The Internet in the 21st century redefined what a small business is. Being the great lubricant to commerce, the web has removed so many barriers to going into business for yourself that there’s almost no reason not to at least give entrepreneurship a try. But while the process of business is streamlined, it also relies more heavily on technology than it ever did before.
When starting a new business, every penny counts. There are several categories of costs that are unavoidable, which makes it that much more necessary to look into what corners you can cut. When it comes to technology, there’s a number of cost-cutting measures that will take you quite far, at least past the domain of the sole proprietor.
As long as your product or service doesn’t itself rely on technology, you and your office staff will get by just fine with used laptops from a site such as NewEgg. The big secret to office workstations is that you don’t need the latest and most expensive hardware. For the typical workhorse unit running an office suite and slinging a few emails around, a laptop under $300 should do fine. Even at that, it can be a dual-core or better.
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)
The other half of that equation is what software to run. While the Windows install on a used laptop is likely to be laggy and outdated, erasing that hard drive to install the latest Linux Mint version is free, easy, and will breathe new life into old hardware. Running on top of that should be LibreOffice, the FOSS answer to Microsoft Office. It can handle the documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations, and flowcharts just like any other workstation.
For more specific tasks, many other open-source replacements exist for more expensive software. The new standard of Software as a Service (SaaS) has also spawned several web portal-based management services for small businesses.
Web domains are drastically cheap for the basic package, easily around $10 / month. From there, you have FOSS again: Apache web server, and for content management systems (CMS) you have WordPress or the more involved Drupal and Joomla. However, if even that is a bit much to manage, and your business can get by with less, creating a free online presence through Google’s Blogger platform or Wix is even easier.
As far as a start-up goes, the basic technology is relatively cheap and easy to get. There are even low-cost options as your business expands to where you have to worry about payroll and tax filing for more than one proprietor. But for most budding entrepreneurs, this list will be all they need for quite a while.