Today’s small businesses are operating in a high tech global economy that is more competitive than any ever before. They need to take advantage of every opportunity and advantage they can to keep them ahead of the competition, which is stiff. Here are five essential pieces of technology that no small business can afford to go without.
- Mobile: The importance of mobile cannot be stressed enough. Just a few years ago, many small businesses were just starting to look into going paperless, or potentially “going to the cloud”. Now, traditional systems such as desktops and even laptops are beginning to fall by the wayside as small businesses are increasingly meeting their customer’s demands through mobile devices using apps and sites designed with a mobile look and feel. Studies have shown that 56% of consumer traffic to leading U.S. websites comes from mobile devices. Having a mobile-friendly website, and the ability to conduct purchase transactions on mobile devices has become almost essential for any small business.
- Software as a Service: “The Cloud” is now commonplace, and everything from basic productivity suites to enterprise CRM systems are now available as services on-demand. This is a game changer for small businesses, who used to be unable to obtain top tier solutions due to prohibitive license or administrative costs. Additionally, there were costs for with internal staff overhead to keep software up-to-date and troubleshoot it. All that is going away now that most SaaS solutions allow small business to get scalable services on demand, as much as they need, and stay current without the need for extra costs and downtime for patches and maintenance. Products like Google Apps and Office 365 also ensure that all employees are on the same version, to avoid compatibility issues with document sharing.
- Collaboration Software: With more and more small businesses and startups having distributed workforces and employing consultants or other temporary services, collaboration over the web is at an all-time high. Being able to have a global team conduct video conferences, or simultaneously collaborate on the same shared document to add comments or feedback can add a lot of value. It’s more efficient, and can help avoid miscommunications when your workforce is spread out to multiple locations.
- Live Customer Support: Speaking to a customer service rep over the phone still remains the most desired solution for most customers, but in recent years, many people are willing to engage a business for sales or support through live chatting (instant messaging) either through apps or via a service on the businesses website. This can be an especially effective technology for reducing service ticket volume, since it can be extremely efficient for answering simple inquiries or resolving minor issues. In the near future, it is expected that Artificial Intelligence, in the form of “chat bots” will supplement human beings and make Customer Service over the internet an even more automated service.
- Digital Security: With more and more small businesses going to the cloud, it’s more important than ever for them to protect mission critical data and customer data. Most cloud services offered state-of-the-art security for their customers, along with disaster recovery services, but it’s also important for small businesses to make sure their employees are using antivirus and anti-malware solutions. This is especially important if the small business uses a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach where team members use their personal devices for work, since there is a higher risk they might become infected or compromised during outside use, then potentially cause issues on internal networks or lead to company data loss.
Ben Daniels is a freelance writer for Nutmeg Technologies and technology blogger. He specializes in technology and entertainment media editorials and reviews.