Technology Services All Small Businesses Need October 13, 2015 RICCentre According to Wasp Barcode Technology’s 2015 State of Small Business Report, 22 percent of small business leaders say technology is one of the three biggest challenges facing their company. Sheer lack of technology underlies the problem, judging by a Yodle survey, which found that a majority of small businesses have yet to adopt modern technology for most business functions. Only 51 percent of companies use accounting software, while far fewer use automated tools for functions such as appointment booking, customer relationship management, point-of-sale systems and marketing. Even more surprisingly, 52 percent don’t have a website. If you want your company to keep up with your competitors, you need to consider adopting some of today’s top technology tools, such as the following: Network Providers Getting an enterprise-grade Internet connection is the most important technical challenge facing most entrepreneurs, particularly those relying on a home account, an eVoice survey of small business owners found. Having a reliable business mobile phone connection goes with this challenge. If you plan on using your phone to run your business, these issues can be intertwined. Communications providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, often offer both Internet and phone services. Kirsten Buck of Top Ten Reviews provides an up-to-date comparison of leading Internet providers, while Chad Brooks of Business News Daily provides a guide to choosing a phone provider. The FTC recommends that when choosing an Internet provider, you should ask certain questions, such as: Are there any discounts if you purchase more than one service? Are any special offers available? Do you need to know anything about installing your connection? What kind of speed is provided? Is it possible to change plans before your contract expires? Are there any cancellation fees? For fiber optic systems, if you cancel, can you go back to your old DSL service? What do you do and who do you contact if service or power goes out? What kind of security measures does the network have in place? Brooks also adds that you should consider issues such as whether you need a physical or virtual phone system and, for VoIP services, whether you want them installed at a physical location or hosted in the cloud. Backup Inadequate data backup also ranked high among the technical challenges cited by entrepreneurs in eVoice’s survey. If a system crash or power outage suddenly destroys your company’s financial records or your customer data, your business could be instantly crippled. Avoid this headache by making sure you have a good data backup system in place. Some Internet service providers include or offer backup systems with their regular packages, while others do not. Even if your Internet provider backs up your data, it’s recommended to use a specialty service that can store the data your Internet service saves. PC Magazine provides an overview of the best online backup services currently on the market, which include IDrive, CrashPlan, SOS Online Backup, Carbonite and SpiderOak. Financial Software According to the eVoice survey, 41 percent of small business owners said their least favorite task was accounting. When 49 percent of small businesses have yet to adopt accounting software, as Yodle found, this is not surprising. Adopting an efficient financial software solution takes the hassle out of such necessary business tasks as bookkeeping, payroll and tax preparation, keeping your finances in order and saving you the stress of trying to get everything ready at the last minute during tax season. For example, Sage One provides a free accounting software that lets small business owners use a single platform to handle accounting, invoicing and financial reporting. Being able to manage all these functions from a single place saves you time and stress as well as the expense of purchasing multiple software packages. Office Productivity Software When it comes to running the operational side of your business, office productivity software is indispensable for tasks, such as project management and communications. Microsoft Office still leads the field among office suite packages. Other popular alternatives include Apple iWork, Google Drive and Apache’s OpenOffice and LibreOffice. CNET associate editor Sarah Mitroff provides an informed overview of the pros and cons of these various solutions. Customer Relationship Management Tools Your customer contact list is one of your most valuable business assets. A good customer relationship management (CRM) tool makes it easier to use effectively, improving the efficiency of your marketing, sales and customer service efforts. CRM software tools range from freeware solutions, such as Zoho, to integrated packages, such as Salesforce. Sara Angeles of BusinessNewsDaily provides a guide to the various CRM options available to small business owners. Don’t let a lack of technology hold back your business. There are plenty of reviews to help you decide on the best online tools for your business. With them, you’ll have no problem keeping up with your competitors.