IT Tips for the Uninitiated

by Melissa Jackson

With technology continuously evolving, it can seem nearly impossible for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profits to stay abreast of all that ¡s changing or to understand what type of infrastructure or IT services they actually need. When assessing technical infrastructure, it is important to understand:

  1. What do I need?
  2. How do I implement it?
  3. Is it a good product
  4. Am I paying too much for the service or product?

However, many non-profits and small businesses are too busy trying to become experts in all areas of business marketing, IT, accounting, etc., while being taken advantage of due to a lack of knowledge, staff, or a combination. It ¡s time to change the way to think and operate in regards to information technology, starting with the basic necessities for any organization starting up or established with little to no regular IT support. A couple suggestions for all organizations to consider are the following:


Websites are essential for any organization in today¡¦s era. You must consider the hosting company. Please note, the cheap ones are not always the best. What type of email service do you want? IMAP, Microsoft Exchange, or POP? How will your website be maintained? Who will design it? Will it be based on a template? Now the tough part is making a decision and implementing. This is where the experts of this space see and know your vulnerabilities. So what do you do? For your website, read reviews online regarding hosting. Compare standard packages with upgraded packages to identify which hosting providers offer certain items as standard, where others consider it an upgrade. But more importantly, look at their support documentation and methods (chat, email, phone, etc.). Use YouTube as resource for how to create a website or maintain one. Also consider content management systems (CMS) for creating and maintaining your website. CMS allows the non-techies to manage their own site. One of the more popular CMS platforms with thousands of layouts and themes is WordPress. Keep in mind there will be a small number of tasks that will require you to upload to your hosting company. But the documentation provided is normally very thorough. However, if you are in doubt or even scared, remember YouTube and your help desk support with your hosting company.

Website Hosting Recommendations:

Desktop vs Laptop

Regardless if you have an office space with a staff or not, you need to identify the type of hardware your company will use. There are pros and cons for both computer options. The main difference is portability. However, display screen size, RAM, and processors do become factors when considering a laptop. For computers, think about your budget, what you will be using the computer for, and if it¡¦s necessary to have it with you all the time. Research your computer to identify strengths and weaknesses, and utilize PC Magazine, TechRadar, PC World, and YouTube for reviews on electronics.

Desktop (D) & Laptop (L) Recommendations:

  • Apple iMac (21.5-inch, 2014) (D)
  • Toshiba Satellite E45T-A4300 (L)
  • Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch (L)
  • Acer Aspire U5 (D)
  • Apple MacBook Pro 13inch (L)
  • Dell XPS 8700 Desktop Computer (D)

Project Management Tools

There are multiple types of project management tools to help organizations manage their clients, tasks, and resources more efficiently. But what most non-profits and small businesses don¡¦t know is¡Kthere are free tools available from reputable companies for smaller groups, including, for example: Redbooth, ASANA, Trello, Azendoo, or Glasscubes. Please note: since these have free subscription plans, the feature availability or user size may vary. But overall, they are a good resource for small teams.

Collaboration Tools

Collaboration tools are important regardless if your organization is big or small. You must be able to communicate and collaborate with your team, potential clients, current clients, and/or other stakeholders. The following is a list of programs that will make collaborating or communicating virtually easier: (virtual meetings), Sharetronix, Freeconferencecall, Wiggio, Anymeeting (virtual meeting), or Confluence.

Now at the end of the day, I understand you may not have the time to do the appropriate research and implementation, for what is needed to get started. Or perhaps, you do not trust your electronic vibes not to destroy the universe. In those situations, I cannot stress the importance of using your friends, family, or even kids. You will be amazed and surprised by what they know or who they know. If you happen to fall into the pool of very few resources among your family or friends, then you may need to hire someone who was REFERRED to you to support your initial setup and training for the tools and hardware you¡¦ve selected. The referral is important to reduce the risk of getting taken advantage of by a consultant.

So remember YouTube is your friend. Reviews are your friend. Tools with free subscriptions are your friend. Last, but not least, TECHNOLOGY can be your best-friend.

Follow me on Twitter @MelissaSJ1T

Bottom Line: When it comes to determining what your IT needs may be, simply take a breath, relax, and remember: YouTube is your friend. Reviews are your friend. Tools with free subscriptions are your friend. Last, but not least, TECHNOLOGY can be your best-friend.

Melissa Jackson has ten years of experience providing IT support for federal clients such as the National Aeronautics Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA GSFC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She holds a Bachelor¡¦s degree in Accounting from the University of Maryland as well as a Master¡¦s in General Business.

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