Small Business Technology – What You Really Need

Overview

Technology is not the answer to all small business problems. You must deal with employee theft, salaries, processes, credit, insurance, customer relations, cash flow and more. But in all of these areas 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:

Web Site

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 properly. A good website explains your product or service and introducing perspective customers to your business. Remember to focus on the customer when designing your website, not yourself. Focus on benefits and advantages that you offer.

Email

Neater and cheaper than faxing, faster then FEDEX or the Post Office. Email is the premier tool for communications. For example, one of my client companies had telephone bills that reached into the thousands of dollars per month; after implementing a simple email system their phone bill was $68.00. They actually communicate more frequently, but email has cut down on expensive faxing costs. The danger of email comes from junk mail, viruses and bad email etiquette.

Junk mail can be dealt with by using simple filters. For example, Microsoft Outlook comes with built in junk mail filters which work quite well. Leverage the systems you have before running out and spending money. Email etiquette is really up to your corporate culture. Some companies have no problem with employees CC’ing every one in the business and others regulate against it. Just figure out what works for you and then let people in your business know what you prefer. Email opens the doors to great advantages but equally dangerous threats. That is why you must, absolutely have the next item on this list.

Anti-Virus Software

Viruses will attack your computer systems. The only question is will you fight back. Protect your data! In the 21st century information is 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. Any anti-virus software from a reputable vendor will suffice. Be sure to turn on automatic updates as new viruses are created every day. Also, make sure to schedule a full virus scan every week; I schedule them for non-working hours.

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 multiple users, or one Internet connection. Collaboration and communication within your office is vital, and if you always have to get up and share disks or memory sticks 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:

Peer-to-Peer 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.

Server-based Network

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 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 restore data.

Back-Up System

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, 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 presentations. There are numerous productivity suites on the market, including some excellent online editions, such as Google Apps, that are free.

Other must have products/services 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 minimize mistakes.

Computer Hardware

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.

Technical Support

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. Remember, your computer tech will have access to your precious business data so make sure it is someone professional that you can trust.

Hopefully, this article has given you an understanding of 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.

Medical Alert – The Healthy Technology Partner

Medical services provided by most of the hospitals in the current scenario are having many positive as well as negative sides.The latest facilities provided by the modern hospitals are in a way giving more specialized treatment services to the patients.By the hospitalization, the cost of such treatments can also be much higher regardless of the financial conditions of the patients.

The technology and its developments we have seen in the medical industry is also a worth factor in saving the life of the patients. The patients monitoring systems as well as medical alarms are the new introduction to the home healthcare services where the patient can enjoy the freedom of being monitored at home than spending more time in the hospitals.The medical alerts which are enabling the access to the 24 hours support at the press of a button can be a great relief for the patients.The benefit is that it can be useful for you in connecting with your family members or other persons, even an ambulance when there is an emergency. Just pressing the medical pendent will be making you available of the doctor who you want to consult. Tele-healthcare as the new step in the home healthcare in long terms is enabling the patients to take care of their medical conditions and thereby managing things independently.

If you feel anything more complicated or abnormal,then the tele-healthcare can detect such signs and inform the same with the concerned people.You can find everything and get updated even from the comfortable atmosphere of your home.Doctors normally suggest the patients of heart failure, diabetes etc. to use such systems in trusting the efficiency of these systems. Patient Connect is an Australian provider involved in the business of these services. For the individual use, the medical alarms are offering the utilities of bulkbilled services and 24 / 7 access to medical care.These waterproof pendants are installed by the qualified technicians.The request for an after hours doctor services, network connecting with the doctors and nurses, generation of the electronic reports for taking appropriate preventive measures etc. are greatly helping the patients in giving them a smooth heath conditions.The usefulness of the alarm pendants for the aged care facilities can be in the form of easily detecting the existing conditions of the patient and helping the treating person to give supportive medical supports. When the medical alert pendants are backed with 50 meters range and around 40 hours backup, everything is safe and secure in handling such technical equipment.

