Technology is fascinating, changing daily, and confusing all at the same time. It can help keep you organized, handle tedious chores automatically, and connect you globally. It can also cost you lots of unnecessary dollars if you are not careful.
Here are tips based on the experience of other small business owners who have previously navigated a technology minefield filled with the latest and greatest.
The first step in deciding which types of technology to invest in is putting together a budget. The newest gadgets and software run the gamut in price from a 99 cent app to a high-end scanner that costs thousands.
Set up a budget and stick to it. Base it on how much you can reasonably afford to invest. Having a fixed amount to work with will reduce the temptation of the newest add-on or gizmo.
New technology is the sum of the sticker price plus the cost of implementing it. Consider these points:
- Does it need special installation?
- Do you need a subscription to an online site to keep it updated?
- Does it need ongoing maintenance?
- Does it break down often?
- Do you need to pay for training?
- Are upgrades free or do you pay for them?
- Are there data storage costs involved?
- Do you need to buy additional software?
- What accessories are essential?
Make sure the electronics you are thinking of investing in match your business lifestyle. If you constantly travel from customer to customer, bulky electronics are a bad investment. Think laptop or tablet, instead of a desktop. Do you really need to upgrade your server? Instead of buying the software yourself, would a Software-As-A-Service, or SaaS offering be more cost effective? Can you rely on the cloud?
Make sure that new devices you purchase will work with your existing equipment. A great piece of Mac software will not do you any good in a Windows environment unless you buy additional software.
Is it secure? This is a very real hazard for a small business. Make sure that what you buy can be protected with the proper levels of security. Taking shortcuts with the cost of security could come back and severely damage your business.
A 2013 survey by the Small Business Owners Association listed these four items as essentials:
- Desktop (87%)
- Laptop (84%)
- Smartphone (74%)
- Landline (78%)
Though the landline is something of a surprise, these rates show how important technology is for your small company. Start with the basics when you first invest in electronics and slowly add what you need.
In the survey mentioned, 43% of the owners polled had switched to cloud computing. In the last five years, cloud-based services have grown exponentially. This offers small businesses a number of benefits:
- Your content and data can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection.
- Since you do not have to install software, you do not have to buy updates or worry about getting the latest version.
- Storage problems are solved.
- Apps run on any device.
- Backups are automatic.
- Connections are secure.
Using cloud-based services offers simplicity and peace of mind, since you do not have to worry about storage and updates. You do not have to pay for software, but instead subscribe to it using a SaaS model.
Today, the right technology can help streamline your business and make life easier — if you buy the right type. Do your research when you look at what’s new and exciting on the market. Ask questions before you buy and stick to your budget.