ICT Checklist For A New Business
If you are planning to start a new business, or are already in the "startup" phase, it is important to pay attention to your IT needs. This is one area that is often overlooked and inadequately budgeted for. Your local Businesslink advisor can advice you on any additional ICT support you may be able to apply for (e.g. professional help with website design).
Some of the main elements you may want to consider when defining your ICT strategy include:
- Network cabling and topology design
- Network server
- Network printing
- Internet Related
- Internet connection
- Registering an Internet domain name
- Website design, content and look-and-feel
- Email strategy
- Network security
- Backing up essential company data
- Asset and software licence management
- Conformance with and registering for the Data Protection Act
- Fault escalation procedure
- Ongoing IT support requirements
- New IT equipment
- Computer consumables
- PBX / Key Systems & Digital Voice
- Staff acceptable-use policies
- Staff skills/training matrix
- Impact of business growth on ICT requirements
- ICT wish list
1. Network Cabling
For a new business, it is vital that some preparatory thought goes into how the ICT devices are going to fit together
(e.g. workstations, servers, printers, network equipment, fax and photocopier). Sketching a few draft desk layout
schemes may be a good idea to help visualise where cables will need to run. This will help the decision process when
choosing suitable office premises.
When looking for new business premises it is important to find out if structured network cabling is already present,
and if not, is permission required to lay down new network cables. Particular attention should be made to where ICT network
equipment is going to be positioned (e.g. clean air flows, cables can be accessed easily, sufficient power supply, can be made secure).
Wanwise recommends that a professional cabling company such as Advantex
(0845 222 0666)
is used to survey the new premises before any purchase/lease agreements are signed, just in case unforeseen problems are uncovered and need
In situations where adding structured network cabling is difficult or important (e.g. listed building, sealed floors), it may be necessary
to implement a wireless network solution. There are security implications with wireless networks and Wanwise can offer advice on how to
set one up without compromising the integrity of the business from unauthorised access to the network.
2. Network Server
If the business is going to have three or more staff and/or workstations then it may be more productive to set up a dedicated
network server, bringing the benefits listed below. It is generally recommended to set aside the most significant portion of ICT
spending to the specification of the network server(s) rather than user workstations, since it will be the single most critical device on the network.
Depending on budget, you should concentrate on beefing up system memory and the hard disk capacity (employing RAID5 for improved disk drive resilience)
Network Server Benefits
- sharing standard company documents more easily
- document version control (i.e. everyone using the same forms and templates)
- central repository for all business critical information, enabling easier backup of data
- potential to be used as the company Email server, where all Internet email can be collected and accessed from a central point
- ideal for installing server-based applications and databases
- controlled access to company information & email from remote locations (e.g. teleworkers, branch offices, road warriors)
3. Network Printing
It is quite easy to set up printers to be shared amongst several workstations on a network. Although the simplest method is to
share a printer that is directly connected to a workstation, it is recommended that where possible, a printer has its own direct network connection.
This significantly reduces the background processing overhead on workstations. If a network card can't be installed in the printer itself, a dedicated printserver device can be bought for a few pounds.
A good network printing strategy could be to purchase a fast monochrome laser printer for everyday use and a separate high quality colour inkjet printer
for presentation and marketing purposes. Having a small number of shared network printers is usually more economical in the long term than having a
personal printer attached to each workstation, especially when print speed is important. If working on a tight budget, it may be preferable to combine
black and colour printing requirements in a single all-in-one printer/fax/copier/scanner device, such as those available from
When purchasing a network printer, it may also be useful to think about dedicated printer trays (if available) for letterhead
stationary and envelopes to improve efficiency, rather than having to manually insert these items (and hoping that nobody sends a print job before
you're ready to print your own document!).
4. Internet Connection
It is important to select the most appropriate Internet connection for your business. For SME's broadband services are
good value for money as long as you know what you want to use your Internet connections for. Broadband is usually available as either ADSL via
a BT telephone line, or fibre optic cable via a cable company's comparative offering, although more expensive satellite services are sometimes
the only options for rural locations or areas that fall outside of the BT and cable companies' ranges.
Wanwise can help you decide what is the best solution for your business, such as whether or not static public ip addresses are required and the
bandwidth requirements. For businesses that are able to receive ADSL or SDSL broadband, Zen Internet
is a reliable ISP that
is geared for the business environment. As a Zen Internet referral partner, Wanwise can take care of all aspects of ordering a broadband or, where there is
justification or business requirement, leased line service.
