For more of the past dozen years I’ve led or been a part of a number of startups. Regardless of the startup, its niche, or the number of people, one thing has been universally true: IT planning was ad hoc, off the cuff, and chaotic (at best). Lots of startups don’t have the money to pay for managed IT services, but what if they could?
Here’s how I’d help a my last startup succeed using managed IT services (at least philosophically).
You’d think this would go without saying, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked at a company in the past dozen years that took backing up machines seriously. Me? Oh I back that sh*t up. Like a local copy plus copies in two different cloud services. Overkill? Maybe, but it’s saved my tushie at least a half dozen times from “oops, I shouldn’t have deleted that” to “umm, why isn’t my computer booting” and “sure I’ll try the newest beta of OS X…”.
Cloud backup services are cheap and plentiful so there is no excuse not to use them. My first step would be finding a good backup provider and making sure all the people who are working at the company are backing stuff up.
When you’re working at a startup, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is almost a given. People bring their own gear because this newborn company can’t afford to buy people machines. Not a problem, except…
Lots of people have critical data on personal machines that could walk out the door at pretty much any time.
The way to counter this is to pick a cloud file service—Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive—and make everyone save their files there under a company, business-grade account (best) or a system to shared folders on personal accounts (workable). Putting files in the cloud works as a secondary form of back up and, if everyone adheres to the shared folders only rule, a way to minimize disruption when someone leaves.
The days of getting your own servers to run and manage things like email, your CRM, even accounting, are long gone. Email, host it with Google or Outlook or … just anything but trying to manage email servers yourself. The solutions offered by many webhosts aren’t going to cut it. You need someone like Google or Microsoft providing anti-spam, anti-virus, and user control. CRM? Salesforce might be too much to start with, but there are alternatives that work well for smaller companies.
For anything you need for your business, there is a SaaS app to do the job. Invest in picking the right tool for you (at least the right tool for right now, needs do change over time) and don’t waste time with self-hosted or installed applications that are core to your business.
Speaking of SaaS apps, don’t cheap out and try to share one Salesforce account or one Dropbox for Business account. I’ve seen no end of grief that’s caused by several people trying to use the same account. For services (like Mailchimp) where you need a master account, keep that for only admin tasks and let everyone else have a their own login connected to the account.
Why is this important? Turnover.
Say you share a Salesforce account for the whole company. Most of the time it works, then someone leaves in a huff and before you remember to change the password on the account, all your CRM data is deleted. Oh it happens. Believe me. Having sub-accounts lets you quickly lock someone out without needing to change a password to an account that everyone shares (and needing to tell everyone).
Maybe the only time I’d suggest putting stuff into spreadsheets is keeping track of all the technology you use. Maybe have the passwords encrypted somewhere else, but a sheet with service, admin login name, plan type, what credit card the subscription is on, and any other details you might need. Part of this is good record keeping, the other part is having a way too see the tools you’re using (and under-using). If you’re not using Asana much any more, why are you paying for it? Hmm, we had Evernote for Business when we had a bunch of hard-core Evernote users, we don’t anymore…
The biggest lesson here is that just because you’re running a startup and doing a lot by the seat of your pants (which is normal), doesn’t mean that you get a pass on taking your technology seriously. Starting out on the right foot isn’t hard, isn’t expensive, and worth the extra ten minutes it takes to get done.
Managed IT services is all about taking technology seriously. It’s about putting time and effort into one of the most important parts of your business—the technology it runs on. For companies with about 50 and more, letting someone come in and put your technology house in order is one of the best investments you can make.
And if you can’t make the investment right now, at least invest the time to start off on the right track.