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Right Size: 5 Ways for startups to stretch their IT budgets

In today’s marketplace, a company lives and dies by its ability to take advantage of modern communication technology. The demand for good tech has created a huge market of computer manufacturers, social network platforms and online communication suites. Small or new businesses often find themselves facing a deluge of options, each one with a different price tag. Since these types of businesses don’t often have the financial resources of their larger cousins, the right technology for the right price is more valuable than ever.

Josh Linton, vice president of technology at Utah-based IT solutions firm VLCM, addresses some of the questions about where and how to get the most bang for your IT buck.

  1. Assess technology’s influence on your business

With the vast array of both hardware and software that is available to today’s business owner, it’s easy to get in over your head when choosing the technology package that is going to be right for your product. To avoid this, Linton recommends having a solid understanding of how your tech is going to serve your product.

“Companies have to decide whether they’re going to purchase their equipment as a capital expense or keep it as a lease through a subscription,” says Linton. Both are feasible options—the subscription path allows companies to be adaptable and aggressive from the beginning, and the purchasing path rewards those whose plans are a bit more conservative. Find the plan that best aligns with your business goals and move forward.

  1. Find a budget percentage that you can live with

Today’s tech market is known for its versatility. IT solutions are widespread and reasonably priced, so, with a little legwork, it’s possible to stretch any budget percentage to its full potential.

“The biggest problem that we run into is with those who have left no budget for IT,” Linton says, “As long as they have something, they can provide the data and it can become pretty fluid.” Part of that budget should include plans for technology upgrades and pursuing innovation.

“You have to be prepared to spend money on new technology every year. Something will always change, and you have to adapt to that change in order to stay ahead of your competitors,” Linton says.

  1. Make vendors work for you

There are hundreds of places to go and buy a computer. The trickier part of that equation is making sure it’s hardware that will most efficiently provide for your needs. If your up-and-coming business is actually more of a hobby, there’s no need to look into the comprehensive IT packages that VLCM provides. “If it’s an ultra-small, one-person business, you’re probably fine getting a computer at Costco and throwing Quickbooks on there.” Linton says.

But if you’re on top of a data-heavy startup that has great potential for expansion, you’ll want a more tailored setup. “If your goal is to build a company, then you want to find someone who can help support you through this growth,” Linton says. “Our biggest problem is when we get into businesses that have five to 10 people all running a Costco machine. Then we get into trouble.”

  1. Adapt to the obstacles that you can’t avoid

Since there’s no “silver bullet” approach for getting a reliable and efficient IT department up and running, unforeseen struggles and obstacles are bound to appear—many of which are inherent to IT as a field. “In IT, experience is valuable,” Linton says, “But it can work against you. If you’ve hired someone to build your network and they do a great job, they become worth double what you’re paying them.”

As best as possible, find ways to adapt to challenges like these by incentivizing those who maintain your tech with an extraordinary working environment.

  1. Invest in mobile software and hardware

“If you’re investing in a new software that doesn’t support mobile, then you’re investing in software that is behind today’s technology curve,” Linton says. Advanced smartphones and tablets have made it more convenient to conduct business online, and it’s now something that customers expect. Access to mobile devices in the workplace is something that the younger workforce is also coming to see as a regular fixture at the workplace. Mobile-friendly means business-friendly.