Tech Essentials

Tech for the Sake of Tech

Today's startup can't function without the right technological mix. But not all technologies are a comfortable fit, especially given how many other challenges a fledgling business faces in its first months. The following are three obstacles to avoid:

Open-source software: OSS--computer software for which the source code and related rights are offered under public-domain license--can offer significant cost savings over traditional proprietary software. But for newly minted SMBs who must learn to walk before they can run, the perils of open source far outweigh the potential. Few startups boast the technological savvy to create their own unique software configurations, let alone keep on top of new updates or vulnerabilities. Moreover, a customized software ecosystem comprised of disparate technologies can prove a nightmare to maintain in the event the original IT architect moves on to another organization.

Inkjet printers: All SMBs need a printer, but faced with the choice between less expensive inkjet models and pricier laser versions, most entrepreneurs opt for the cost savings of the former over the superior print quality of the latter. However, color laser printer price tags are plummeting, and now they retail for an average of about $300. Moreover, inkjet printers are often more expensive in the long run. Manufacturers expect to earn their revenue not on hardware sales but on replacement inkjet cartridges, and most analysts agree that over time, the per-page cost for inkjet machines grows far more substantial than that of laser printers.

Unnecessary purchases and upgrades. Seems obvious, but evaluating new technology and its value to your company can pose major headaches. New technologies are undeniably seductive, but with so much hardware and software to acquire, startups should focus squarely on the essentials and prioritize their wish list to make sure they maximize their investment. Assemble a multiyear roadmap outlining projected hardware and software maintenance and upgrades, but still pay attention to new innovations that can translate to even greater cost savings over the long haul. Keep in mind that shopping for technology is like shopping for anything else--compare prices and look for sales or discounts. And don't rule out used equipment: When companies fail, they often liquidate assets--their loss could be your gain.

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This article was originally published in the March 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Tech Essentials.

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