Eight technology must-haves for small businesses

Done well, technology can help small businesses thrive. None of the technologies mentioned here are expensive. Each offers a fast return on your investment.

Broadband

A fast internet connection is essential. If you live in a place where fibre broadband is available, seize the opportunity to use it. In New Zealand fibre is not expensive, prices start at around $80 a month for all-you-can-eat gigabit plans.

If you can’t get fibre, choose the fastest option with the most generous data allowance. This might be fixed wireless broadband, it may be HFC or a fast copper technology like VDSL. Failing that, use the mobile phone network and buy a plan with the maximum amount of data.

Video conferencing

One lesson from the Covid pandemic was the importance of good communications at a time physical contact was difficult. You don’t need to spend a lot to use video conferencing. Skype is a good free option. It costs nothing to make video calls anywhere in the world so long as the people at the other end also use the technology. If you’re an Apple user and you work with other Apple users, choose FaceTime.

Small business web presence

If you sell products or services in the real world, even a modest website will help you sell online, create an online brochure to promote your business. You don’t need to be an expert to set up a simple website. Start with a free WordPress account. Otherwise, you can choose one of the free online services to get started.

Small businesses prefer to use Facebook or a Google service to promote the business online. This can work. There are stories of people doing well. But take care: You don’t own the site so the terms or conditions might change at any moment. There is a track record of big tech firms pulling the rug from under small businesses.

You’ll be told you need to spend time or money on search engine optimisation to get the most from your website. Again, this can work well, but don’t bank on it.

Book-keeping or accounting software

Don’t wait until you visit the accountant to know whether your business is profitable. There are low-cost packages from companies like MYOB that will allow you to create invoices, fill out tax forms and track the flow of money through your business. Some options are even simple to use.

Alternatively, choose an online service like Xero. It’s more expensive but takes a lot of the hard work out of tracking your finances.

Reliable power

Mains electricity is usually reliable and safe. Yet there are times when it can damage sensitive electronic equipment. Invest in anti-surge devices that prevent power spikes from wrecking your hardware. Better still, get an uninterrupted power supply so you can save important files and conduct an orderly computer shut down when there’s a power outage. Or you might try a power back-up battery.

Backup important data and store it off-line

Sooner or later your computers will fail or online criminals will shut you out from your data. It pays to make regular copies of all important digital data and documents then keep them away from your office in case of fire. It may also pay to have two or three external hard drives to keep multiple back-ups. Make sure you get decent software to automate your back-ups.

Share files with other small businesses

This is closely related to cloud storage. Online file sharing services like Dropbox and Box make it easy to share documents with people over the internet. Services like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 offer something similar. They also allow you to work with remote colleagues on shared documents.

Paper Shredder

Yes, paper is old school. Yes, you try to avoid it at every stage. Yet you’ll still get a lot of official or important information sent on sheets of paper. You may also have online material that you’ve printed.

Eventually, you’ll want to get rid of some of them, but crooks have been known to dive through waste bins in the hope of finding valuable information to help them commit fraud. Get a shredder and destroy every document before throwing them out.

Better still, get a scanner and make electronic copies of every document that comes through your business. Then shred the paper.