The home healthcare services are providing to be one of the most trustable health care technology partners where the patients are free from the inconveniences of the normal hospital atmosphere.They are enjoying such an atmosphere where they can be happier.

Choosing The Right Retail Technology Partner

Would you ask an unsuccessful person how to become more successful? Or ask a friend with a run-down car what the best vehicle is on the market? I would think not.

So, it is suffice to say that you shouldn’t ask a fellow retailer who is struggling with their business technology where to get software technology from. In more cases than one, you’ll find they got software that didn’t suit their needs, and have a retail service provider who isn’t helping them succeed.

Having the right technology is one thing. Having a good retail technology partner who knows retail and backed by an excellent support team is quite another. These two things go hand-in-glove.

These service providers, or “Value-added Resellers” (VARS), are a key factor to helping a retailer boost efficiencies and increase profits. They will help a retailer make the right business decisions on technology and ensure that the technology they chose fits their business needs.

A retail technology partner should know retail, not just retail technology. When choosing a VAR, look for these key factors:

* Retail experts able to consult with you about your needs and who help you with making the right technology choice.

* Retail sales consultants who provide the best technology tools to help you in running your business.

* Knowledgeable and highly experienced technical support staff.

* Support staff who are quick to respond and always available when you need them.

* Tailored support plans to get the most out of the system.

* Technicians with the ability to customize the system to fit your needs, handling everything from seamless installation and conversion to project management.

* Retail consultants that help train your employees on a new system and provide on-going training and education.

A home furnishing and gift store in Mesa, California turned to a VAR to help them with their choice in a retail point of sale system. The store Fleur De Lys partnered with One Step Data. The company installed Retail Pro┬« as the best choice for the store and, since the installation, owners Shannon Ritter and Josephine Pfeiffer have maintained a proactive relationship with One Step Data. “We are always getting information regarding new products and system information,” says Ritter. “I certainly don’t feel we’ve been abandoned since our purchase. It’s like having a corporate Help Desk or IT department.”

Having expert help makes a big difference for retailers. Who else can they turn to if they don’t have knowledgeable experts who know retail?

“Technology is an important tool for business, especially for retailers,” says Scott Kreisberg, owner of One Step Data. “The market has exploded with literally thousands of companies offering different technology solutions. But not all companies are alike.”

Kreisberg’s company has been helping retailers with their business and point of sale systems for over 20 years. His confidence in his company being able to offer the right solution to retailers comes from having the best products at their disposal, and over two decades of experience and knowledge implementing technology in retail businesses.

“We have become the central nervous system of our customers,” claims Kreisberg, “and are constantly working on ways to help them improve their store operations.”

Retailers should contact a VAR to meet with them personally and determine whether or not that reseller fully understands retail, not just retail technology. The VAR should be able to find a solution that fits with the way the retailer does business and work with them every step of the way to help them achieve their goals.

Business Technology Consulting: Leveraging IT Resources for Maximum Benefit

In doing business, utilizing state-of-the-art technology is not enough to gain the competitive edge. This goes hand-in-hand with using these to your company’s advantage. Through business technology consulting services from a reputable firm, you are able to leverage your company’s IT resources to maximize efficiency and profit.

Today’s technology-driven market calls for a more sophisticated approach to handling daily operations and dealing with business challenges. Whether you intend to develop a new capability, streamline operations, or solve existing problems, the right consultant can tailor a solution to meet your company’s needs and objectives.

There are many aspects of your enterprise that a technology consulting partner can work on. Business processes, people, and information can be united through enterprise application integration. Such a solution enables you to do away with manual processes and increase efficiency in the workplace.

Better planning and decision-making are facilitated with business intelligence solutions that allow you to efficiently collect, organize and study information. These can be achieved through an enterprise reporting system that integrates data design, development, warehousing and processing.

Collaboration between members of an organization – especially those facing geographical constraints – can be made seamless with workflow and collaboration technology. Through integrated software and applications, process automation and more efficient information sharing and task management are made possible.

Business technology consulting is a solid investment toward your company’s future. IT is an indispensable resource, which, when used and developed properly, can make a world of difference in the way you do business and the results you deliver.