Due to size and available of resources, small business owners are understandably cautious about where and in what they invest. However, one trend that your small business should focus on is advancing technology.
Thanks to the ever-growing number of technological solutions for many of our business problems, small businesses are now in a position to access technology that was once only available to the more prominent players in their industry, helping to even the playing field and make day-to-day activities more accessible.
Not only will your firm (most likely) use it on a daily basis, but the right technology can make your business run more efficiently, thus rewarding you far more than the initial investment. That being said, small businesses should not just take advantage of new technology, but should also take the time to master it.
Here are the three most essential tech investments that pay off big time for small businesses.
One only has to have a quick scan of the news to realize that cybercriminals are becoming more adept at using advanced tactics. For this reason, IT professionals around the world are continually working to create and exert more advanced preventative measures.
For all businesses, it is critical to devise and sustain high-level written policy and procedure documents concerning the company's security practices. Your firm must keep this security process proactive, or "pre-attack" focused, to stay ahead of cybercriminals. For small businesses, the most successful way to impede security breaches is to create a security-minded culture that promotes carefully adhering to the firm's security policies and procedures.
Security is more than just updating passwords (although those are important) and having a robust firewall; it’s also about the people using your network. Creating a simple, repeatable and robust security process that is easy for your employees to adopt is the key to avoid becoming involved in one of the million data breaches that will inevitably take place throughout the next year.
But since security technology is changing every year, one upgrade every now and again isn’t good enough. Get started with these steps:
- Use an email encryption service, or, at the very least, 2-step verification tools on Gmail.
- Change passwords frequently with tools like Dashlane or LastPass.
- Brief staff on best practices for informing and avoiding email phishing scams.
- Arrange regular sweeps
- Investigate security protocols for online transactions or outsource to companies like PayPal, Due, or Stripe.
- Generate a company-wide VPN to protect sensitive information further.
- Establish a PR and damage-control plan in case a breach occurs.
If you have an online component to your business (which you definitely should), having a 24/7 customer service chatbot enables you to give your customers full-time support – without the expense associated with maintaining a full-time staff. Chatbots have rapidly become an expected – and acceptable – form of customer service and people seem to enjoy using bots to solve their problems instantly.
Having an automated customer service allows your team to respond to inquiries as needed, and then learn from the data that these questions provide you.
Before choosing a chatbot service, consider how your company can:
- Integrate bot customer service while still sounding human.
- Train current customer service representatives to monitor bot conversations for accuracy.
- Work closely with your software reps to program Artificial Intelligence that can handle frequent customer queries.
- Connect with, learn from, and qualify customer leads, to drive customers to make purchases.
3. The Cloud
Utilizing "the cloud" is essential for any growing small business. Cloud-based solutions offer greater scalability, security, efficiency, and flexibility than standard in-house hardware, with online backup and recovery, email hosting, web hosting and productivity solutions being some of the most popular cloud services in 2017.
Hosting your programs, data, and other digital assets in the cloud's data center reduces the need to upgrade your technology continually – a significant advantage for small businesses who want to grow without unnecessary IT headaches.
When analyzing potential problems and obstacles in your startup’s business plan, remember that they can almost certainly be solved with the cloud.
Additionally, one of the most tremendous benefits of the explosion of technological power is the ability for workers to work from anywhere. As technology has advanced, it has also made it easier to work remotely on mobile devices and laptops. Of course, it depends on your industry, but many small business owners and workers are no longer limited to just working in an office and instead can now work from anywhere.
If you are nervous about giving yourself or your employees this option, studies have shown that people actually work harder when they can set their own hours and schedule!