Practical Technology for the Growing Small Business

A guest post from @hfitzy34

Today’s small businesses can’t afford to overlook the tools and opportunities created by tech and Web advancements. More than ever before, new technology is making it easier for small businesses to compete with larger companies through software and services that reduce overhead while making business operations more efficient. A host of tools and applications can be used by a small business to drive various business functions, including payroll, contact management, and human resources work.

Of equal importance are the marketing opportunities provided trough social media. With social media profiles, businesses can engage both local and non-local consumer bases, expand their audience, build brand trust and loyalty, and gather consumer data that can guide the company’s marketing efforts — all at a cost much lower than what would have been the standard a decade ago.

To put it simply, small businesses now have access to a virtual buffet of practical technology tools and solutions designed to help their business flourish and grow. By identifying your business’s most-pressing needs, you can target the technology solutions providing the most value to your company, increasing profits as you cut out the fat and become more efficient.

Tech Products & Services

Most small businesses can’t afford to employ full-time human resources staff. But the services provided by this department are vital to any business. Fortunately, newly developed software tools like applicant tracking and staff management systems enable you to track and organize a variety of functions. Exact Hire is one of a growing sprawl of companies catering to the massive growth of online job seekers with software designed to streamline the application process for both the employer and the to-be-employed. Through software products like these, you can convert numerous business functions to paperless organization, helping you track applications,interviews, employee onboarding, training, and assessments for all of your employees and position candidates, saving time and resources while doing all the organizing for you.

Other contact management and customer relationship software and services, such as Microsoft Outlook, can help you track your customer interactions, sales histories and contacts with ease.

Harness the Power of Social Media

Cloud computing services are rapidly gaining popularity in business circles. The ability to purchase computing work as a service stored virtually through a shared network known as the “cloud” has created a bevy of opportunities for businesses. But perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud computing are the applications and services provided through the cloud that allow businesses to gather unprecedented amounts of information from various social media profiles. Small businesses can use cloud-based products and services to manage social media profiles, evaluate the efficacy of those profiles, gather data and analyze that data to learn more about consumers and their satisfaction with your business. Information has never been more available, nor more valuable, to businesses than it is now, and a smart small business owner will take advantage of the tools and applications created to process this information.

Where to Find Solutions

Product and services claiming to be essential to your business’s success can be found in every direction. But the margin of error in small businesses is so small that investing in sub-standard services and products can be a dramatic setback. Stick to companies with a proven track record and a strong reputation from past clients. If certain functions of your business reside outside of your strengths or comfort areas, you can also consider outsourcing some of these functions — such as payroll services and social media management — to third-party companies that specialize in these services.

Ultimately, today’s small businesses are poised to benefit in numerous ways from the abundance of technology at their disposal. Position your company on the inside track by investing in these new technologies and getting the jump on your competitors.

Henry Fitzgerald is a technology consultant based in Seattle. When not geeking out over the latest tech gadgets, he spends his time cooking, playing soccer, and sailing. Check out his tech blog here or follow him on twitter:@hfitzy34

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Cloud Computing Strategy for Small Businesses

A guest post by @hfitzy34

Cloud computing can be an incredible tool for a small business, or a business of any size, really, but let’s pause a moment to consider what this tool really does for you. The cloud can increase storage space and provide backup and support for your company, but if you don’t have a plan, then what’s it worth?

Developing a strategy is necessary to make the most of your cloud computing options. Here are a few ideas to develop a working cloud strategy:

Determine Your Reason for Moving to the Cloud

What is the primary reason you decided to get into cloud computing for your business? Was it the convenience of having everyone working on the same system? Was it the lower cost of installing the software on only a single license? Did it free up your IT staff to work on more important issues? Cloud computing can really increase what your business is able to do and production without requiring you to purchase new infrastructure to keep up with all the changes.

Whatever end goal you had in mind when you began using the cloud, this is going to help determine what sort of strategy you apply to making the most of it.

