At one time, technology was seen only as a nerd’s paradise, but most small businesses could get by without it. That 100% is not the case in this day and age, and it’s doubtful that your small business has gotten anywhere without some level of tech use, even if you’re just running from a small fleet of laptops or work phones.
Even if you do figure you’ve got your IT needs sorted, it’s always worth considering if your current tech solution is really providing you the best mix of productivity and cost-effective performance.
That doesn’t automatically mean that it’s wise to jump on every single tech trend going; evaluating your small business tech needs could be as simple as assessing the tools you use every day and working out if there are better alternatives, and, critically, if they’re going to meet your needs.
Boost your productivity with better laptops or desktops
Many small businesses rely on relatively simple computers to run their business operations, and for the most part that’s absolutely fine. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a high-end computing rig best suited to generating effects for Hollywood blockbusters if a simple computer will do, after all.
However, if you’ve been using the same computer for three years or more, you may find that it’s actually more cost effective and productive to look at upgrading.
For most businesses the effective (and expected) depreciation of computers is three years (though this varies, and isn’t intended as financial tax advice, just to be clear). While that three-year span may or may not keep the tax people happy – it can be hard to tell at the best of times – it’s also a good measure of upgraded performance relative to price.
Put simply, if you’re working on an older, wheezing computer, you’re probably waiting and waiting while it brings up customer records, downloads email or does whatever business task it is that needs doing. While there’s an associated cost with upgrading your computer fleet, it’s worth crunching the numbers to work out your lost productivity due to outdated computers. In many cases, a faster laptop will quickly pay for itself in upgraded productivity, let alone any new features or business possibilities you might be able to enable with it.
Enable a mobile workforce simply with smartphones
The words “mobile workforce” used to imply a whole host of employees armed with laptops. That’s still a workable model, but it’s far from the only one that you can employ. Today’s smartphones are surprisingly powerful, even in the mid-range price bracket, with processors that equal some low-end laptops in some cases for sheer processing power.
Where the mobile smartphone workforce play can get really smart is if you invest in smartphones that can act as ad-hoc laptops in their own right. Devices like some of Samsung’s Galaxy S series phones or Motorola’s Edge 30 Fusion offer desktop connection modes through a simple USB cable, so they can act as virtual laptops with the addition of a simple keyboard and mouse. You could equip employees – or work yourself – in the field from your phone, then head back to the office, plug in and work on the same documents on a full computer screen with ease this way.
It’s not quite the full Windows or Mac experience, to be clear, but if you need that mix of mobility and simple connectivity, it’s a great alternative option.
Check your business broadband speeds
With so much of our work these days being done online, there’s not much point in upgrading your PCs if you’re still working off a single slow broadband connection. Again, this is an easy one to manage, because if you or your staff are all-too-often waiting for bank statements to reconcile, emails to download or updates to flow down to your computers, that’s time and money wasted relative to the cost of an upgraded broadband connection.
Before you simply sign up for the fastest connection available to you, though, it’s wise to actually check your internet speeds and make sure that you’re getting what you pay for from your business ISP. If there’s a technical fault that’s going to stymie your speeds, switching to a faster plan isn’t going to fix your woes that way.
Secure cloud-based backup is a must
It’s not nice to think about, but what would you do if your business premises burnt to the ground overnight? Business insurance might cover the building and even the tech contents, but the real value of your business lies in the work you’ve put into it.
That’s work that’s all too often left just on the computers you use every day, or sometimes on a central server within the building so that multiple employees can share data. Insurance is unlikely to pay for expensive data restoration teams to go to work on a melted server, and even there success isn’t guaranteed.
That’s where paying for a cloud-based backup with encryption is a must. Larger business file backups can take time, but there’s no reason they can’t run 24/7 so that in the event of a disaster, you’re able to get back up and working as soon as possible.
Are you using the right software?
Just as there’s more than one way to thump in a nail – though most carpenters do prefer a hammer – there’s more than one software way to fix a particular problem or meet a particular need.
You might think that you’ve got the software for your business flowing smoothly – and hopefully you do – but it’s worth periodically looking at the alternatives and considering their benefits and drawbacks relative to how you’re doing business right now.
Let’s consider finances for a second. It’s feasible to run a small business from spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel or even Google Sheets, because they’re built to crunch numbers. But spreadsheet software is the equivalent of a huge hammer, an all-purpose tool to fix many problems. For some use cases, having dedicated financial management software, especially with small business tax considerations built in may be a smarter option, even if it involves an initial outlay.
Many of those packages can more seamlessly integrate with invoicing software to make the accounting side of your business run far more smoothly, which could equate to you spending more time on the actual job and less time staring at spreadsheet cells trying to make it all add up before your accountant glares at you.