The ability to maintain a constant connection to crucial resources is vital to remaining profitable in any economy. Small businesses -- with their limited resources -- must be able to quickly and easily harness critical intelligence to keep abreast of opportunities and constantly changing business conditions.
Progressive organizations that continuously adopt new information technology (IT) strategies and empower employees with improved mobility solutions see greater employee productivity, improved customer service and increased agility in their business.
Add Mobile Devices to Your Tech Toolbox
In almost any business it is imperative to stay up to date with technology because the "always on" nature of todays business environment demands a high-tech tool kit to help keep businesses ahead of the curve.
PDAs and smart phones have become virtual offices. Todays mobile workers require more than just a cell phone to conduct efficient business, they need anywhere, anytime access to email, mobile telephone, text messaging, Web browsing and other wireless information services, including video conferencing. Smart phones and similar mobile devices provide an all-in-one solution to meet these needs. They also serve as organizers and electronic notepads.
Similarly, tablet PCs are essentially notebook computers with touch-screen technology that enable quick access to presentations, and they also support electronic document signatures for instant transmission, among many other features. In a transaction where timing is crucial, such immediacy can be the difference between winning and losing a deal. Additionally, reduced paper consumption can deliver significant cost savings and environmental benefits.
How should your business determine the best tools to include in its toolbox? This is not simply a matter of choosing the latest and coolest toys on the market. The technology must fit the business needs and should be compatible with the people who will use them. A few things to consider:
How many and what kind of clients/customers does the company serve? Larger organizations should consider technologies that will help their workers organize and manage a high volume of calls and correspondence, usually requiring more computing power and storage than smaller businesses
What is the level of your technology knowledge? In smaller organizations, many associates may be working independently and will need a computer equipped to handle their needs effectively and efficiently. But frankly, not every person is a technological whiz, so the selected tools should be easily managed and easily understood
What is the companys budget? No company wants to overspend -- the good news is that mobility is more affordable than ever, and if businesses base their mobile technology spending on available funds, they can always expand mobile device usage as their business grows
Include Remote Access in Your Office Technology Infrastructure
The most competitive organizations support and reward collaboration among associates, and providing secure, remote access lets geographically dispersed employees remain in regular contact with each other through the company's network. Opening a network to remote access requires planning in order to balance ease of communication with protection of information assets and client information.
Without question, opening an organizations infrastructure to a remote connection involves risk. Proper and affordable safeguards are available to protect organizations from data and identity theft, network abuse, viruses, worms and other security threats to the network.
To reduce the risk associated with remote connections, many organizations set up a virtual private network (VPN), allowing employees secure access to the company network via the Internet. It is important to consider not only security issues that can occur when users connect remotely, but to evaluate how much and what information the organization is willing to share over a remote connection prior to implementing a VPN solution.
Other Ways to Protect your Business
Implement a "layered" security strategy using multiple systems, such as password protection, firewalls, partial- or whole-disk encryption and anti-virus/anti-spam protection at both the network gateway and individual computers. Most security measures can be transparent to network users and adding layers to your security significantly raises the barriers to intrusion and data loss.
Its better to prepare for disasters in advance than to be reactive, so organizations should back up all of their active data files nightly. Even a small office can use two large drives -- one to use as a shared drive on the network and another in a different location in the office to serve as a backup in case the primary drive fails. There are affordable storage devices available that will attach to a network and automatically manage scheduled backups
Small Business Technology Success
While technology helps todays small businesses remain connected to critical information, the key benefit is peace of mind -- confidence that the business and its associates are "always on" -- and always connected to what is happening.
Using secure, up-to-date mobile technology to leverage a powerful network and implementing effective technology tools will drive an organization toward business success and resilience in todays competitive business environment. When in doubt, find and ask a trusted technology partner to help set priorities and find solutions that are exactly right for the business needs and goals.
Katrina Williams is a director of small business at CDW.
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