartedly
Jonathan Frances, Tresell
As an independent consultant, I needed easy access to my email remotely and on my phone. Shortlands Computing set everything up with the minimum of fuss. Robert provided great advice and now my IT helps and does not hinder me. I could not recommend Shortlands Computing enough – it has been a pleasure.
Kelly Smith, Independent Consultant
My laptop started to display worrying messages that I had been infected with a virus, then started to go really slow. I’m a teacher and needed my computer to prepare lessons. Shortlands Computing confirmed I had a virus then quickly repaired everything and had my laptop working again just the way it was before. A great, professional service.
Isabel Macdonald, Teacher
We run a small market research business with an office in central London and use Shortlands Computing to manage all aspects of our IT. Robert provides a rapid and very efficient service and in the last few months alone has managed to salvage 2 laptops from viruses. He has also set-up a cloud server as well as our emails and we would have no hesitation in recommending him to other businesses.
Matt Brooks, BPR Pharma
Shortlands Computing manage and support our technology including servicing our Apple Macs, call centre servers, and PDAs that support our global field operations. The service is very responsive, professional and an excellent value. We get good advice that leads to flexible solutions. Robert is a joy to work with and is one of the most dedicated consultants we’ve had.
Cara Carter, MD, ORB US
Shortlands Computing supports our veterinary practice and we have asked them to install printers, set-up tax software and remove viruses from a computer. They provide a great service. We are very impressed and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others.
Stephanie Gilmore, Parish Lane Vet Surgery

IT checklist if you are starting a new business

As a new business start-up here’s our checklist of what you should be thinking about:

For people starting a new business this is perhaps the most obvious technology question to ask, but in some ways it’s the easiest to answer. Pretty much any computer you choose today will do what you want so don’t worry too much about the technical specification. If you do want up-to-date advice on this pick up the phone and we’ll be happy to tell you the latest specification we’d recommend for free!

However, you will need to think about whether a laptop or desktop is best for you. If you are office-based desktop computer are generally best as they are a bit cheaper, faster and offer a significantly more comfortable working environment with better keyboards, mice and screens.

Fairly obviously, if you travel then a laptop makes good sense. If your budget can stretch to this consider both a laptop and desktop. That way if one has issues then you can keep up and running. Having a spare computer in your business is generally a really sensible idea as unfortunately, computers do go wrong.

We love Apple computers and 25% of our customers use them, but for a new business where costs are so important we would suggest a Windows PC is preferable. Windows based PCs are generally better-value and Microsoft Office on Windows is still the best. Office for Mac isn’t quite as good. Also, as your business grows having a Microsoft platform gives more options.

This is really important! Do get two displays unless you really don’t have the space. Most computers can power two displays and it makes a huge difference to productivity. Of all the recommendations we make to our customers, this is the easiest and by far gets the most positive feedback. By far!

Until quite recently, the only practical way people starting a new business could share files was through a local server. This meant access to company files was only available in the office. When travelling companies were forced to adopt strategies such as copying the files to a local computer, and then copying the edited files back to the server upon return to the office.

However, things have changed recently when it comes to file sharing. For people today starting a new business, there are lots of large, reputable organisations offering a service where company files are stored both on local computers and in the cloud (or in other words a computer on the internet). Every time someone updates a shared file, it gets synchronised to all the computers and the cloud. So if you are travelling without internet access and you change a file, the next time you are online the changes automatically get copied to the right places. Even better, this takes care of some aspects of backup and some of the services allow you to go back in time to restore old versions of files is you change something by mistake.

More details on cloud file sharing can be found below.

For new businesses whose employees tend to spent most time in a particular location it can make sense to install a low-cost server. This provides better security and fast performance when accessing files. We specialise in combining low-cost reliable servers with cloud file sharing so that you get the best of both worlds.

These days regular computers are so powerful they can easily act as a “server”. For 5 or so people files can be shared reliably using a relatively low powered desktop. We are experts in configuring very reliable, secure software on local low-powered and very effective servers. Network Attached Storage (NAS) is another sensible, good-value option for a new business. NAS provides better protection against hardware failures by spreading your important files across many hard drives so if one fails (which the do from time to time) your data is protected. NAS devices can also be combined with a low-cost computer to provide an extremely stable and flexible “virtual server” that provides excellent protection and grows with your business. Even better much of the software is free!

For our larger customers with 10-50 employees we also install and support Microsoft servers and locally hosted email but for the vast majority of start-ups this is overkill and the costs rarely are justified.

There’s a huge difference between the email that comes free with your ISP and business class products. Business class email is much more reliable and synchronises seamlessly with all your computers and mobile devices. Business class email is also better at controlling spam and viruses, many of which are transmitted by email. Moreover, it also allow you to keep all your contacts, calendars and tasks completely in-sync between your mobile devices, tablets, laptops and office computers. So if you add a contact in your iPhone or Android Phone it’s automatically available in Outlook on your laptop.

