Until you reach the point where your business is big enough to have its own IT department, it can be tricky to keep up with new tech.

Although a lot of hardware and apps focus on the consumer market, some developments definitely have businesses in mind.

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What hardware should you buy?

The most straightforward IT requirement for many businesses is hard-working computer systems that come at a reasonable price. But do you want a Mac or a PC? Which operating system should you use?

With new products constantly launched on the market and endless updates available, trying to keep up can feel like you’re running to stand still.

Tips for buying hardware

  • Cheap isn’t always best
  • Ensure you don’t sacrifice speed and capacity for price
  • Laptops need at least 4 gigabytes of RAM to run the latest systems
  • Graphics-heavy programmes need more processing power
  • Moderate users should look to spend £400-£600 on a laptop
  • Heavy users who need more graphics should spend £700+ on a laptop

Desktop, tablet or laptop?

Your business needs will dictate much of your choice between laptops, desktops and tablets.

Tablets are useful for their mobility and ease of use on site, while laptops and desktops are better set up for anyone who is inputting large amounts of information.

Thanks to increased use of cloud-based storage systems, it’s no longer necessary to have large amounts of data stored on a desktop. But if you prefer to keep everything on site, these may still be your best option.

Read Which? reviews of a wide range of laptops, advice on how to buy the best laptop, as well as a review of Apple MacBook versus Windows PC versus Chromebook and their relative costs.

If your business uses tablets rather than laptops, then Which? has tested Android, Apple and Windows tablets to help you make the right choice.

Apps to help small businesses

There are applications for almost every possible need available, on both Android and Apple. Many of these allow you access to information and processing while on the move, and you can use them from your tablet or smartphone. There are lots of apps available to support small business operations, and even some that specifically address traders’ issues with regulations.

  • CDM Wizard is aimed at anyone working within the construction industry to help make sure you comply with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015). Available on both Apple and Android devices, the app asks you questions about the job you are there to do – usually taking less than five minutes - and creates a simple action plan that counts as the construction phase plan for your job, and can be emailed to whoever needs it.
  • Truecaller on Apple and Android is designed to stop spam callers reaching you on your mobile phone. Free to install, it blocks nuisance calls and makes use of its huge database of numbers to tell you who’s calling, even when they’re not one of your contacts.

Information-sharing apps

  • Dropbox allows you to share information quickly and safely. Anything you put into your dropbox account – photos, documents, videos – automatically synchronises with any other computer devices linked to your account. The information is stored in the cloud and is available anywhere. This can be a great way to link up information when colleagues are offsite collecting measurements, issuing invoices or taking photos of a project. Find out more in the Which? review of Dropbox.
  • Evernote is a note-taking app that allows you to jot down ideas, sketches and pictures whenever you need. Your note is then uploaded to the cloud and you can access it from all your devices – so you could review your documents, text or images whenever and wherever you want.

Finance apps

  • Mint impressed our tech team when Which? evaluated some of the best financial apps to help with your budgeting. It comes with options to link data to an app on your PC to provide more detailed reports.
  • Sage One is an offshoot of the well-known accounting solution specifically designed for small businesses. Available on Apple or Android, the app allows you to create quotes and invoices, and manage your sales pipeline, when on the move. It can link up with your accountants, so you can work on documents together. It also has the nifty feature of keeping up to date with any changes in regulations around VAT.
  • Quickbooks Self-Employed is particularly well set up for small and medium-sized businesses. It allows you to invoice clients on the go, connect to your online banking to download transactions, track your expenses, and even auto-complete your tax return. One particularly useful function allows you to take a photo of your receipts, and adds them into your expenses.
  • Vat Calculator apps are available for both Android and iOS that will take the headache out of working out your VAT by doing the maths for you.

More on this…