3 essential technology tips for your small business to look and operate like a big business
A small business today can use sophisticated technology that used to be found only in enterprises due to the high cost and complexity. Heres a list of my favorite systems and services that can let a small business operate like a large distributed company;
1. Your email address is part of your working identity. I see a lot of older lawyers and accountants and doctors still using AOL accounts. AOL accounts tend to generate a lot of spam. I feel using an AOL, Yahoo, or Gmail account for business looks unprofessional. If you have a business, you should have an email address associated with an Internet domain that identifies your company. Mine is stephillassociates.com. Domains are cheap. Get one! The leading domain registrars, GoDaddy and Network Solutions offer them for as little as $10 annually.
2. After youve established a private domain for your business, sign up for a hosted Microsoft Exchange email account with a hosted Exchange provider. Microsoft Exchange is a mail server that is so popular once youre on it, youll never want to leave. I joke that Microsoft Outlook without Exchange is like a day without sunshine! You dont want one without the other. Exchange is great for mobile workers.
Your mail folders will synchronize seamlessly between your PC, tablet, and smartphone. A message you send from your smartphone shows up in the Sent folder of your tablet and your computer. It just *works*.Microsoft offers Office 365 plans which include their Exchange solution with about 50GB storage. I prefer Intermedia.net because their accounts have unlimited storage. Intermedia provides 24 x 7 x 365 support.
Exchange accounts typically cost about $9/mailbox/month.
3. Give up your telephone land lines and get phone service over the Internet, called VoIP (Voice-Over-IP). While your dial tone can come from the major Internet Service Providers such as Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, and other carriers, consider stepping up to a hosted VoIP PBX (Private Branch Exchange) phone system if you have an office with multiple extensions.
The feature set is far more extensive than consumer-grade phone service.
A hosted (based in a data center over the Internet) PBX from Star2Star
RingCentral and Vonage Business offer softphones (a program on a computer that emulates a telephone), conversion of voice mail to email attachments, simultaneous ring (ringing different phones simultaneously no matter where they are), bursting (assigning new phone lines on the fly as demand dictates), and call recording.
In many cases, VoIP phone service is cheaper than traditional land lines because they arent taxed the same way because the traffic is considered data and not voice traffic.Hosted PBXs are particularly effective for small businesses with multiple offices or with staff who work from home or are mobile.
About the author
David Streit is an IT consultant and an entrepreneur, as principal of Stephill Associates, LLC. in Manalapan, New Jersey. Stephill provides IT infrastructure and technology advisory services for small business clients in New Jersey and New York City. Streit has worked with PCs and technology for more than 25 years. He and his wife, Claudia, have two daughters, Hillary and Stephanie.
Stephill Associates website.