What IT equipment does a startup need to start trading?

As you begin to trade, you'll need to have the right IT infrastructure to support your operations. Benjamin Salisbury reveals which ones are essential.

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All startup businesses need IT infrastructure to operate and grow.

Even one-person delivery startups require a smartphone and apps to manage orders and communicate with customers. Most businesses require a more sophisticated IT setup. As you start trading, the exact requirements depend on the business.

In this article we cover what you need, how to source it, the cost and how to set up and manage an IT system.

Planning what you need

Carefully assess what you need for your new venture. Investing in the right tools ensures you can immediately offer a good service and reduce costs in the long run. Don’t waste money on equipment you don’t need.

Outsourcing basic IT infrastructure to an external IT company allows an owner to focus on their business but will cost more.

Building your own does not necessarily have to be expensive or arduous. Build on the hardware and software you already have.

Research each item. Buy reliable, quality equipment that will last and enable your business to run smoothly.

Focus on what you want to achieve by using the equipment, analyse if it delivers the right outcomes for your business. IT requirements should link back to your business plan.

When deciding what IT equipment to invest in, consider:

  • How you will use it?
  • Who will use it?
  • Where will it be used?
  • What are your future plans?
  • Is the equipment flexible enough to develop as your business does?

The basics: laptops/computers/printers

Nowadays, businesses select a mix of desktops for office use and laptops, tablets and smartphones, for employees to work flexibly from home or to use on the move.

They provide access to information and internal systems from anywhere and help your team stay connected.

For office-based businesses, PCs that run Microsoft Windows are a good option. Most employees are familiar with programmes such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, they are easy to set up and cheap to run and maintain. There are free alternatives such as OpenOffice.

These can be supplemented by industry-specific software and mobile apps that provide tailored software for your business. Some users prefer Apple Macs. They are more expensive, but generally last longer.

Epson Ecotank printers have high-capacity ink tanks that reduce printing costs.


Software costs vary by business type. Most companies need an accountancy package. You will also likely need a bespoke package linked to the industry you operate in, a CRM package, a stock management system and industry or service-specific apps to conduct specific business processes.

New software must be compatible with existing systems. Test it before rolling it out across your business and ensure updates are run regularly. If you don’t have dedicated IT staff, create a basic IT policy for employees to follow, including running software updates. Alternatively, use a tool that automatically updates software for you.

Cloud computing

Cloud services are based online rather than installed on computers. If you use cloud services extensively, you need a fast broadband connection.

Using cloud services means you always have the latest version, the entry cost is low and you can add or remove users easily, at any time. They are flexible, users can access them from any device, anywhere.

Cloud software updates run automatically. Most offer online support.

Other online services

Internet services need to be as fast and reliable as possible. Speeds will depend on your location. Fibre optic broadband is fastest, but not available everywhere, so you may have to use a slower ADSL connection, delivered via a standard phone line.

IT security

This is vital to protect your intellectual property and to ensure you can serve your customers.

Startups need to protect themselves from hackers, malware, data loss and accidents caused by human error. Firewalls protect systems from online threats. They can be built into routers to protect hardware. Separate software firewalls should be applied to each computer.

Use a virus protection programme and ensure systems are backed up, either to the cloud or an external hard drive. Encrypt all data sent online, including on mobile devices.

Make sure employees use strong passwords and can only access and edit data and programmes they need for their job.

Setting up a network

This connects computers and other devices to your IT system. Having them all online allows employees to share files, access the same systems, work together on shared documents and connect to one printer.

For startups with less than five people, create a simple network, connected to a router and the internet.

For more than five employees you need a more advanced network. You may need external help to set this up.

For larger businesses, you may even need to set up your own server to manage your network. This supports using centralised products, like CRM systems. Use an IT contractor to install, configure, operate and maintain the server.

IT management

Your IT system is an integral part of your business, so employing an IT manager or outsourcing its management may be a sensible investment.

It will help your business source and install new equipment, set up servers, install cabling, connections, routers and other equipment, install and customise software, integrate it with existing systems and train staff.

An in-house resource can help develop your IT strategy and training costs will be lower. Initially, this may be too costly, so research external providers, read reviews, check online forums and talk to other businesses to find the best options.

An external IT support package should have a service level agreement (SLA) that includes an online helpdesk, phone support and call outs. It should be tailored to your requirements and budget and include a maintenance contract to specified industry standards.


For a basic set up, you can use high street providers. This provides instant access to products, and a guarantee, but after sales service can be poor.

Specialist wholesalers offer a wider range of equipment, at lower prices, with more expertise to tap into.

You could go directly to manufacturers. Prices will be competitive and they will offer after sales service. Online resellers can be even cheaper but service levels vary. IT consultancies may not sell products directly but if you have a maintenance contract with them, they should provide expert, unbiased advice.

How much will it cost?

This depends on the nature and size of your business. Create an IT budget to plan and manage costs after researching what equipment you need.

It can be a false economy to buy entry-level equipment that does not provide the quality and capabilities you need, because you will soon have to upgrade or buy alternatives.

You spend more on maintaining and managing IT equipment than on the initial purchase, so buy quality equipment to save money overall.

A laptop typically costs between £400 to £2,000 or more. Apple Macs are more expensive, usually between £850 and £3,000+. There are options to rent monthly. Printers cost between £50 and £500+. Most other IT equipment is billed monthly. Dedicated business software systems and licences vary in price.

Cloud services are billed monthly or annually, based on the number of users and level of service required. For all monthly IT costs, consider any financing costs. Select low or interest-free options if possible.

If you use an IT support provider, ensure the basis for extra charges is clearly defined in the contract. Also budget for ongoing maintenance and support costs.

How do you set it up?

Setting up new equipment takes time and resources, so, if possible, use an experienced internal resource to reduce costs.

When setting up for multiple users, use system imaging. It works by copying how the software is set up on a device and then using a master image each time. This allows you to duplicate settings, avoiding manual set ups for each installation, where possible.

For online software each app must be installed individually. You could train employees to do this themselves if it’s straightforward.

When updating business software, decide how to switch user data and settings from one version to the new version of the software.

Do you need after sales support?

Most IT equipment costs come from needing to maintain, update and repair equipment you already own. IT hardware and software is continuously updated, so this is an unavoidable, ongoing cost.

Hopefully, most IT equipment will be reliable, but you will likely need some external support, though many tasks can be performed by your team for very little cost.

New equipment should come with a guarantee and some free support. Insure all IT equipment through business insurance.

Following an IT maintenance programme means your IT equipment should last longer, perform effectively and reduce support costs.


IT systems are vital for startup businesses to operate effectively and serve their customers. The IT equipment required will vary depending on the nature and size of the business.

Research, source and buy quality equipment as this will save time and money overall. Ensure it is flexible to meet the ongoing needs of your business.

Benjamin Salisbury - business journalist

Benjamin Salisbury is an experienced writer, editor and journalist who has worked for national newspapers, leading consumer websites like This Is Money and MoneySavingExpert.com, business analysts including Environment Analyst, AIM Group and written articles for professional bodies and financial companies. He covers news, personal finance, business, startups and property.

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