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Five tech essentials for startups

10 June 2015

In a startup, budgets are a constant concern. Controlling expenses often makes sense, but don’t forget the value side of the equation. A Facebook page is free, but in most cases, the benefits of being able to customise a website to your exact requirements outweigh the costs.

Similarly, using an accounting package entails an investment; however, the time you save by automating billing processes will make it preferable to managing your finances in a spreadsheet. Reconciling a balance sheet in Excel is not only wearing on your nerves, but the inevitable errors put your brand’s reputation on the line.

So in the spirit of shrewd thriftiness, we’ve compiled a list of tools for the launch of your startup that won’t break the bank.

1. Website A Facebook page might be acceptable for the early stages of a venture. However, if you’re serious about establishing credibility, a website is essential. Services such as those offered by Wix and Weebly are affordable even on tight budgets and their template approach will deliver a satisfactory result quickly. For online selling, the requirements are a bit more involved and are covered separately in our previous post on the topic.

Of course the flipside of the ease and convenience of a pre-fabricated site is the lack of customisation. When differentiation of your company and products becomes crucial, it’s time to consider a bespoke website.

2. Virtual Phone Number It’s important to be available to clients, but putting your mobile phone number on to a business card could mean taking calls at all hours of the day (and night). On the other hand, adding a landline is costly and entails constant juggling of forwarded numbers to avoid missed calls when you’re outside. A smarter plan is to buy a virtual number from a VOIP provider, such as Skype or Google Voice. Give this number to clients and they can reach you regardless of your location - even a different country - as long as you have an internet connection. And all for less than the cost of a landline.

3. Office Software As much as technology has revolutionised communications, there’s still no getting away from e-mail and spreadsheets. Not to mention e-mails containing multitudes of spreadsheets. So until some genius figures a better way to distribute quarterly budgets, productivity software is here to stay.

Microsoft is the name on most people’s lips when office software is mentioned, but is notoriously expensive. Luckily, you don’t need to look hard to find a low- or even no-cost alternative. Open Office is a free option and comes in both Mac and Windows versions.However, even though Open Office plays well with Word and Excel files, it still suffers from the drawback of desktop software.

Where cloud-based solutions shine is it removes the hassle of frequent software updates. As an added bonus, it’s accessible from any internet-connected device. And because files are stored online, sharing is as easy as posting a web link.

The big players in this space are G Suite and Office 365, with the former bundling everyone’s favourite e-mail service in its offering and the latter likely to appeal to MS Office veterans.

4. File-Backup System They say that the best backup is the one you take just before your hard drive fails. We can't always be so lucky, but we can be prepared. Data management isn’t going to be at the top of an entrepreneur’s to-do list, but information is vital to any business: lose it and operations will be compromised. So it’s important to have at least a basic contingency plan.

If you've already signed up for G Suite, good news: 30GB of storage is available to each user for keeping safe critical documents. Otherwise, Dropbox, Backblaze et al. offer online storage as a standalone option.

Of course, there's always the DIY approach. The combination of a roomy external hard drive and backup software should meet most startups' needs. Just remember to keep offsite copies of archives as well, in case the unexpected happens.

5. Espresso Machine Some might consider coffee a frivolous luxury. They are wrong. A Francis Francis X1 is indisputably essential to the proper function of any self-respecting startup.

 

Photo credit: Todd Quackenbush