More background information on broadband Internet can be found at: www.wanwise.co.uk/white-broadband.html
5. Domain Registration
In order to raise your business's Internet profile, it is advisable to register a unique Internet domain. This name
can then be used as the basis for company email addresses (e.g. forename.surname
@wanwise.co.uk) and for a website tag
(e.g. www.wanwise.co.uk ). It is recommended that the printing of letterhead stationary, business cards, complimentary slips etc. is
delayed until a domain name has been confirmed as being registered to you, in order to avoid embarrassment and expensive reprinting costs if
the domain you wanted is unavailable or already registered to another company!
For more information on how Wanwise can help select and register Internet domains on your behalf, go to
In this day and age it is almost unthinkable to have a business and not have a web presence of some form, even if it is just a holding
page that lists the company's address, contact details and brief description of what it does. A corporate website can be likened to a "window" into
how your company is perceived by others in the Internet community. Done well, a good website can be a powerful marketing tool and
even an avenue for selling your goods and services online (e-commerce)
Most Internet service providers (ISP) offer free web space alongside the Internet connection that has been signed up for.
After registering an Internet domain, it is often possible to create a simple website by developing something in MS Word and exporting
as an HTML format file. This HTML file (call it "index.html" if it is going to be your main page) can then be uploaded to the ISP's webspace and
the domain information amended so that www.yourdomain.suffix
points to the web space.
If daunted by or unsure about what to put in your website, it is often useful to have a professional website designer to help define the layout and
"look and feel". One such website design company in the Northeast is Steelworks IT Limited
, but there
are many others in the region.
The website design company will also be able to give advice on "search engine optimisation", where your business can be more easily found by
potential clients using search engines such as Google
and Ask Jeeves
look for local companies offering services similar to your own.
If your business qualifies as an SME its worthwhile getting in touch with your local Business Link to enquire about grants or
help in funding the design and implementation of your website.
7. Email Strategy
Email has become a prominent business communications tool, enabling information to be sent and received immediately over
the Internet. It can be used effectively for targeted customer marketing campaigns (subject to Data Protection Act and regulations)
as well as disseminating company-wide information and announcements to staff.
It is important to decide how email will be used within the business, and how it is delivered. You will need to decide a naming convention
(e.g. forename.surname@ or initials&surname@) and how many email addresses are required (e.g. do you you want separate email accounts for sales@, info@,
enquiries@, etc.. in addition to staff accounts?). It is also worth thinking about whether or not it is desirable for staff to be able to access
their email remotely, either from home or generically via an Internet web browser (webmail).
Small companies often find it easiest to use the PoP3 email accounts that are usually provided for free with either the domain registration or Internet connection.
These email accounts are held by a 3rd party and pulled down to an individual's desktop by an email application such as MS Outlook. Using PoP3 email becomes
cumbersome to administrate when dealing with larger numbers of staff. Individual PoP3 email accounts make it difficult to share contact lists and
For a business that has three or more staff it may be advantageous to set up a centralised email system, where all Pop3 (or SMTP) email is retrieved
by a central Microsoft Exchange server and the workstations' MS Outlook application point to this server to get individual email accounts. MS Exchange
can then be set up to make available shared folders, contacts and calendars, as well as permissions to enable others to view an individual's calendar.
This could be useful for holiday booking and sickness tracking.
When looking at implementing an email strategy, thought should also go into measures for protecting your company from computer viruses that can infect the
network via email attachments and embedded hyperlinks to malicious websites. SPAM (i.e. unsolicited, and often offensive, email) is another problem that
every business now has to deal with. There are a number of ways in which both viruses and spam can be dealt with, and these should be taken into account
as part of the overall company ICT security measures (explained further below).
Because email implementation can become complex and is such an important part of a commpany's ICT structure, it is recommended that
an IT services company such as Wanwise is used to help define your general business email requirements as well as anti virus and anti spam solutions.
8. Network Security
Network security is a vital component of any company ICT strategy.
The most effective way to protect the office network devices from malicious or otherwise attacks from the Internet, such as hackers and spyware hidden in website downloads etc., is to install a dedicated hardware firewall. This firewall will act as the "doorway" (or gateway) between the Internet and the local network. Once a suitable firewall is in place, it opens up a number of options, including:
- Ability to implement a truly secure VPN solution for remote users (eg. Managers accessing the office network information across the Internet from a home terminal using VPN client software) when/if the requirement arises.
