Setting up your systems
The best thing to do with paper is to shred it! Even HMRC (the UK tax department) now allows you to store documents electronically rather than in filing cabinets.
Sometimes you know at once: the paper can be shredded as soon as you have had a quick look at it.
But often you can only shred it safely if:
- you know that there will never be any need to show someone the original paper
- you have processed it and stored the results securely in a computer
- it is a certificate of your qualifications
- it is a licence
- it is an insurance certificate
If you run a very small business, you have the big advantage of being able to use the best ideas in IT without having to spend lots of time and money converting your old systems. These can save you time and money, and reduce your need for expert IT support.
There are two goals to aim for:
- all the data your business needs, including documents and accounts, is stored “in the cloud” – that is on computers provided and managed by specialists and shared between many businesses
- you have current backup copies of the data on a computer which is on your premises
Let’s look at each of those in turn.
Storing your data in the cloud means that you can get at it, not only from any computer, but also from your smartphone, or using a tablet such as an ipad. So you can make better use of those times when you are away from base. It also makes it much easier to share with your employees, with clients, or with partners such as your accountant.
The good news is that many of these services are provided free to very small businesses. The providers are betting that you will grow to a size where you are happy to pay for the service. And most small businesses do not need very powerful computers or expensive desktop software.
However, you cannot afford to let your business be stopped if, for example, Google suspends your account because of some misunderstanding. So you need to keep a copy of the data under your control.
We will keep the two goals in mind as we get into the detail of how to adopt these services in your business.