The entrepreneur’s IT survival guide

Joe Svetlik

Wednesday 14 September 2016

The number of entrepreneurs in the UAE has a year-on-year growth rate of 98.3 per cent. But what do you need to know about IT policy before setting up your own venture?

New technology is changing the world of work but it’s also changing the kind of work we do. Not only is it enabling us to work on the move and access a wealth of information 24 hours a day, it’s also making it easier to set up business on our own. And more and more people are choosing to do so.

According to LinkedIn, the UAE has a year-on-year growth rate of 98.3 per cent, and a spokesperson for the platform called the region a “preferred destination for talent, entrepreneurs and innovators from across the world”.

But becoming an entrepreneur isn’t quite as simple as just taking off your tie and jumping ship. There’s a lot to think about. Even once you’ve solved the big issues of what your company will do and what it’ll be called, and decided if you need an office and how many people you’ll employ to begin with, you need to consider what kind of IT system you’re going to need.

How much support?

If you’re starting small, as most entrepreneurs do, it makes sense to outsource your IT support to an external company. It’s only once you’ve grown your business that you should consider hiring a dedicated member of staff for IT support (once your company grows to between 25 and 50 people is generally considered the time to bring someone in-house). Thankfully, plenty of companies offer this kind of support. And they offer almost as many different services as there are types of business.

The first thing is to decide what level of support you need. Maybe you only want help if something breaks or goes wrong – in that case, you pick up the phone and they fix it. On the one hand, this is cheaper than constant (and especially on-site) support. On the other, it means you only ever deal with the IT team when you have a problem, which isn’t the greatest foundation for a business relationship.

If, however, you’re running a 24/7 operation, you might consider round-the-clock assistance. This will mean you can have problems solved at any time. This is especially useful if you’re selling goods or services in different countries, as it will mean workers can get the help they need regardless of time zone.

A middle ground is to use IT support on a contract basis – say, a set number of hours per week. This would be cheaper than 24/7 support, and quicker than an as-needed solution. Of course, if something goes wrong outside of the support company’s contracted hours, you’ll have to pay more or wait to have it fixed, so you have to weigh up the pros and cons.

What kind is right for you?

The first thing to decide is what services your business will use. You can do a lot through free software such as Google Docs and Dropbox but specialist, business-oriented software is a lot more secure.

If you’re using an enterprise software set-up – such as Microsoft Outlook for email, Oracle Applications Cloud for cloud computing, and so on – you’re likely to need a lot of IT support getting it set up and during the teething stages. But after that, your need is likely to tail off. So plan accordingly.

Most providers of enterprise software have their own forums which contain answers to many questions posed by users. These are worth checking, because if you have a problem, chances are someone else has had it too.

You can also go to the people who sold you your computing hardware, as they often provide IT support. The advantage is they’ll know exactly what hardware you have and the exact specifications of your set-up.

The good news is you don’t need to be geographically close to your IT support. Remote support means an IT professional from anywhere in the world can log in to your machine and take control of it remotely. This will let them diagnose and fix the problem without coming to your office, which is especially handy if you’re in a remote part of the country.

It’s worth being aware of the various types of support you might need. If you’re running a small business, you probably won’t have the resources to set up a network and take care of the administration on a regular basis, so it’s worth outsourcing this to an IT professional. They can also take care of the crucial issue of network security, provide ongoing desktop support, provide you with data back-up and recovery (preferably via a cloud solution) and help you run an email service.

IT is crucial to any business, especially one that’s just starting out. By taking the time to choose the right level and type of support for your needs, your business will have a far greater chance of success, and you’ll be more likely to realise your entrepreneurial ambitions. Finally, your IT support needs will change as the business grows. It’s important to adjust your requirements along the life of the business and not get stuck in a rut.