Technology can’t solve all small business problems, but it can make day-to-day work easier. Here are five tools every small business should use everyday to cut costs, add capability and help your company punch above its weight. None of them are expensive:
Smartphones, tablets and mobile apps: Phones can do so much more than make voice calls. If you do nothing else, use them to get email while on the move. There are millions of mobile apps replacing almost every possible computing task. Smartphone apps are cheap and, mainly, easy to use. Used properly a smartphone means you have all the information and functionality you need where-ever you happen to be. Expect to pay around NZ$1000 for a decent smartphone or tablet. Apps are usually less than NZ$10.
Cloud computing: Storing documents and data on remote cloud services is cheaper than running your own servers and less trouble to organise. Back-ups are automatic and, best of all, you can get at important information from your mobile gadgets while away from home or the office. Basic cloud services are free, suitable annual subscriptions for most small businesses will rarely run to more than a few hundred dollars.
Software as a service: Closely linked to cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS) means applications are delivered online. Remote servers do all the heavy lifting, this means in almost every case you can use powerful applications from a smartphone or tablet. Done well, SaaS means zero administration – you no longer need to worry about updates or making back-ups. Not always cheap, expect to pay anywhere up to around NZ$70 a month per application.
Digital communications: This includes voice-over-IP calls, instant messaging, video conferencing and collaboration tools. Staying in touch is important. The specific tools depend on what you do, in each case the cost of digital communications is lower than conventional communications and often there are other advantage. Largely free, although you’ll need to pay for the data traffic.
Company website: Go where the customers are; online. A website tells people where to find you and what to expect when they do. You can list your products and services, even do business directly from your own web site. Basic sites are free, expect to pay around $2000 for a more complicated, professionally made site.