Buying new technology for your business or adding to what you already have can seem intimidating. How can you ensure you get equipment to do the job you need? And what's the best way to check what you buy will be compatible with your existing computer system?
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 This sounds like a good option if your existing business computer system is outdated or completely unsuited to your requirements.
However, in practice this will probably prove impossible. It involves enormous disruption and may mean managing without any business computer system during the change over. It's also very expensive.
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 computers for new employees and upgrade to the latest software while keeping the same office server and networking equipment.
When buying a computer for your business, let your choices 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 out 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.
There are two main ways to purchase a new computer system:
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 emerging technology such as 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.
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 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 well 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.