10+ Tech Tips for Small Business

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    12-Sep-2014

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10+ ways small businesses can cut costs, be more productive, and avoid disaster, all with better use of technology.

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Anthony Altemara

Welcome!10+ practical and inexpensive ways to Cut costs Increase productivity Avoid disasterin your businessThere are now more options than ever before for people and organizations to save money, and become more productive. Often the number of choices is bewildering to those that dont have time to keep up with all the latest tools, etc..

I made this presentation as a starting point to inform small to medium sized organizations of some of the current choices that are available.2Don't buy a computerIf you do buy a computer, don't plug it inIf you do plug it in, sell it and return to step 1The 3 Laws of Secure Computing..Today Id like to talk to you a bit about some things Ive learned that may help you with your business.

There is no security when you increase your capability and reach with the rest of the world. It is the price you pay for the power and flexibility that technology offers.

The trick is to make informed choices, and take advantage of the security that technology can bring, to mitigate the extra risks it also brings.3Cut CostsNot your businessHealth CareAuto MaintenanceHome MaintenanceComputer Service1. Preventative Maintenance = Cost SavingsWe all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This is obvious in health care, auto maintenance, home repair, and is just as applicable to computers and technology.

One of the biggest savings you can have with your IT costs, is performing proactive maintenance on your computers, and regularly monitoring your machines for early signs of failure. Luckily, we have tools (computers!) to automate this process.

5Lets you address problems:While they are smallAt their least costly to repairAt your convenience, not while youre trying to do business.1. Preventative Maintenance = Cost SavingsRegular monitoring and maintenance allows you to address problems earlier, before they become even more costly to treat.

Proactively looking for symptoms of impending problems, allows you to make repairs outside of peak business times.6Use a website system that you can maintain yourselfKeeps your information timelyLess costly than contracting minor changes to a designerChoose one that can grow with youThere are many free choices of systems2. Manage Your Own WebsiteCommon powerful and free website frameworks are: Wordpress, Joomla, PHPNuke, dotNETNuke, Drupal7Toner, Ink CartridgesOffice EquipmentComputers

Laptops: Refurbished with Warranty, NOT off craigslist3. Buy Second-HandUse refurbished or re-certified computer and office equipment for maximum savings. You dont need the latest and greatest computer to do 99% of business tasks.

Avoid buying equipment such as laptops and computers from anonymous sources, as the equipment can have intermittent problems that do not appear on first inspection.8Small businesses can save 30-40% with a VOIP phone or answering serviceClearwire (Phone + Internet)Time Warner (Phone + Internet)Vonage (Phone)Skype (Phone)Magic Jack (Phone)4. Know your VOIP optionshttp://www.voipreview.org/

Choices in VOIP technology has matured greatly over the last few years. Ensure you check the reviews and get references for the service you are considering, especially if there is an up-front cost.

A VOIP service by your internet provider may have an advantage in quality compared to another VOIP provider, as their VOIP technology will often work more efficiently with their internet service. 9Limit to 5% to 15% of total revenueOrganizationsITEXNATEIRTA - Intl Reciprocal Trade Assoc.www.ncbarter.com5. Barter with other BusinessesBartering can be a huge advantage to small businesses that have additional capacity.

Resources:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_64/s0804021853506.htm

http://www.ncbarter.com/10Increase ProductivityInclude an offer and clear call to action, with a coupon so you can track to discover what works best. Google AnalyticsCustom Landing PagesCouponsMeasure, Measure, Measure!!!6. Track your marketing effortsMarketing is expensive, and vital The internet provides unique tools to help you make good marketing decisions, and reach more people.

If you dont have web analytics on your web site, youre missing out on a ton of information that can help you judge the effectiveness of your web site. Heres a small amount of what you can know with google analytics, a free web analytics package:How many people are visiting per month/day/hourHow they got there, whether by search engine, directly typing the website name in their location bar, or from another web site linking to you (including the exact page they came from)How long they stayed on each page of your site

Using this basic info, you can make decisions on whether your web site is effective, what needs to be improved, etc Theres even more that can be gleened from this info, by an expert in web analytics..

Make a clear call to action a visit to a special page on your web site to get more information, then use web analytics to track how many people actually go there.. Use this to determine the effectiveness of your marketing medium.. This can be combined with ANY form of advertising that you can give out a web page It doesnt have to be web, although web advertising is often a good option.

Use coupons to entice people to take action, and go to these special pages, or use a discount coupon on an online shopping cart to track how someone got wind of your products To get the most from a coupon, ALWAYS build in a way for you to find out where that customer got your information.

Measure and track EVERYTHING, that way you know where you are spending your ad dollars, and you can make informed decisions on what to cut back, and what to feed.12Fax online - free or low cost, straight to your emailFaxzero.com free sendFaxaway receive unlimited for $1 / monthEmail Dont use your ISPs domain! Use the website name youve already paid for!7. Know Your Options OnlineYou dont have to have an office or an expensive fax line to accept and receive faxes..

