What small business owners need to know about investing in hosted services for their IT needs
Good news: more companies are now offering hosted services that include storage, productivity, content creation, and other types of software that will allow you to run the business the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. The bad news is that with so many choices, it is not impossible to pick hosted services or companies that do not help fulfil your objectives or worse rip you off.
In the UK, 99% of the businesses are considered as small and medium-sized enterprises. This simply means that if your firm belongs to this category, you are in a very competitive industry. In fact, it is so cutthroat that it is no longer enough that you have a website. The different hosted services, which you can now run conveniently and quickly through a cloud, can give you the competitive edge, saving you time, money, and people without compromising your business’s core functions.
Therefore, when you want to invest in hosted services, make sure you make it count by asking the following questions:
What are your needs?
One of the biggest challenges when you are running a small or even a medium business is money. You need to have cash flow and capital to keep yourself afloat, which also means you cannot simply allot your budget for something that is completely unnecessary.
It will surely help you a great deal if you perform an inventory of your own needs. Do you need accounting tools? Programs that can assist you in making invoices? Would you like to store massive data in the cloud?
Perhaps at some point you are going to need most, or even all, of them. But then again, when you are cash-strapped, the next best thing you can do is to learn how to prioritize.
Meanwhile, now that you have a better idea of what services you truly need, you can now select the most ideal bundle as well as start narrowing your choices by rejecting those that do not fulfil your needs.
Is your hosted services provider ready for your business’s growth?
While it is sensible to prefer hosted service providers that offer the best combination of price, features, customer support, agility, and accessibility, it is also equally important to find one that can truly be your partner as you grow your business.
In the UK, around 50% of the small businesses are not able to last beyond 5 years. While there are a considerable few who survive, they are having difficulty experiencing growth. Many factors cause their failure, but one of the biggest reasons is the lack of support.
But how can you measure support from your provider? Make sure that:
- The software you have chosen is placed in a very secure and well-maintained server or hosting centre.
- These programs are scalable, which means you can add more features or they can be easily customized as your needs grow and change over time.
- The software should be accessible anytime, anywhere, making you take advantage of one of the biggest benefits of having a hosted service
- They have security features in place, perhaps limiting the number of people who can use it or running authentication features
- Your hosted services provider must be able to match its technologies to your business growth that could encompass increase in number of employees, sophistication of internal processes, and changes in core functions.
- Apart from IT capability, business owners like you must select a hosted services provider that will be there for you when they are most needed. It is wise indeed to choose a provider that offers 24/7 technical support and other assistance options like email, live chats, video tutorials and user forum. The hosting service must be ready to assist you when something is off with the software.
How much does the service cost?
Be wary of companies offering cheap hosted services. More often than not, the saying that you get what you pay for rings true here. Very cheap services may mean compromising value-added or significant features including maintenance and security. It is also probable you’re stuck with software that you do not really need or you will have a difficulty customizing. Besides, it is not really the price that should matter but whether you are getting the best value for your money.
As we have pointed out, your IT is one of the many important cuts of the investment pie. Investing in a reliable hosted services provider to manage the technical requirements of running your business’s IT infrastructure is part of the scheme; you will then have more time in your hands to look at other areas to scale up your business.