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Getting The 'T' In IT Right

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IT — the two simple letters that under the wrong circumstances strike fear into the heart of even the most level-headed entrepreneur. Networks, software, and databases are not the reason that most people start up their own business. The flipside, of course, is that if handled well, IT can turn what is merely a good company into a truly great one.

Any entrepreneur knows that running a business from scratch takes time, effort, commitment and most of all, passion. Unfortunately, to stay grounded in reality, it also takes sound fundamentals, and a sturdy infrastructure. Today, IT is inevitably a big part of that. Not even the very smallest of businesses can get away without having some kind of technology to help them run.

So what the new generation of entrepreneurs needs must be reliable, efficient and cost effective.The real trick is getting something in place that works reliably and efficiently and doesn't cost a lot of time and money to install or maintain. Business these days is not only global, fast-paced and demanding but employees now demand a lot more of the systems they use to do their jobs. The pace of technology innovation in the consumer world has had an impact on the business environment - employees want to use systems at work that replicate the experience they have at home. A generation used to posting and sharing photos online, instant messaging with friends and interacting online for a good chunk of their spare time is having an impact on expectations in the workplace.

Internet is bringing a significant shift in the way organisations buy and use technology: This is where the power of the Internet comes into play. The Internet provides the flexibility to create, share, access and collaborate with other people at work. Email, spreadsheets, calendars and presentations suddenly become accessible quickly and securely wherever you are. Not only that but the fact that everything is online means that multiple users can access and work on documents simultaneously and edit in real-time. In short, no more emailing backwards and forwards with attachments. This means a lot when you're working at the kind of pace required as a start-up.

Hosted solutions have better acceptability now, to the extent that many large companies are entrusting their entire email and anti-virus services to third parties: And then there is the issue of the bottom line cost of IT to a business. Again, once you're hooked up to the web this is all but eradicated because it's possible to effectively 'rent' these applications from a third party. Having your IT applications hosted over the Internet means no investment in hardware or software and no issues with upgrades or installing new features because that all happens automatically. It also means you can concentrate on your core business without needing to worry about the day-to-day issues of running an IT infrastructure. A suite of web-based communication and collaboration products for small businesses now comes for $50 per user per year. (Less than a cup of coffee a week!)

Web is a better way of doing business: As your business evolves it's important that your IT evolves along with it. The Internet is more than just a resource for finding information and start-ups are in an excellent position to harness its full potential - without an existing infrastructure to cater; for you are effectively working with a blank canvas. Used thoughtfully, your IT environment can provide you with an interesting competitive edge.

At the end of the day, for any start-up on the first rung of the business ladder, putting a sound IT system in place should be a concern but never a worry.

(The author is Country Head, Enterprise Sales, Google India)