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Affordable Technology for Startups


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Let's face it. . . when starting a new business money needs to be spent judiciously. Often that means technology suffers. But technology is the grease that makes your business run smoothly. It makes sense, then, to spend your technology dollars wisely. Here's how.

First rule. . . don't buy what you don't need.

Do you really need the full blown edition of Office? Or will the basic edition work for you? Do you even need to buy a productivity suite? Today there are free or very affordable versions of productivity suites available for download and as web applications. Examples of these are OpenOffice (free download), Google Docs and Spreadsheets (free web app) and Office Live (monthly web subscription).

Second rule. . . don't buy it if you can rent it.

What about a phone system? By now everyone has seen ads for Vonage. It's an excellent choice for new businesses. It's affordable and you can even take your Vonage box with you when you travel. Hook it up anywhere with a highspeed internet connection and your calls will be delivered just as if you were in your office. But there are drawbacks. Specifically, Vonage doesn't work so well in a multi-user environment. Thankfully there are alternatives.

RingCentral is one. RingCentral is an online virtual PBX that can cost as little as $9.99 a month. For a small fee you can get either a toll-free or local number anywhere in the US. When a call comes in the caller is greeted with either a canned or custom greeting. What happens next is up to you. You can create different mailboxes that will reroute the call to your home, office or cell phone, receive faxes, take messages only, etc. All done with customizable rules, you can have calls ring all your numbers at once or sequentially, ring a whole department or just about any imaginable combination or configuration. They even offer VoIP (voice over IP) to help you save even more. There is no infrastructure needed as the service runs over the internet so there's nothing to buy other than the service.

Of course, we must discuss PCs and servers. What business could run without them? Is there an alternative? Of course. With today's technology many providers are offering virtual desktops or application hosting. The advantages of this are many. But first, let me explain how it works.

All your data and applications are kept on servers in a datacenter. You access them remotely thru the internet. You can use a web browser, a remote desktop software client or use a dumb terminal. They look and behave just as if you were running them on your desktop. Sounds good, but it gets better.

Because they are accessed remotely you can work from home, the road or the office. You can open an office or hire someone to work from their home in another town, state or country and not have to spend a fortune setting up the infrastructure. You can use your existing PC or you can buy a terminal which costs anywhere from 40% to 60% less than a PC. You pay for this service monthly per user and you get your software licensed, updated and managed. Support is also included. You don't have to buy servers or server software. Your data is kept in a secured environment. And you get to write the expense off as an operating expense, not a capital expense.

Great spiffs, but the real benefits are much, MUCH lower startup costs, knowing what your costs for computers, software and support are going to be each month, knowing your infrastructure will be safe and professionally managed and being secure in the knowledge that your organization will be poised, technologically, to compete with and be as flexible as your competitors.

David Mitchell is the President and Founder of Plenary Technology, a New Jersey based IT services company specializing in Small and Medium Business technology needs. Established in 1992, Plenary Technology offers network management and application hosting/virtual desktop services as well as a wide array of technical services.

For contact information please visit


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