Is there any small business owner who isn't interested in saving money? One of the promises of technology is to help you do just that although at times that promise seems elusive and even goes unfulfilled. One reason that can happen is a lack of good communication between the technology vendor and the small business customer.
We recently spoke to Ken Smith, a vice president at Qwest, about how small businesses can save money on their telecommunications and networking costs. It all starts with a conversation. "Telecom reps often take too-broad strokes with small business," said Smith. "SMBs need a consultative approach to discuss all of the company's communication needs, not an 'I can beat that price' sales pitch."
This approach is much more effective because, Smith said, a good technology partner needs to find out what services and technologies the small business uses in its day-to-day business. "It forms the foundation for the rest of the conversation," he said.
Smith listed four key areas ‑ creativity, mobility, security/business continuity and consolidation ‑ that, when addressed properly, can result in overall savings, improved service and better productivity.
How you connect to the Internet, bandwidth connection speeds and whether you have other locations or remote employees are all areas you need to consider as a whole. "As the price of bandwidth drops, small businesses can get faster speed without paying more money," said Smith. "And the extra bandwidth lets you run more applications over the network."
Mobility is increasingly important, especially for small businesses that need to be in touch with customers no matter where they are. "How many remote employees travel out of the office regularly," Smith asked. "A good telecomm plan can help a small business expand into virtual environments, meaning you can have people working from effectively from home or on the road, and your customers won't know. Your business looks like a corporate office to the outside world."
Small businesses are every bit as vulnerable to hacker intrusions, natural disasters or human error as any Fortune 500 company, and Smith advises small businesses to think seriously about what they're doing to ensure their safety.
"It's vital to discuss what continuity plans they have in place and whether they backup their critical data in redundant, off-site storage servers," said Smith. "A solid networking/telecomm strategy pays off. For example, if your employees had to suddenly relocate due to a floor or other disaster, your provider could reroute network traffic without missing a beat," he said.
Most small businesses have disparate business lines, long distance, WAN, LAN and security services. "Seventy percent have multiple vendors," said Smith. "They're not taking advantage of the economy of scale."
Consolidating your services under a common technology or contract can save you money, much the way you can save money by having one insurance company cover your cars and your home.
"Look at what you have and what you need. Then look at how to migrate all of it into a consolidated plan," said Smith. "Small businesses aren't saying 'how do I remove telecomm costs,' they're saying 'how do I adopt and use technology more to help my business?' This processes gives them lower operating costs and better technology."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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