When starting or growing your company, one of the main costs is the office, warehouse, service and administrative equipment. The hardware can be a big expense in itself, but there there are the additional costs of all the licenses for the software.
Firstly we recommend that all business owners establish what their needs are. Have a meeting with the ‘key players’ to understand what is needed in terms of networking, printing software and compatibility of software. Some organizations cope perfectly well with versions of Linux (for example the very popular Ubuntu), but what happens if issues such as document formatting mean that Microsoft Office would be the preferred package? Think about the impact if all your clients and suppliers use MS Office. Also, consider other systems and software that communicate on the network. If you are a retail business, do you need a computer that is specifically for printing and arranging shipping? If so, do the shipping company provide their won software and what are the system requirements to run this?
Linux distributions such as Ubuntu have many free pieces of software that are more than good enough for most companies. Examples of this are the Open Office Suit and Libra Office. Some Linux applications are able to emulate a Windows environment. However, we have found than many programs are still incompatible.
Consider security, anti-virus and firewalls etc. What is needed? How encrypted does the data need to be. For example, in the healthcare industry patient details need to be very secure.
From the meeting, write down your needs. Find a suitable IT company to support you through your installation and upgrade projects. Use the model of getting it right first time. Technology mistakes can be very costly.