An important investment for any small business is technology, because most businesses cannot operate without computers or software programs these days. When considering an annual budget, upgrades for technology and related services should be at least one line item. Office technology can make your job and your employees’ jobs easier and more efficient, thus justifying the financial investment. Software programs can also enhance security, a big factor for any business right now, and websites and social media help a business stay up to date and in touch with customers.
While investing in technology is necessary, you should also be aware of what you’re paying for and understand what you’re getting for your money. Summer can be a great time to conduct a technology audit and perform upgrades, since it’s generally a slow time for businesses. Schedule employees for any training needed in between vacations, and you’ll be all set for when business picks up again in the fall.
Here are 8 tips and best practices for refreshing your office technology:
• “Every year, you should do a quick IT audit,” recommends Lafayette, La., technology consultant Mike Bass*. He suggests first evaluating what you’re spending each month and year. Secondly, look at all your equipment and consider upgrading anything more than three years old. Finally, make sure you have all passwords and logins documented, and update your online and wifi passwords yearly.
• Check monthly for software and security updates for your website. It’s how customers will find you nowadays, and you want them to have a positive experience.
• Most modern PCs should be configured to update automatically, but check older PCs for monthly updates. According to tech firm Managed Solution, PCs that are more than four years old lead to the loss of 21 hours of productivity because of repairs, maintenance and security fixes. Macs age more gracefully, but for budgeting purposes, these computers should be replaced every five years.
• Keep logins separate for business and personal use, and use strong, unique passwords for all online services.
• Check once a year to make sure you’re getting the best deal with your current Internet and phone service provider. These companies offer special deals and change their pricing all the time.
• Most security software is free, but needs to be configured correctly and updated. Instead of investing in expensive “security software,” Bass proposes spending the money on a yearly security audit by an IT professional. “They can identify and secure any weak points in your network, online services or business practices,” he says.
• If you can only afford to purchase one type of software, then Bass advocates for an online invoicing system. For as little as $20 a month, you can create professional invoices that can be emailed and paid online. Purchasing your own domain and using business e-mail addresses are also best practices and can be done for as little as $50 a year.
• Managed Solution reports that 61 percent of customers think a small business is out of date if it’s using an operating system that’s more than five years old. Not having a presence on the web or Facebook also looks incredibly outdated. “Your business should be easily reachable by email or a messaging service, and you should check these channels regularly and respond quickly,” says Bass. “Customers today make quick decisions and expect quick responses and answers.”
*Sharing information from an outside source does not constitute an endorsement of the source.