In the past this high quality product meant a significant investment in an email server for people starting a new business but today you can rent a business class email product from a range of low-cost reliable providers.

All of these work seamlessly with the same address as your website.

Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps are very capable products. Depending on your business, it can also make good sense to rent an email account from an independent organisation.

Finally, the choice of email provider is very linked to the choice of cloud file provider as for example, Office 365 and Google Apps provides both.

Backup is so important and so often overlooked. You can lose your data in so many ways including spilling a nice hot Latte over your computer or a virus that deleted or encrypts your files. Or you might make a mistake and delete them yourself. Or your computer might fail, the office could have a fire or you could be the victim of a burglary. Sorry to go on!

The good news is that backup today is so easy with many very effective services that automatically backup your files to a secure backup on the cloud. So if one of the unpleasant things we list above were to happen recovery is as easy as logging onto a website and downloading your files to your new computer.

One of the best standalone backup products to look at is Carbonite and here’s a link to their website

However, there is quite a bit of overlap between cloud file sharing services and standalone backup so before deciding it’s best to consider both.

Creating a powerful new website isn’t a simple task and getting it right requires input from people with different skills and strengths. Shortlands Computing can build web sites, like this one for example, however we more often manage the process to help you bring the right design, SEO and content production skills together. That saves you time by carefully planing and organising the work. Creating or updating your site will involve a range of suppliers and we can help you with independent advice so you understand what’s involved and pick the best options for your business goals.

We typically coordinate:

  • The content production. At the end of the day, the words and messages on the site will come from your team as no one else understands your business well enough. But that takes precious time and the way to minimise that is through clear responsibilities and great planning. That’s where we help.
  • The web designer who will build the sites look and feel
  • The choice or production of images, video and other media
  • The search engine optimisation work to get your site ranked high in Google and other search engines
We can also provide advice and support with:
 
 
 

  • Choosing and installing accounting software
  • Sales lead management and CRM options
  • Easy to use tools and software that can really improve your productivity
  • Business process efficiency
  • Managing office set-ups and networking
  • Reliable internet and wireless networking

Call us today for a no-obligation chat – we offer new businesses initial consultation completely free.

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Cloud file sharing – more details

One of the most important aspects of business technology is securely and reliably sharing files between employees. Until quite recently, the only practical way a business could share files was through a local server. This meant access to company files was only available in the office. When travelling companies were forced to adopt strategies such as copying the files to a local computer, and then copying the edited files back to the server upon return to the office.

However, things have changed recently when it comes to file sharing. There are lots of large, reputable organisations offering a service where company files are stored both on local computers and in the cloud (or in other words a computer on the internet). Every time someone updates a shared file, it gets synchronised to all the computers and the cloud. So if you are travelling without internet access and you change a file, the next time you are online the changes automatically get copied to the right places. Even better, this takes care of some aspects of backup and some of the services allow you to go back in time to restore old versions of files is you change something by mistake.

Here’s a list of some of the major offerings. It isn’t comprehensive, but it gives a few links so you can explore what’s on offer. It’s in alphabetical order, not in order of preference. These are all reliable, reputable services, although being technology all are subject to glitches from time to time e.g. slow to sync. We do have well informed views on strengths and weaknesses and can advise businesses on what’s best for them given their particular needs.

Starting a new business - DropboxDropbox has been around for a long time and is very tried and tested. It’s one of the most straightforward, reliable services and is particularly good if your business has a mix of PCs and Macs. Dropbox for Teams now has huge storage and the ability to protect your files if someone leaves your organisation. Dropbox is increasingly integrated into Office 365, one of the leading business class email products. One thing to note is there is no option to backup files outside Dropbox.
Starting a new business - Google Drive Google Drive is a relatively new service and growing fast. It can be part of the Google business email product or just a stand-alone file sharing service. Google Drive has may options for granular control over who shares what. It had some issues initially with the sync client crashing when the network connection is poor and a few other issues, but it’s vastly improved now and a very capable product. Google Drive allows documents to be edited online by multiple people and is the obvious choice if you use Google Apps for email.
Starting a new business - Livedrive Livedrive is a powerful file sharing and backup solution. It allows very granular controls over who shares what and includes a way to back-up all the files on computers even when they are not shared. Livedrive started in the UK and has only UK based data centres, unlike the other suppliers here who generally store copies of files across the world.
Starting a new business - Office 365OneDrive for Business is part of the powerful Office 365 product that provides business email. OneDrive Professional is highly configurable and can sync files to computers to allow access when on the move. OneDrive Professional is slightly more complex to configure than other providers and is actually a front end for Microsoft’s Sharepoint product. It’s a great option now and some versions provide up to five copies of the full Office 2013 desktop suite for each user.
Starting a new business - SugarSync
Sugarsync is most similar to Dropbox in concept with the added ability to backup files not being synchronised. It also allows files to be syncronised from many places across your computer unlike Dropbox which creates its own folder.