Small Business Technology - What You Really Need
Submit Articles Back to Articles
Technology is not the answer to all small business problems. You must deal
with employee theft, salaries, credit, insurance, customer relations, cash flow
and more. But in all of these areas and others the proper implementation of
technology can save you time and money and enable you to work more efficiently.
Remember, it is all about working smarter, not harder; information technology is
supposed to serve that specific task. Here are some must have, low cost tools
for your business:
This is a low cost and efficient means to give you 24/7 customer support, sales
and communication, not just in your geographic area, but around the world. Your
Web site can even be a tool of internal communication for your employees. The
big hype of making tons of money "over the Internet" is exaggerated, but your
Web site can be an excellent communications and advertising tool -- which leads
to indirect profits -- and even a direct money making tool if developed
Neater and cheaper than faxing, faster then FEDEX or the Post Office. Email is
the premier tool for communications. For example, one of our client companies
had telephone bills that reached into the thousands of dollars per month; their
bill after implementing a simple email system was $68.00. They actually
communicate more frequently, but email has cut down on expensive faxing costs.
Local Area Network (If You Have More Than 1 PC)
Increase productivity and communication within your company by networking all
the computers in your office. With a network you only need one printer for 10
users, or one Internet connection for all; the days of a modem and printer at
each PC are gone. Collaboration and communication within your office is vital,
and if you always have to get up and share diskettes with others, you're wasting
a portion of your day just walking from desk to desk. Even a small network of
two or three computers requires maintaining. In order to decide whether your
support provider is a good choice, you should assess their familiarity with the
different types of computer network:
In this type of network, no single machine is more important than any other
machine. Each person decides which files will be shared with the network by
setting permissions on a folder-by-folder basis, and each user may limit others
in the workgroup from accessing portions of his or her hard drive.
While a peer-to-peer network can get the job done, especially in a small
business, the main drawback is the volume of passwords and privileges that
reside on each machine. In addition, having users access information off another
user's hard drive could slow down processing speeds. This type of network is
only recommended for small, low traffic offices.
A server-based network contains one or more computers that have a central
management role in the network. Servers can control file storage, e-mail,
printer access, Internet access, security management and backups. There are
software packages available that allow you to set up a server-based network,
such as Windows Server, LINUX or UNIX. Ideally, a server should be a dedicated
machine that is not used by any employee for any other purpose.
For example, a server generally maintains a security database outlining who
belongs to the network and what privileges each user has. Users can then access
data from any networked machine, based on their individual passwords. Servers
can also allow you to centralize your data, simplifying access and backup.
Another server option is an "applications server," which runs all the company
software. This option can save money on software licensing agreements by
limiting the number of people who can use a single program at any given moment.
One question to consider when using a server-based network is how fast you
can access any backups of the server if the system crashes and you need to
Viruses will attack your computer systems. The only question is will you fight
back. Protect your data! In the 21st century information more valuable than
cash! An Anti-Virus program will alert you to a possible virus infection, and be
able to get rid of the virus before significant damage occurs. Most modern
anti-virus software programs will also protect you from other types of malware,
including spyware, bots, and other such internet dangers.
If your business catches fire, if your hard disk crashes, if your computer is
stolen -- where will your data be? Across the border? In 10 feet of water? Back
it up, store it off-site and sleep soundly. A recent customer recently lost over
10,000 files (email, contracts, original artwork, etc.) none of which was backed
up. We were hired to try to recover the missing information. Do you know what a
headache it was to manually get back SOME of those lost files? Some businesses
never recover all of their data and subsequently, go out of business.
Office Productivity Software
The most common software applications in all businesses are a word processor,
spread sheet, database, desktop publishing, and presentation software. These
basic business programs will enable you to create, edit and manage information,
publish your own brochures, make your own newsletter, and make exciting
Other must have software products include:
Desktop Faxing: If you must fax, at least stay at your desk, instead
of walking to a fax machine. And don't print paper from your PC just to fax it.
Fax right from your PC, it saves time and a few trees. A desktop faxing software
installs a working fax machine as a printer on your computer so you never have
to leave your desk.
Accounting Software: Save time, reduce mistakes and see instantly what
your money is doing. Some accountants will give you a discount if you provide
your financial information in computerized format. In selecting an accounting
software, be sure to work closely with your accountant, your computer consultant
and even your business bankers.
Contact Management: You used to rely on just a Rolodex but now you can
track thousands of clients, potential customers, partners and associates with
software. Also you can keep a record of every communication with clients to
None of this software does any good if you don't have a good computer system. If
your computer is old and not working efficiently then upgrade it or just buy a
new one. An old computer that runs slower than your workers is more costly than
upgrading or purchasing a new machine. Employees will always complain that they
need a faster computer. Here is a simple test to determine if they genuinely
need a new machine: Who waits for who? Does the worker wait for the computer, or
does the computer wait for the worker? If the worker waits for the computer then
(and only then) is it time to upgrade.
Where are you going to turn if you need technology help or advice? This is the
million dollar question for many small businesses. In some cases, you might know
someone that "knows computers." While this can help in a pinch, your best bet is
to rely on computer industry professionals. They can be more expensive than the
kid next door but a reputable technology professional can save you much grief
and aggravation in the future.
Hopefully, this article has given you a basis for understand what technology
investments your business will need. Remember, you don't need to buy all of them
immediately, but eventually you will need to invest some of your hard earned
money into computer systems that will make your life, and your business, better.
About the Author
Louis Rosas-Guyon is a business and technology consultant for
R-Squared Computing, Inc.
He is based in Miami, Florida.
Follow us @Scopulus_News
Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-03-15 15:40:17 in Computer Articles