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About The Author
Alex Viall is the Managing Director of Mustard IT Support, offering IT services to companies based in London, UK. With 18 years of industry experience, he started out as a field engineer and has been involved in setting up and managing companies’ technology infrastructure ever since.
If you were to ask me if it’s possible to set up your own startup office with the necessary technology, I’d say sure, it is entirely possible – and you may even save a little money.
If you were to ask me do I think it is worth the effort and time you’d need to put in, the answer would be a resounding no.
Unless you’re an IT and data management specialist, you’re probably not sure what you’re about to attempt. I want to show you just some of the challenges of setting up business level tech, and one very easy way to avoid the following list of headaches.
I have detailed below the most common list of mistakes I see new businesses make when installing office technology. These challenges can be divided into four separate categories.
If you want to establish your own hardware (computers, cable, modems, routers etc), there will be a significant financial outlay. Add more costs for establishing your business Wi-Fi network, security and the potential need for regular upgrades, and you’ve got yourself a money pit. Setting up your own networks and security can take weeks from the first call to your chosen provider (you did all the research to find the best one, right?). Do you really need that extra stress? Can you afford the time away from growing your business?
Often business data packages come with a 24 month contract. As a start up, you know that you need to be nimble and adapt to change quickly. Can you accurately predict your data requirements for the next two years? I’m not sure any start up can accurately predict where they will be in 24 months’ time.
Can you afford to pay someone to maintain your network? Again, if you’re not an expert, you’ll need to find someone who is.
Your internet connection might feel like an invisible force, but there will be some challenges you face in physically setting up your networks. If you’re fitting out a new office, you’ll need to install enough ports and power points for wired connections to get the fastest speeds. This means enough for your current demands, but also enough to support you as your business grows – and that can be difficult to predict.
Power surges can destroy your hardware. You are literally one lightning strike away from losing everything. Make sure there are modern surge suppressors installed or try a workaround with protected power strips. Quality can vary so you’ll need to do research and vet your suppliers.
Locating your modems in alcoves, near metal infrastructure or concrete columns can interrupt the quality of the WiFi signal. Ensure they are placed in spaces that are not impeded by physical ‘line of sight’ barriers.
The further away you are from your modem the more your connection will slow down. This can be mitigated, which we’ll discuss next.
Once you’ve taken the costs and physical obstacles into account, you’ll figure out the technology itself. Often consumer grade routers are probably not up to the task of supporting your growing business. You’ll rarely reach the download speeds advertised, as these are calculated for one domestic user only. Don’t forget that speeds degrade the further away you are from the router.
How many routers will you need? The modern employee often has a desktop, mobile device and sometimes a tablet, too. What about your wireless printer? You could easily be looking at 10-15 connections even for a small team. You’ll need to calculate how much data you’ll be drawing down and supply enough connections (don’t forget that voice, video and streaming are data-intensive).
Data security is vital in today’s tech-heavy environment. It might be easier not to think about it, or assume that your small start up won’t be a target. Unfortunately, it’s not just the big guns that are the target of data hacking or malicious intrusions. Hackers can take consumer data, damage your networks and ruin trust. It’s not always motivated by money either – disgruntled ex-employees, politically-motivated groups and anyone else with a vested interest in your failure can do a lot of damage once they have access.
Protecting your data starts with physical security. Will you have video surveillance and security lighting at your office? Are there visitor controls that restrict access to hardware? Will you have data protection and privacy policies in place?
Now you can start thinking about your data encryption. You’ll need anti-virus software, and secure data storage. Will each employee have a personal login? How will you manage password control? How strong is the protection on your Wi-Fi networks? What happens if you have a guest or contractor that needs access? All of this needs to be considered. It can be complex and really should be kept up to date.
How can you avoid all of these headaches?
Spend your time and money building your business, not stressing over tech and security. The easiest solution is to walk into an office space provider or co-working space that’s designed for startups just like yours. You’ll have access to the latest hardware and software. Your data will be secure, reliable and fast. If you have a problem or a question, there’s staff on hand to help you out.
Co-working spaces are scalable, too. This means that you can expand or contract your workforce without worrying about sourcing upgrades or incurring additional expenses. Finally, it’s cost effective – you don’t just have tech support, but a professional working space and a community environment that’s ready to help you grow your business.