With the world moving at an ever faster pace in terms of technology, there has never been a better time for small businesses to gain an edge through the use of tech. Regardless of what industry your business focuses on, here is a comprehensive look at the tech that could speed up your workflow, encourage better teamwork, or simply make life easier for you. Use the small business tech checklist below to make give your business the competitive edge in the coming year.
A Small Business Tech Checklist: Minimum Tech to Make You Competitive
Every day seems to add to the wide variety of technology available for small businesses. How do you know what tech you really need? In short, you need tech to cover the following areas:
- Communication solutions;
- Hardware and networking equipment;
- Data storage for small business;
- Connectivity for small business; and
- Security solutions.
Add to that the establishment of IT policies and training, and you’re fully equipped. To help you evaluate what you need, we put together a small business tech checklist.
Communication Solutions for Small Business
Every small business needs various forms of communication solutions. External communication keeps the business in touch with customers and vendors. Before the Internet, businesses usually had one or more landlines for such communicating with those outside the office.
Today, businesses enjoy a variety of additional options, such as VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and using mobile phones instead of landlines. VoIP may require the purchase of specific equipment, but it is often available at much lower rates than traditional phone lines. And a mobile phone line, while not usually cheaper than a traditional landline, has the benefit of offering free long distance calling and the ability to make and answer calls even when you’re out of the office.
Software for Productivity
The next item on the small business tech checklist covers the applications you use to conduct business. Most businesses use software of one kind or another, either to do the work of the business or to keep records for the business. Many businesses use some combination of word processing, spreadsheets, or digital slide presentations.
First and foremost, you don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive software. Nowadays, there are a number of free solutions for all your needs. At a basic level, you should be making use of a number of Google’s free office solutions.
Google Docs is a helpful word processor that can easily meet your everyday text editing needs, and it is completely free. Add to that Google’s entire suite of productivity apps, such as Sheets, Drive, Slides, and more, and you have a very powerful start for your business, all for free.
Using Google’s applications has another distinct advantage—everything gets stored in the “cloud”. With this feature, small businesses can rest easy, knowing that the chances of documents getting lost due to hardware failures are pretty slim.
If you’re accustomed to the Microsoft Office Suite and have the budget for it, Microsoft offers monthly and annual subscriptions to a suite of productivity apps in Office 365. A subscription includes cloud storage and a limited number of Skype calls per month.
Small Business Office Equipment
Your hardware needs depend in part on how much of your business requires use of the printed page. Paperless offices need computers or workstations. An office that uses paper to any degree to conduct business also needs at least one printer and may also need an all-in-one printer that also scans, copies, or provides other functions. For very small offices, a combination printer/copier/scanner may suffice, but larger operations may need multiple or separate units.
Most offices these days also use email, which means your computers or workstations will also need to be connected to each other and/or the Internet. Consider whether your office needs an internal computer network, which may require hardware of its own.
Data Storage for Small Business
Whether or not you have a paperless office, you likely produce documents, records, or correspondence on a computer. For that reason, the next item on the small business tech checklist is data storage solutions. You will find all forms of data storage in WV. All of this information needs to be stored somewhere. You can store data on hardware located in your office or in “the cloud.”
Storing data on hardware in your office requires equipment. If you want the data to be accessible by more than one user, you need a network and, depending on your size, might consider a dedicated network server.
Cloud storage is also available on a subscription basis. Consider your budget and security needs when choosing which data storage solutions are right for your small business. And don’t forget to shop local. Your local cloud storage provider may be better acquainted with your business and, therefore, better able to meet your particular data storage needs.
Connectivity for Small Business
The widespread use of technology means users need to be able to communicate digitally with one another. For some small businesses, this can be achieved through an internal network that connects all of its computers and other equipment via wiring. Hence, small business connectivity solutions are next on the small business tech checklist.
Most businesses also use a connection to the Internet. Explore your local Internet service providers (ISPs), the companies that provide businesses and homes access to the Internet. When choosing an ISP and pricing packages, consider how much data you will need to upload and download and how fast you need to upload and download data.
Security Solutions for Small Business
No small business tech checklist is complete without mention of security. All businesses run the risk of data breaches, whether from outside the business by hackers or from within by disgruntled or merely errant employees. A data breach or even just the loss of data due to corrupt files can cost you time, productivity, money, and credibility with clients.
Taking steps to secure your data and your systems can go a long way to preventing a catastrophic loss. Some common data protection techniques include installing antivirus software and network security software. Certain hardware can also aid in security, such as firewall hardware.
Many overlook one security practice that involves no hardware: training employees on digital security. Many breaches result from employee mistakes, such as clicking on an email attachment or failing to manage passwords properly. Establishing ground rules for digital security and providing employees ongoing training is a very cost-effective way to secure your small business data.
Need help evaluating your needs using this small business tech checklist? The small business technicians at ComTech Consulting, LLC can help you evaluate your small business tech needs and find the solutions best for your budget. Contact us today by calling (304) 720-8491 or email us at Sales@ComTechSBS.com.