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How to choose the right computer equipment for your business to increase your productivity and efficiency without it costing the earth.

Business software helps you complete a range of tasks. Choose the right software, provide support and train your staff with our introduction.

It is highly likely that you depend on the internet for some aspects of your business. Find out how you can use the internet more effectively.

Good communication with customers, partners and suppliers is vital for business success. This summary explores business communication methods.

How would you cope if your IT system failed or was breached? We cover the main IT security issues and how to protect against them.

Good IT management can help you choose, use and implement IT. Our overview helps you manage IT in a way that maximises the return on your investment.

IT support is vital if you rely on your IT system. But how can you set up an effective safety net in case things go wrong? We explore the options.

Getting the right IT is just the first step. Appropriate training, policies and working practices can help you maximise return on your IT investment.

Buy and manage IT

Managing your company's technology effectively and making wise IT purchasing decisions will help set your business up for success.

However, too many organisations spend cash on new IT equipment which is poorly chosen. Many more waste effort fixing problems which could have been avoided through good business IT management.

There are a number of reasons for taking a structured approach to purchasing and managing IT in your business:

  • Buy IT equipment that's right for the long term. When you make a purchase to address an immediate problem, you can end up causing more issues further down the line. It's important to take a more considered approach to your business technology.
  • Use software and services that work together. As cloud services have grown popular, it's become easier to share data across your business. The right combination of software, hardware and other services can provide additional opportunities and flexibility.
  • Get more from your IT equipment. The purpose of IT management is to make sure your business uses IT efficiently and effectively. It should make your staff and processes more efficient, delivering a significant return on your investment.
  • Plan and control costs. The cost of purchasing and managing technology can quickly spiral out of control, unless you set up an IT budget and start to anticipate major costs.
  • Reduce the risks you face. Good IT management helps you reduce risks. For instance, you can replace key equipment before it fails, or upgrade your hardware in anticipation of a software update.

IT management starts with your business plan

The most common IT management mistake is to start with the technology. Rather than get caught up in the latest gadgets and cutting edge kit, it's important to take a step back and consider your business plan.

Technology represents a signficant investment for your business - both in money and in time. To maximise that investment, you need to be sure the technology you choose is going to help achieve your business objectives.

For instance, you might want to purchase tablet computers for your key staff. But before you do so, are you sure they'll be able to get work done using them? Will they allow your people to access all the resources they need on the move?

At the most basic level, you must always consider whether a proposed investment in new IT equipment, software or services will benefit your company. To do this, construct a clear set of IT requirements, describing what you want to do with your IT system.

Responsibilities should be clear

It's easier to buy and manage technology inside a clear structure, with strong business leadership.

Make sure someone in your business is responsible for overseeing IT management. They must understand your business plan and objectives so they can make recommendations appropriately.

If you are not fulfilling this role yourself, make sure the people who are have sufficient authority to put together a procurement plan, IT budget and maintenance procedures. Their job isn't just to place an order when you say you need a new laptop; they should be able to improve how your business manages its technology.

Whoever is in charge of your IT management should have some IT expertise. You will also need to give them the time stay up-to-date with changes in the IT industry (after all, taking advantage of a new technology early could give you a competitive advantage).

It's usually a good idea to turn to external partners for assistance and information. One of the best sources of advice can be a good IT supplier. If your business lacks in-house expertise, it's particularly important you build a good relationship with them.

IT management and your IT budget

Technology can be quite expensive, but what many businesses fail to realise is that ongoing management costs can dwarf the purchase price of a piece of IT equipment.

Subscription-based cloud services and software mean the days of big, one-off purchases are fading. Companies increasingly pay monthly fees for the technology they use.

All this means that budgeting is important. When planning your IT purchases and management, create and maintain an IT budget which makes provision for IT expansion, maintaining existing systems and replacing obsolete equipment.

Good IT management means not viewing your IT budget in isolation. Technology is a crucial part of your business infrastructure, so your IT management needs to tie in with your overall company budget and business plan.