Small Business and Opening Up a Branch Office – Computer Considerations

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Small businesses are often looking to grow by expanding into different territories. Along with that comes the consideration of opening up a branch office, amongst other options. If you’re considering opening up a branch office think about how you’re going to manage the IT side of things. It could get expensive, however if it’s done with some planning, then it should be fairly inexpensive.Usually a small business branch office will start up with only a handful of staff as the business grows organically. If that’s the case then this is really pretty straightforward. However you’ll need to look at the head offices computer infrastructure first.For a business to consider opening a branch office, they’ll want to be reasonably well established in their head office, so that they can sustain the costs of setting up the new office. That being the case they should already have decent IT infrastructure. If they don’t they should be in a financial position where they can afford to implement this key business component before opening up the branch office.Admittedly no two cases are identical, so I’m generalising.A great place to start is to make sure that the head office has a good server in place. It needs to be reliable and have the capacity to cope with the extra remote staff. Microsoft Windows Small Business Server (SBS) software installed on a good quality server is ideal for this. The reasons for this are that an SBS is good is that it gives you email management, shared calendar management, file sharing management, a single place to store and backup data and it gives you something called Remote Desktop.Remote Desktop was formerly known as Terminal Services or Terminal Server. What this lets you do is to have the branch office work directly on your head office server without having the need for very expensive high speed data connections between the branch and head office. This will save you a fortune. It will also allow you to avoid buying a server for the branch office. Lastly it’ll mean that you can control file and network security in one place and reduce IT support complexity and costs. Not all software such as business systems will run on Remote Desktop, you’re going to have to check this, but the good ones should.The next piece of the puzzle is the connection between the offices. Be careful not to be sold an expensive solution by your telco. Unless you have special needs for a very high speed or especially secure connection. For the small business there are two commonly used methods, the first is the Virtual Private Network or VPN, which your IT consultant will setup over the top of your regular internet connections. The second is the Private Network, which your ISP will want to sell you, which is a more secure managed service, but might cost a little more and might give your IT consultant less control. Either way, the faster the internet connection the better, but most standard business broadband connections should be adequate.Lastly, with a connection between your offices, you should be able to set up free phone calls between the offices. That’s a huge cost saving for long distance calls.So, assuming that you’ve already got a good server, it shouldn’t be too expensive to setup the IT for your new branch office.

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