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- Work out what are your 'must have' and 'nice to have' features
- Look at your computer, printer and storage device requirements
- Choose the right solutions for your computer
Business hardware such as computers, data storage devices and software packages are meant to make running your business easier. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The lists and questions below will help you choose between the huge range of technologies and configurations to achieve your business goals.
1. Write a 'must have' and 'nice to have' list
For any piece of hardware or software that you are looking to purchase - create a list of the features you’d like it to have and separate it into two categories - ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’. You can list this in your marketing plan.
Your ‘must have’ list should be short and outline the features that are absolutely necessary for your business. This 'must have' list will align with your digital strategy. The ‘nice to have’ list can be much broader and features should be listed in order of importance, encompassing all of the capabilities that will make running your business easier.
Here are some general questions to ask yourself:
- what are your reasons for buying it?
- who is going to run and maintain it?
- will the hardware need to integrate with any other devices?
Consider the Cloud
Business technology changes all the time. While it's not always good advice to get the 'next best thing', the well-established trend to 'cloud computing' is something you could consider when making your list. Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet such as infrastructure, platforms and software. Cloud computing normally includes:
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), e.g. servers for storing files, customer data and emails
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), e.g. GoogleApps
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), e.g. accounting platforms Xero and Sassu
2. Computers, printers and data storage devices
When trying to find the best fit for your business, it's important you ask yourself the right questions, so here are a few to consider:
- who will be using the computer? What will they be using it for? How often will it be used?
- where will the computer be used? Do you have enough space for a traditional desktop?
- could you consider other options like notebooks, tablets or all-in-ones (eg. iMac)?
- do you need a single function printer or multifunction printer? Do you need colour?
- how will you connect to the printer? Do you have access to a Wi-Fi network?
- what level of output and speed do you need? How often do you print?
- how much data needs to be stored?
- where will data be accessed? Locally? Remotely? Will it be accessible during a disaster?
- have you considered cloud storage instead? Or as another backup source?
3. Clarify your budget
To ensure that you don’t overspend, set a firm budget and allow for other expenses such as additional software, accessories, training, support and extended warranties.
- will you be able to use the device out of the box? Or will it require customisation?
- are there any recurring maintenance expenses?
- how will you insure your hardware purchase against damage or theft?
4. Reduce your options
Now that you have your ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ lists and a clear budget - it’s time to reduce your options. Go through your product list and eliminate items that lack features or are too expensive. Come up with three or four products that are a good fit by looking for:
- high quality customer support
- a brand that has a broad base of users
- a brand with a solid track record
5. Evaluate the options and choose your finalists
From the remaining options, determine which products deliver the most features from your ‘nice to have’ list. Are there add-ons that you can purchase at a later date as you need them?
Now that you have a just a handful of products left to evaluate, it’s time to see them in action. If possible, visit your local store or supplier and ask to see the products in question.
Here are some general questions to ask the salesperson:
- are there any ongoing costs related to running this product e.g. annual subscriptions?
- what kind of warranty does this product come with and what does it cover?
- what if I find a better deal than yours for this specific item?
By the end of this process you should whittled your list down to two or three products.
6. Get feedback from your team
If you have staff who will use the hardware, now is a great time to get their feedback.
This will also help when it comes to implementing the new hardware - if you have asked for their feedback early on, they will be much more receptive to the change.
Ask for their thoughts and feelings regarding:
- your current hardware: its limitations and benefits
- the types of features they would like the piece of hardware to have.
7. Make your final selection
You should now be in a solid position to make a final decision.
Case Study: Finding the right accounting software for your business
'Having really good information means your business can react the way you want it to, rather than how you hoped it would.'Carolyn Creswell, Carman's Fine Foods
Read more about Finding the right accounting software for your business