Most businesses these days require IT infrastructure to operate efficiently; offices will generally require more substantial hardware. Whatever your industry, analysing your IT needs is essential to keep costs down and ensure all hardware and software meets your requirements in the long-term.
Office environments will need network infrastructure in order for staff to access shared environments, printers and the building’s internet connection. Consulting a network support company is your best bet as they’ll be able to advise you on the best way to connect up your office. You’ll need not only a central server and switches (boxes that allow computers to communicate with each other) but also potentially Ethernet cabling through the walls if it’s not been set up. Create a floor plan and work out where your computers will sit before speaking to a professional.
Computers for staff will be an essential hardware requirement; the options you choose will depend on the type of user, their computing knowledge and a range of other factors. Read our guide to choosing computers for your business for more information. Other hardware will include printers, screens and perhaps photocopiers and scanners. There are a range of options available; you may choose network printers that allow anyone in the office to print from one device, keeping costs down.
Depending on your industry you may need specialist software such as graphic design suites or video production software. These can often be expensive, particularly if you are looking to deploy them on multiple machines. Even operating systems and Office suites (such as Microsoft Office) can be expensive when you have to buy them separately for multiple machines. Make a list of all your software requirements so you can total up the cost and factor this into your budget. Don’t forget to include an accountancy package if you won’t be hiring an accountant. Consider the benefits of open-source software if you want to keep costs down; many commercial programmes now have very powerful open-source variants.
Redundancy is very important when using computers; hard drive failure could ruin your business if a substantial amount of client data is stored digitally. If you require off-site hardware then this must be factored into your IT budget although there are now online backup solutions that can store business data securely. Companies working in specific industries may have off-site technology needs; web design companies, for example, may require data centre servers in order to host client websites.
Internet connections are essential for offices. Most other businesses may benefit from internet connectivity for research and basic functions such as online business banking. The type of connection you require will depend on your industry, the number of staff and the activities the connection will be used for. Please read our full guide to choosing a business broadband connection for more information.
Because telephone networks are often connected with internet access it’s important to consider your telephony needs when setting up a network. There are a range of options available depending on your needs; you may require an internal communication system if the office is split over several floors. Alternatively you may look into VoIP technologies to see if you effectively use your broadband connection to make calls rather than install a traditional telephony network. Your network support firm should be able to advise on the most cost-effective way to meet your telephony needs.