Low Cost IT Solutions for a Small Office

Managing office expenses is always critical and in particular when resources are limited as a company is small and getting off the ground.  This article considers low cost options for key office tools including productivity software, online storage solutions, email services and phone systems. 

Microsoft Office has been the primary productivity software for business for years.  The latest version, Office 365 offers an entry-level Business Essentials product that is priced at $5 user/month (with annual contract) and includes email (50GB storage), file storage (1TB) and web based versions of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Google for Work offers a similar suite that includes email, calendar, file storage (30GB shared with email) and web based applications including Docs, Sheets and Slides.  Pricing is $5 user/month, or $50 per year.  Pricing goes to $10 per month for unlimited storage.  The web based applications offer comparable features as Microsoft but there are some aspects such as calendar sharing differences and spreadsheet limitations that might frustrate users who are used to Microsoft.

Google for Work may be better for cost sensitive clients, while Office 365 may be preferred for clients heavily dependent and invested in key Microsoft tools like Outlook and Excel.

A key aspect of these hosted productivity software solutions is the storage service.  It allows users to securely store files in the cloud, share files, and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with collaborators.  It also works as a back up solution with all files protected on Google or Microsoft servers.  As long as all key company files are stored on these servers, this can save a small business from additional backup service costs.

For email, it’s a good idea to have your address be consistent even if you change email services. One way to do this is to register for a domain name.  This domain name can be used both for a company website and a custom email address: yourname@yourdomain.com.  Websites such as Domainr,com can help find an available domain name at a low cost – around $10 per year. 

Once a domain name is purchased, there are several low cost options for email services.  Both the Google and Microsoft offerings mentioned above include email services that support custom addresses.  In addition, Zoho offers email hosting and is free up to 3 users.  Pricing goes from $2.50 user/month after that. Another option is Atmail, which has a nice customizable interface and runs $2 user/month, with a minimum of 5 users.

For office phone service, a web based virtual phone system is a great way minimize initial costs.  Grasshopper.com is a virtual receptionist that works with mobile phones.  You chose an 800 number, record a greeting and add employees and departments to a directory via an online configuration tool.  When a potential customer calls the 800 number, they will hear the custom greeting, select an extension and be forwarded to a specific mobile phone number.   Prices start at $12 per month.  Ring Central offers a similar service, and in addition offers VOIP phone service for wired phones in the office at an additional cost. 

Add this all up and a small office of 5 could be working with Office 365 Essentials or Google for Work’s applications, using a custom email address, with files safely and securely stored in the cloud while receiving calls via Grasshopper’s phone service for less then $40 a month.