- Much tighter control, by appropriate rule base policies, of what goes to/from the Internet, thus improving existing network security significantly from external attacks.
- Flexible control of the type of traffic going to/from the Internet (eg. certain URLs or websites can be "barred" or access restricted to a limited number of allowed sites).
- Strong logging capabilities, for better audit trails and visibility of the types of attacks that have been attempted from the Internet, or from unauthorised Internet use from within the office environment.
- Ability to set thresholds of what is acceptable traffic shaping (eg. the number of "pings" per second to a LAN device or the network as a whole - this deals with the DoS problem very effectively).
- Ability to notify by several means, including email, when/if any hacker attacks are taking place.
- Ability to define customised "black-listed" ip address ranges (eg. from known sources of hacking groups, universities etc - also useful to add any source addresses that are showing up in the logs, so that the malicious traffic can be dropped immediately without affecting processing or throughput).
- Direct gateway to the Internet for all the LAN devices, negating the need for Internet-bound traffic to pass through a dedicated, directly attached PC, and thus eliminate a potential bottleneck in speed.
- This will tightly control which PCs are authorised to access the Internet.
- Enables the capability of remote administration of the firewall(s) (eg. By Wanwise) from a secure home terminal. In some cases this will enable the troubleshooting of network issues without having to travel into any of the offices themselves, and thus identify and fix the source of problems much more quickly.
Other important security issues that need to be addressed include:
- antivirus, antispam, spyware protection, both at the gateway and desktop level
- administrative and user password control
- physical access to potentially sensitive devices, such as those hosting payroll, financial or personnel records
- secure storage of backup tapes, cds, software licences and media
As a Juniper Networks partner, Wanwise can tailor a network security solution to your company's requirements.
9. Data Backup
Please read more here
about a cost-effective way of backing up a small business's data.
10. Asset Management
Keeping track of hardware, software licences and support contracts can become a nightmare to administrate unless you are organised from the beginning. It is important that only legally obtained software is used because in the event of a fraud / illegal use investigation it is the directors of the company who can be held personally responsible. Successful prosecution can lead to large fines and/or prison sentences, so it is important that you can always produce proof of ownership easily.
At the very least you should be making a note of software that has been installed, when purchased, and where the proof of ownership (e.g. licence certificate) can be found.
A good computerised IT asset management tool could be used to record and report on device serial numbers, hardware lists, installed software and the last time the device was audited. This will also go some way to help calculate the real asset value of the company when completing year-end accounts.
An example IT asset management tool can be found at:
This can be used for free for your company to use as a tool to inventory-manage/report your network devices. Wanwise use the above tool for our own asset management, so we would be happy to help set up and implement this application for our clients.
11. Data Protection Act
If your business processes personal information other than for staff administration, accountancy and marketing purposes, then it is quite possible that by law you need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office as a "data controller". You wil need to notify the Office of the nature of the information that is stored and ensure compliance with the guidelines set out under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Please refer to the following link for additional background information on and how to register under the data protection act:
12. Fault Escalation
Make sure that a fault escalation procedure has been properly defined so that staff know what to do and whom to contact.
Where possible, problems should be categorised by level of importance and recorded in a suitable medium. A list of key contacts, telephone numbers and operational hours is essential. This list should include external contacts, and their support licences/references for any support contracts that are in place (e.g. for hardware faults, application errors, security issues).
13. Ongoing ICT Support
If matters arise where there is insufficient technical expertise to call upon within the company, you need to have a contingency plan for making use of external resources (sometimes at short notice) in the event of:
- hardware faults
- desktop application problems
- adding new equipment and applications
- ad hoc advice
- auditing workstations
- cleaning up or containing a virus outbreak
- adding functionality to existing network
Wanwise offers a flexible approach to your ICT support needs and this can be done in number of ways.
, where we can provide a quotation to complete a specific objective (e.g. moving office, or replacing a server)
Informal & ad hoc support
, where we can be contacted as and when there is a requirement for work, but there is no guarantee that resource will be available immediately. Costs would be on an hourly basis (onsite) and agreed beforehand with
Formal support contract
, usually on quarterly payment terms. The terms of the support contract will depend upon the
needs of the client and can range from telephone support with a monthly "retainer" element, to full helpdesk support.
14. Purchasing New Equipment & Applications
When purchasing new equipment it is important that the business requirements have been fully thought through. You should always
consider the following:
- what are the current business needs?
