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CORTEZ: Thriving through technology: What small businesses need to know

A new year brings the inevitable promise of new technologies. There’s no telling today what new innovation will be available at our fingertips by year’s end. For the small business owner, however, navigating all of the new offerings and knowing what is necessary to keep up and get ahead can be overwhelming and, sometimes, paralyzing.

We all know technology is essential to a small business’s ability to not only operate, but thrive.

It provides a wide range of tools entrepreneurs can use to guide their new companies through the startup and growth phases. Over the past several decades, all aspects of a business — including accounting, marketing, operations and human resources — have been modernized by advances in technologies such as computers, cell phones, tablets, and networks.

Small business owners must recognize and understand the impact information technology has on their business, and leverage it for their best success. There are six technology must-haves every business should be using. These include:

Working Website. In this day and age, it is surprising how many small businesses do not have a website, also known as one of the most powerful marketing tools available. A website is, more than likely, how people will find your business and, as they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. A working website is important because it establishes your credibility as a business while also leveling the playing field between small and large companies.

Telephone System. In recent years, some business owners have begun to move away from both landline and cell phones in favor of using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications. VoIP can be very inexpensive for businesses since there is no necessary infrastructure, minimal onsite repair and quick solutions to problems. Whatever option you choose, just be sure your customers can reach a live person via phone — whether it’s by landline, cell phone, or VoIP.

Onsite Support. Most small businesses don’t have the resources available to have an IT professional on staff, but this is not an area that should be skimped on. Consider outsourcing onsite support to resolve failures in IT infrastructure. For business owners who aren’t the most tech-savvy, this is the best way to receive an interactive and human approach to efficiently diagnosing and troubleshooting hardware issues.

Computers. Running a business without the use of computers is like trying to swim without water. Whether you perform services or provide products, computers are here to stay and can make your business run much more smoothly, setting it up for success. Businesses have come to rely on computers for inventory management, presentations and documents, internet access, and multi-site networks. Also, while widely-used now, email is a highly effective and inexpensive communication tool. Since archiving and retrieving emails is easy to do, they also serve as a “soft copy” of business transactions.

Data Security. Having data security in place will, in turn, give your clients a sense of security. Have your local network backed up and implement a firewall for each computer system. While this may be a significant investment, it will save you time and money later. No one — not a large corporation, government or mom-and-pop shop — is immune from data breaches. It is imperative to protect your business.

In contrast, not having the right technology in place will cost you money and even a contract. As a small business owner, you need to be sure you can survive in today’s competitive marketplace, understand the demands of your industry, and, when it’s time, upgrade to the latest technology.

 

Cherelle Cortez is the diversity manager at JE Dunn Construction. She can be reached at Cherelle.Cortez@jedunn.com or 912.354.1386.

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