Businesses embracing technology have the ability to grow faster, streamline processes and enter new markets more easily.
Whether your business is still grappling with basic computer literacy or using cloud computing technology to achieve global growth, the sooner you incorporate technological advances into your core business, the better.
Do I have to?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business series shows business online orders grew from $143 billion in 2009-10 to $189 billion in 2010-11.
As consumers embrace technology, it has become apparent that technological advancement is not only good for your business, but imperative to its long-term survival and ability to reach its potential.
Hardware - choosing a computer
Do you want a Mac or a PC?
Check out the 9 Most Important Differences Between Macs and PCs
A laptop can offer the usability and portability you need to work from multiple locations.
They are also cheaper to buy for staff, and obviously more portable.
Your most important programs are easily accessible on your laptop, and you cut large amounts of time spent heading back to the office just to respond to clients.
TIP: Seek advice about laptop processor speed and memory. They are critical if you are running small business programs demanding high performance.
If you are not a smartphone user yet, you can guarantee that your customers are.
There are 8.8 million smartphone users in Australia alone, with usage uptake increasing rapidly every day, making smartphones indispensable in business.
You can harness smartphone technologies to improve your business efficiencies, at the same time making sure you are connected to an important and growing portion of your customer base.
Having email access and important business information at your fingertips with a smartphone will avoid delays, help you keep in close contact with staff and business contacts and let you take notes and review and edit your appointments on the move.
The top 5 ways businesses can use smartphones
Access customer data and email – Immediately pull up an important customer’s order history or preferences, or reply to an important email even if you don’t have your laptop and you’re nowhere near the office.
Contacts – Keep your entire address book of customers, suppliers and staff available to you at all times on your smartphone. Access live networking tools like LinkedIn to connect on the spot with new global business contacts.
Research on the run – Last-minute Google searching for titbits of information can often save the day.
GPS – If you’re working in a strange city far from home, you can find your way around with your smartphone.
Social media – Network on the run by running social media apps from your smartphone.
Check out the Top 10 Recommended Smartphones for Business in 2013.
A high-speed internet connection is a must in modern business and it will become the foundation of your productivity.
There are hundreds of internet service providers to choose from in Australia, and useful business tools like online and video conferencing immediately become a reality when you can rely on your internet connection.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the organisation that provides access to the internet for your business, and it does this through the complex connection of copper wires, wireless or fibre-optic connections between your business space and the phone or broadband network close-by.
Your requirements from your ISP will depend on where you live, what type of business you run, the size of your business and the software you want to run.
It is important you choose an ISP that is right for your business.
If you’re not sure how to choose, you can compare ISP providers in Brisbane.
The basic rule of thumb is that if your business has more than five employees, you need to look into using a server network.
A server keeps your business connected constantly to the internet and networks the computers in your business, managing disk drives, printers or network traffic.
A server helps you keep data backed up and makes your information easily accessible from home or on the road.
There are several different types of servers
The server you choose will depend on:
Find out more about the type of server your business needs.
To make your website accessible to the World Wide Web you will need web hosting to store the website you create on its servers and transmit it to the internet.
If your business has a server, it can host its own website, but many businesses also choose to have their business website hosted by a third party company to safeguard the site.
If your servers were ever damaged, for example, your website would not crash alongside the computer operations of the business if it was hosted by a third party provider.
Choosing a web host for your website
Web hosting firms often offer much more than just storing your website on their servers and publishing it on the internet. Some also offer search engine marketing, email newsletter distribution and web development.
Check out the Top 10 Hosting Companies in Australia.
Web security is just as important as the physical security – for some businesses, more important.
When your business computer accesses the internet it becomes susceptible to the viruses that spread via computer networks and, in some cases, malicious hackers who target home and business computers to steal information, data or money.
Considering that your business computer network probably contains all of the classified company information you use to conduct your core business, it makes sense that protecting this network is paramount in the modern-day business environment.
Find out more about the Top 35 Strategies to Mitigate Cyber Intrusions here
How can you protect yourself?
The first way to counter web security threats in your business is to protect your computer networks with a firewall which will filter the traffic going in and out of your system.
The firewall is set up so that only authorised traffic can enter into your system and any unknown or malicious traffic is blocked.
Setting up firewalls on your computer networks is fairly easy and most require only a small amount of configuration and minimal fuss.
Firewalls can also come in handy to limit the activities of your employees within the business.You can set up firewalls to prevent employees from accessing certain files, for example, or you may wish to block social networking or chat sites from being operational from a worksite computer.
The right software can increase your business efficiency without excessive costs and maintain fluent communication links with your customers.
Once you have a basic system of software relevant to your core business needs in place, you can integrate free apps or the latest programs to align your accounting, reporting, purchasing and resourcing.
Good software can save your business time and money in the long term.
Internal business software
For some small businesses, a simple Microsoft Office suite and MYOB accounting package may be all you need to get started.
Or, there may be some lesser-known software options to supplement your business activities and streamline your systems.
Do your research before contacting software providers directly. To find the right software to meet your business needs talk to your peers or colleagues and get recommendations, look online or attend trade shows to find out more information.
External business software
Many businesses who are just starting out rely on tried and tested buying and selling platforms like PayPal as their foray into the use of external business software.
Cloud computing is where a network of remote servers is used to store and manage data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.
The cloud can be accessed by any computer or electronic device with internet access, anywhere in the world, providing the means for computing power, infrastructure, applications, business processes and personal collaboration to be delivered to you as a service wherever and whenever you need.
Cloud services include the delivery of software, infrastructure and storage over the internet.
For businesses, the benefit of using cloud computing is that information in the cloud can be shared, updated, created, and approved by a group of people in different locations, with everyone on the same page at the same time.
The cloud saves time, money, and storage space, as well as saving on apps for individuals since they are stored in the cloud for all to use.
Cloud security and encryption are kept up to date, delivering a level far above what the average small business might be able to afford in-house.
Find out more about the types of cloud computing and its relevance to small business.
Cloud data centres range from a 'server room' in an office building, to a large purpose-built warehouse building holding thousands of server racks full of critical operating systems.
Businesses using cloud computing are 106 per cent more likely to see a revenue rise and businesses engaged with the internet earn 20 per cent ($350,000) more than those not engaged with the internet, according to MYOB Business Monitor, March 2013.
With the gap in financial performance widening between the online-savvy and the online-cautious, there is a clear-cut case for businesses to embracing online business technologies.
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