Is your technology part of the solution—or part of the problem? Here are the tools your business needs and how to keep them current.
As a business owner, you can’t ignore technology any more than you can ignore your customers. Even if your products or services aren’t particularly high tech, the current wealth of available tools can make your workflow more efficient and boost your visibility to clients. But that abundance of technology also can be overwhelming. What tools do you really need? And how can you tell when it’s time to upgrade your current tech?
“The first warning sign is that your business is not growing,” says Alex Sirota, director of NewPath Consulting, a Toronto firm specializing in helping small businesses embrace technology and marketing solutions. “Technology is an amazing enabler for communication, collaboration, and automation. If you feel you are being left behind by your competitors, your technology—or lack thereof—could be to blame.”
Today, we’re talking tech—what you need, when you need it, and why.
In addition to a high-quality desktop or laptop computer, Sirota recommends a good wireless router. “Bad Wi-Fi,” he says, “can really slow down your internet—and your business.” He suggests upgrading from your internet service provider’s hardware, which usually consists of low-end units with limited reach and reliability. And every business needs a printer. Canon’s MAXIFY series is a great investment for small and big businesses alike. It won’t take up an entire cubicle, but it’s got the speed and the ample ink supply of a much bigger model.
Into the Cloud
Sirota also suggests taking your operations into the cloud. Not only will this reduce hardware costs—no need for huge hard drives for storage and backup—but it can also make your business life much easier. “Cloud tools not only save your business money on technology,” says Sirota, “they also enable your business to be more productive and profitable.”
Cloud-based customer service platforms take a great deal of IT and engineering off your plate while providing state-of-the-art tools for everything from following leads and accepting payment to tracking inventory and marketing analytics.
Signs That It’s Time
Now you’ve got the basics down, but how can you tell it’s time to upgrade your current technology?
Finding a Provider
Often, the missing piece of the tech puzzle is making sure you’ve signed on with a provider that can meet your needs. Sirota recommends making sure your provider’s platform is easy-to-use and that the support staff is helpful. “Don’t settle for bad service,” he says, “and unless you can be up, running, and productive in half an hour, the platform—and the company hosting it—are likely not worth the trouble.”
Remember, technology can’t solve all of your problems—but it can empower you to make informed decisions in a strategic way, and work efficiently under pressure. The key is finding a good fit with your company and making sure that your tools are able to meet your needs as your business grows.
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