5 Critical Tech Questions for Your Startup

Learn what decisions you'll need to make first to execute on your great idea and launch your business.
Faith in Focus Columnist, The News & Observer Publishing Company
December 19, 2012

Your startup is on the cutting edge of your industry. To maximize success, you should also be on the cutting edge of technology. Here are five critical tech questions to consider as you develop your startup ideas.

1. Buy software or code your own? Consider the software you're going to use to run your startup.

"I always encourage startups to look for out-of-the box software solutions," says Louis Rosas-Guyon, owner of r-Squared Computing. "The vast majority of business software already exists, so why reinvent the wheel?"

Ron Rule, vice president of e-commerce at Infusion Brands and a business technology adviser, agrees. 

"Code ownership is overrated in general, but this is particularly true for startups, " Rule says. "The solution you pick today may not be a good fit tomorrow, and it's a lot easier to drop a hosted solution and switch than lose your investment."

Rule says using someone else's software is easier for a startup.

"Someone who understands the platform better than you do will be the one maintaining it if it fails," he says.

2. Servers or on the Cloud? Should you invest in physical servers or turn to cloud computing for your startup?

"Cloud computing platforms have driven down costs dramatically and have sped development times and time to market," says David Howard, a marketing and management consultant  at Consultiq. "You must have a really strong need or reason not to choose a cloud platform these days."

One of those needs may be security concerns.

"I have guided my clients to adopt a hybrid approach where select systems like email, messaging, chat and collaboration are pushed to cloud vendors and mission critical systems are kept in-house, says Louis Rosas-Guyon, author of "Nearly Free IT."

3. Landlines or VoIP? What kind of phone system will you use? Traditional telephone lines or VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol?

"Landlines are dead," says Rosas-Guyon. "The vast majority of my customers are moving away from classic telephony and are adopting VoIP systems that unify their communications."

Consider that VoIP service is the less expensive choice when debating your startup ideas.

"Aside from costs, there are numerous advantages to VoIP lines," says Rule. "There is more advanced switching, call routing and getting remote employees on the same system."

VoIP providers offer attractive options for small businesses such as virtual operators and call forwarding.

4. Will You Make it Mobile? Your startup ideas should include how mobile your business is going to be.

"Every start-up needs to have a mobile technology strategy," Rosas-Guyon says. "The rapid rise of smartphones and tablets have liberated workers from being chained behind a desktop computer."

Mobile technology makes it possible to run a business in a virtual space.

"You can usually get started without a physical office space," Howard says. "Use VoIP and cloud computing to virtual team while bootstrapping."

5. Should You Outsource the IT? While you're making your technology decisions, you also have to figure out who will be managing all the IT. Can you do it by yourself? Should you add an IT specialist to your team or should you outsource the work?

Rule says outsourcing is the way to go for most startups.

"Many of the most successful Web companies in the world don't own a single server," Rule says. "Leave the infrastructure and IT management to the experts so startups can focus on their core business."

Rosas-Guyon agrees. "For a startup, outsourcing IT is the best option. It helps control costs and maximize results."

Your start-up may grow to a size where in-house IT becomes a necessity. Rosas-Guyon says he has helped clients with that transition.

"In every case where we have needed to remove ourselves from the day-to-day operations, we have always been retained as outside experts to consult on their future strategies."

When you're working your way through start-up ideas, you'll find yourself faced with critical technology issues. Balance the available technology with ease of use and affordability to find the perfect tech solutions for your start-up business.

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Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who likes to break a topic down and keep her copy tight. That's why this bio is so brief! Carla blogs via Contently.com.

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