If you’re thinking of starting a home-based business, or are considering running your existing one from home, it’s important to understand what Information and Communications Technology (ICT) you’ll need.
I launched my business in May 2020, right in the middle of lockdown, so I knew that a large amount of my time over the next few months would be spent working from home. I therefore wanted to ensure that the way I worked, and the way my business operated, was both productive and secure.
The first thing I did, was measure my home internet speeds to see if they would be able to cope with the workload. This was a simple test to do, as there are a number of free online services you can use, and don’t be surprised if the speeds you get from the tests are not what your plan had promised! Internet Service Providers (ISPs) always market broadband plans by using the maximum speeds their service could provide.
I knew that I’d be using various cloud-based services such as Microsoft 365, Salesforce CRM, and video conferencing software such as Zoom. Therefore, it was vital that my home broadband connection could cope with these.
I also knew I would soon expand to employ staff, and that adding a new user to my Microsoft account would be needed, so I opted for Microsoft 365 Business Professional. This ensured that I could view my team’s diary, and work collaboratively with them on platforms such as Microsoft Teams.
Having a strong fibre internet connection also meant that if I were to employ staff who also worked from home, I should consider installing a dedicated internet link that the company would pay for and have managed by a third-party provider. Staff members would then feel valued, and not obligated to work on company projects through their own internet connection which they pay for. This would also ensure that they could work productively while keeping company data secure and GDPR compliant.
If adequate data protection is a concern for you, I would recommend looking through the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) website. There are several checklists there which will help you mitigate the risks.
Business Communication is key, and my high level of internet connectivity meant I could roll out a hosted business telephone service which resides in the cloud. This was great news, as it meant I could promote the business with a specific geographic number, could transfer calls between staff – no matter where they’re located, have ‘hold’ music for when I wasn’t able to speak with incoming callers right away, track my business phone usage in real time via a web portal – all for a fixed cost per month with minimal capital outlay.
I have found that cloud telephone services enable a business to be very agile and adaptable. One example being that if you had the cloud service set up in your office, with staff having either a desk handset or the softphone app installed on a PC or laptop, then they could simply pick the system up and take it home with them.
This level of business continuity could be vital for your company’s survival, should you be forced to work from home if future pandemic restrictions necessitate doing so.
The business world is seeing an age of rapid digital transformation, with IT being a major factor behind this. Going forward, your planning could focus on how resilient your business is, and what impact a cyber-attack would have on you.
Consideration should also be given to how and where your company data is stored. Do you back up your data? And if so, where? There are many data storage options to explore, and it is always advisable to speak with an IT professional to understand what is most important to you, and to find a solution that meets your budget.
To this end, the National Cyber Security Centre’s website could help you with support, guidance, and any funding that might be available for your business.
The digital world is here to stay and will only continue to develop, improve, and become more cost-effective over time. So, if you continue investing in your ICT solutions and systems, your business will reap the rewards!