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The Spare-Change Startup

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It has never been easier to get a startup off the ground. Having launched my own business, I've experienced this first hand. When looking at the core IT services that pin your company together, the choice of services is vast. The majority of these IT solutions are now available through the cloud on a subscription basis, which makes it cheaper than ever to launch a business or change the way your operations run. It would be unthinkable to start a company now that isn't equipped for life in the cloud. Relying on subscription services will enable you to build a flexible company with greater reach. There are numerous options and services available but I wanted to share with you the basic services you will need and how they will benefit your business. Here's how you can build an IT infrastructure on the cheap...

Email
The first step in starting any company is of course getting your email up and running. You can't make connections without email and connections are what will take you forward. Cloud-based email systems enable you to access your mail on the go, meaning you can be constantly connected whether on mobile, tablet or laptop. Office 365 and Gmail offer affordable options and are flexible to the size of your company. Gmail is free for up to 10 users and comes at a pretty low cost after this whereas Office 365 provides a familiar Outlook experience and also offers a free trial for startups. Both of these are great options and require very little back end preparation/maintenance.

Collaboration
Before long you'll inevitably want to share materials and content with people both within and outside of your company. This is where collaboration software plays a huge part. This will enable project management for multiple users, allowing for easy completion of tasks. Box and Basecamp, both cloud solutions, are amongst the most popular. Box offers integration with Google Apps and Salesforce.com and its service is also available on mobile. Both offer a freemium model, so you only begin to pay once your users increase and the level of storage requirements grows. This is a great way to try out services before you commit to buying them on an ongoing basis.

Website
When your company is shaping up internally, you'll need to start thinking about raising your profile externally. Your website will give you the platform to launch your company to the world. Chances are, it's also where you'll do most of your business. In the Subscription Economy, your website will be your shop front. It'll help you make the connection with your customers and an in-built payments system on your website will enable you to offer different variations of one-time, recurring and usage fees. WordPress.com and Moonfruit offer the ability to build attractive and manageable websites with sophisticated design control. Moonfruit in particular offers the option to build an online shop into your site.

Storage
As your company grows further, you'll need somewhere safe to store your larger files and documents. Cloud based storage means that office space can be kept to a minimum. Instead of committing to expensive on-premise server solutions, storing your data in a secure cloud service means that you'll save on a lot of maintenance costs and issues. With cloud storage, your IT processes and upkeep will be managed by world-class professionals meaning that your startup can enjoy the same technical support as the biggest companies in the world. Offerings like Amazon Web Services, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive bill on the amount of space used per month. This simple web interface can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. This offers the same levels of flexibility and security to your startup as enjoyed by the giants of the industry.

CRM
As the business grows, you will gain customers and it's important to track their feedback and what stage they are at in the sales cycle. In the Subscription Economy where your relationships with customers are all important, it is crucial to be able to manage those relationships closely to increase recurring sales and revenues. Services like Salesforce.com and Zendesk will enable you to monitor customer engagement so you can better respond to your customer's comments and needs.

By combining these services, entrepreneurs can take advantage of the Subscription Economy and launch their own cloud-enabled subscription company for less than a tank of petrol. My advice is simply go for it, learn and adapt.