Prioritize Your Needs

The second step is, of course, prioritizing your needs. Stay focused and keep in mind why you really started using the cloud. If, for instance, you wanted the extra storage space, then clearly, a top priority is going to be getting more storage space and improving efficiency around the workplace, getting rid of bloat, deleting those ancient backups that you’re never going to need ever again, and so on. Using the cloud is the main thrust of your strategy, but changing behavior and tactics around the office will help you towards your ultimate end goal, whatever that may be.

Use the Cloud to Make the Most of the Cloud

Part of the appeal of the cloud is that you really don’t know how much it’s going to change when you first begin using it. You may have begun using the cloud so that you could improve communication around the office, but the added mobility, the fact that your employees can access the cloud from their phones and other connected devices, means that communication is even easier than you thought it would be.

Nobody has to send somebody an explanation of the new software interface, they can just show them the interface right on the cloud. In order to make the most of the cloud, explore it, play with it and encourage your employees to do the same so that you can all have a firm grasp of what the technology is and what it can do for you.

Developing a strategy around your cloud computing capabilities isn’t difficult—it’s really just a matter of using the technology as intended whenever you need it, and playing with it and exploring its features and possibilities when you don’t.

Henry Fitzgerald is a technology consultant based in Seattle. When not geeking out over the latest tech gadgets, he spends his time cooking, playing soccer, and sailing. Check out his tech blog here or follow him on twitter:@hfitzy34

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What You Need to Know about Cloud Computing that Could Help Your Business – A guest post by Henry Fitzgerald

Cloud Computing is a fairly new technology, but it’s experienced rapid growth. Pretty much any business can gain benefit from it. Free programs like Dropbox or Shutterfly provide simple solutions while cloud computing companies can provide a lot of support and structure. Luckily, many companies provide both dedicated server and cloud computing services. The benefits of dedicated servers have been supporting businesses for years. The power behind cloud computing is less well known, but its efficiencies can be a huge benefit to any business.

Here are some of its best benefits:

Mobility
By storing your data on the Internet a user can access it wherever they have a connection. There is no more worrying about traveling with the appropriate content. It also makes it easier to share with clients. One can simply give them a link or password that they can use again and again as opposed to continually sending data through e-mail or hard mail.

Security
When a company puts information on a cloud-computing program like Dropbox or SharePoint they control who has access to the information. In the past, privileged information has been handed out to employees with a death sentence. Once an employee has sensitive data stored on their computer the process of getting it back can get hairy. With an internet server, however, the administrator can change who has access to files with just a few clicks. This keeps important documents in one manageable place, not floating around on tons of different systems.

Dependability
An inconvenient system crash can cripple a business. By storing information externally businesses no longer have to stress about suddenly losing everything. The information can be accessed from any computer, so one device is just as good as the next. This makes data storage more reliable as well as data transferring more efficient.

Sustainability
The days of filing cabinets are over. Storing information online saves paper but it also saves space and energy. Businesses no longer need an entire room for storing files. The energy spent copying, printing and storing files can be redirected. This makes cloud computing a valuable time and money saver.

Remote Working
One of the biggest benefits of Internet documents is that multiple people can view AND edit them at the same time. This replaces the need to make everyone stop what she or he is doing and come in for a meeting. As a result, collaborating across the office or across the world becomes equally simple.

Outsourcing
Outsourcing work isn’t just for large-scale global manufactures. Take the possibility of remote working a step farther and cloud computing can make having freelance workers possible. Sending work outside your walls makes it so that you can reach the best deals in cheap service. Additionally, having employees that work from home can save money. You can have a small office space and cut the costs that having, 20 extra people using the water, lights, power etc. would expend.

Cloud computing, whether through free software, more complex systems or a server company, can be a huge help to businesses interested in increasing efficiency and saving a little money.

Henry Fitzgerald is a technology consultant based in Seattle. When not geeking out over the latest tech gadgets, he spends his time cooking, playing soccer, and sailing. Check out his tech blog here or follow him on twitter:@hfitzy34

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