Such is the impact of information technology (IT), that nowadays it's hard to imagine what we would do without it. There can't be many firms in the UK, however small, that don't use it in some way. Many businesses simply couldn't exist without IT
The business benefits of technology
IT makes everyday business management and admin tasks simpler and quicker - from communication, marketing and selling to keeping accounts.
In many ways, the quality of products and services has improved massively as a result of IT, while the technological and cultural shift computers have brought has created a wealth of new commercial opportunities.
The net result, of course, is that the humble yet mighty microprocessor has made many businesses more efficient and profitable.
Buying IT for your business
Before you can buy your first IT system, you need to have a good idea of what you want to use it for.
Take some time to compile a list of tasks that an IT system could help you with. This is worth doing, even if you're just planning to buy a solitary laptop.
Once your business is up and running then you'll probably start to identify additional ways in which you can use technology. Don't try and anticipate them all at the start but do keep flexibility in mind when making purchasing decisions.
For instance, you may wish to consider how mobile devices - like tablets and smart phones - can make you more efficient. Cloud computing services can also be particularly useful for new companies, because they don't require you to make a large upfront investment in software.
Most new firms don't require highly sophisticated or expensive IT. Even fairly basic technology, available on the high street, offers greater functionality than many small firms need.
Suitably enough, the best deals on IT can often be found online, but you need to know what you're doing buying before you buy. If you're unsure, seek advice.
At the very least, speak to a friend or contact who has some technical knowledge. If you're planning a more major purchase (for instance, several computers with a server or network), it's almost certainly worth finding a trustworthy IT supplier.
Once you've made your purchase, you must keep your equipment and data safe. There are many threats (online crime is an increasing problem) and it doesn't pay to take chances.
Net gains for businesses
Can you really afford to run your business without having a website? For most businesses - no matter how small - the answer is 'no'.
People's buying decisions are heavily influenced by websites, and more of us than ever buy online, attracted by convenience and price.
A website provides a cost-effective platform to promote your business and sell products or services, round the clock. You even have the potential to reach a global customer base.
These days, you can create a business website even if you're on a budget. Template-based website builder packages allow you to develop a site without having to worry about the underlying computer code.
Having said that, if you can afford it then paying someone to build your website may result in a more polished, effective online presence.
To attract visitors to your website, you can promote it to existing customers and use search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to get noticed by Google and other search engines.
Finally, don't forget that if you plan to sell and accept payment online, there are laws you must be aware of.
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