- what is the priority level (i.e. is it critical to the performance of the business)?
- what are the alternatives?
- what is the total cost of ownership (e.g. include consumables, staff training, hardware/software support contracts, etc.)?
- what is the asset write-off period in years (for accounting purposes)?
- are there advantages in leasing instead of purchasing outright (e.g. startup cashflow demands)?
- are there legal, statutory or environmental considerations to be made?
- does the new equipment fit in with future business growth and general ICT strategy?
- is it supportable (e.g. hardware contracts, relevant skills available in the marketplace)?
- if consumables are required, are these easily obtainable and offer good value for money?
- can equipment specifications and quotations be obtained from alternative vendors?
Wanwise would be able to help in specifying suitable ICT equipment, such as network devices, printers, workstations and servers. In
most cases we can procure equipment on the client's behalf. If however you know what you want, then please remember that there are
many online sources for ICT equipment and you should look carefully at the difference in prices and availability.
A useful online store, especially for computer consumables, includes:
15. Computer Consumables
Ensure that you include realistic costs for consumables when budgeting for ICT. This could include such things as toner/ink cartridges, paper, cds, backup tapes.
Computer consumables are usually cheaper to buy directly online (see above) than via retail outlets.
16. PBX / Key Systems & Digital Voice Options
If the premises you are moving into does not already have a telephone system available (e.g. available as part of tennanted-office services suite),
you probably need to organise your own installation.
You should consider which telephony features are important to the business and then contact one or more telecomms providers for further advice
and recommendations. Some PBX (Private Branch Exchange) features you may want to to include as part of your basic requirements include:
For a small business on a tight budget, and only requiring one or two telephone extensions, IP Telephony via a fast broadband Internet connection may be a good solution - click here for more information or get in touch with Wanwise directly to discuss your telephony requirements in more detail.
- auto-attendant - a recorded message that instructs callers how to reach a department or person they are looking for
- voice mail / unified messaging
- conferencing - features may vary widely across PBX vendors
- toll-free calls within the company (e.g. between branch offices)
- call-barring / filtering
- electronic facsimile send/receive
- call logging / audit / boundaries
NTE is a reputable local telecomms company, who can offer both analogue and digital telephony solutions by
a number of vendors such as Panasonic, Avaya, and Inter-Tel . If working on
a tight budget and/or you need something urgently for the short-term only, NTE can also provide reconditioned systems, including handsets.
You may want to think about a system that can integrate with your email environment, such as sending recorded voicemails (or notification) directly
to a person's Microsoft Outlook application, or direct dialling via an MS Outlook contact list.
If there is going to be a heavy investment in network infrastructure, it may well be more cost effective to look at a "converged" network design
that can exploit the benefits of Voice over IP (i.e. the data and voice systems share the same physical cable connections). This could provide
significant long-term cost savings if the business has international offices and inter-office telephone calls are common.
If you'd like to know more about PBX options, the following links may be of use as background reading:
Panasonic Telephony Solutions
Avaya Telephony Solutions
Voice Over IP News & Resource Site
17. Acceptable Use Policies
When taking on staff, it is recommended that adequate ICT "acceptable use" policies are included in the terms of employment contracts. An employer has a legal obligation to make its best efforts to protect staff from being exposed to offensive, discriminatory and racial material being viewed or distributed on their computer systems. Having such policies in place will discourage employees from downloading and/or forwarding offensive material, as well as defining the company boundaries for use of equipment for non-business purposes. The policies should also outline disciplinary consequences, including the option of dismissal.
Wanwise has a generic draft "acceptable use" guideline document available, that can be purchased by clients for a one-off fee of 50.00 (ex-VAT). It is recommended that the client verifies the validity of any "acceptable use" document with their own legal representative before issuing its content as part of the company's employment conditions.
18. Staff IT Skills Matrix
Identify IT skills that staff might already have and budget for enhancing key skill requirement areas. Be aware that there may also be requirements for training on new versions of software etc.
It may be worthwhile nominating a staff member as the company's IT liason contact for reporting and recording internal IT related problems and requests, especially if external support contracts are in place, so that all issues are taken care of from a single source. This contact should be included as part of the overall fault escalation mechanism.
19. Business Growth
(e.g. extra licencing? server(s) adequate for expansion? new workstations? Additional office branch?)
20. Wish List For Future Activities
(i.e. projects that are not currently feasible for a variety of reasons, such as finances or skills gaps)