Also, on your email address, dont ever use your internet provider as your business email address. Why?Its not as professional for most all businesses, with the slim exception being very personal businessesIf you decide to change internet providers, youll be stuck paying them for an email address, or reluctant to change providers because your clients will have your old email address..

If you have your own domain name / web site, then you already paid for your own professional email addresses you may as well look professional and use them.

131 account, but multiple addresses!Gmail wins with features, usability, anti-spam, is free, works with your domain, and multiple email addressesSyncs with outlook calendarSyncs with blackberry / smart-phonesBranded Google docs for only $50 / year / user8. Work from 1 calendar and 1 email accountDont set yourself up for failure by having multiple email programs / accounts to check At most you should have 1 work and 1 personal account You can set up multiple email addresses to forward email to your business account if you need them.

You can even use the same gmail account to receive, and send mail from many non-gmail accounts Check out: http://lifehacker.com/5157825/use-gmails-multiple-inboxes-feature-to-manage-multiple-addresses

Best of all, Google has a gmail / calendar sync tool that works with smart phones and your computer Did you know that google calendar also can sync with your outlook calendar?

Which leads me to another tip Only use 1 calendar system! Google calendar lets you have multiple calendars on multiple accounts, which you can see all in the same place at the same time It syncs with your smart phone, and with your outlook calendar, if you use outlook.

You can also set up outlook to pull your mail from gmail, if you youre used to using outlook or outlook express.

When your business grows to the point where you have employees, and you want a company email solution, you can get gmail branded to your company, along with googles online office suite. Definitely cheaper, and more reliable, than the traditional model of hosting your own local email server.

14Google it!FreeNetLaw.comJaxWorks.comEntrepreneur.com9. Free Business FormsThese are just 3 of the MANY places you can get free online business forms..15Invoicing:Freshbooks, BlinkSale, HarvestFinance:Mint, Quicken Online, WesabeProject Management:Basecamp10. Invoicing, Tracking, FinancesFreshbooks vs. Harvest vs. Blinksale: http://simplestation.com/locomotion/freshbooks-harvest-blinksale/

Mint vs. Quicken Online vs Wesabe: http://bankling.com/2009/the-best-online-budgeting-tool-mint-vs-wesabe-vs-quicken-online/16Google DocsOpen OfficeDimDim (web and phone meetings)AVG, Anti-virusSpyBot S&D, Anti-SpywareCcleaner, Defraggler11. Free Software / ServicesGood options for software

How to know whether youre getting something that is good, and isnt a scam?If its open source, then the anyone can look at the internal coding, and know that its not a scam, or insecure This is a good thing.If it pops up at you unsolicited, or appears in an ad banner, 99% of the time, its badIf it requires payment up front, without any kind of trial period, question the value of the software The exception is very specialized or 1-time use software.Do a google search on the software name, also, do a search on the software name + problem..Often, quality software will come in a lite version, that lacks all features If the free version lacks too many features to make it unusable, then question the value of the softwareIf you use the software and it keeps putting ads in your face or aggressively tries to get you to upgrade, ditch it

17LinkedIn.comFacebook.comInside919.com12. Connect!Great ways to connect with people you know, and people they knowAlso, there are tons of groups and associations on linkedin and facebook that can connect you with professionals in your area of expertise, and across different areas These groups can really help you to reach out to people, locally or otherwise.18Safeguard Your BusinessRemote backup service, 5$ / monthStore only customer information that is neededSecure it against loss or theft!True Crypt is Free!Have a contingency plan13. Protect Your InformationBacking up is cheap. Not backing up can kill your business.

Carbonite and Mozy both offer unlimited backup for home users, carbonite also has unlimited backup for business users.

The best backup plan is automated and regular USB hard drives and thumb drives are LESS resilient to failure than your hard drive

If you store sensitive info on your computer, make a separate partition for customer data, and encrypt it with TrueCrypt.. Its military grade encryption, free. If your laptop or desktop gets stolen, the attacker wont be able to get anything off the drive.

Always have a contingency plan for if your information / data is destroyed, lost, or stolen. Think about how you are going to serve customers when something like this happens.. What amount of time can you survive not having this information? This will help you make the best decision on what method to use to protect your data.20Outsource / Cut everything but your value!Dont compromise your UVPDont compromise what makes your business special.. Use these tips to cut out anything that is costing you time and money, and taking away from the unique value you offer your customers

If you are inefficient at a task, theres a good chance someone is faster and better at it than you, and maybe actually enjoys it! Use your time doing what youre in business to do, and youll be using your time wisely. Consider whether youre compromising your quality by devoting more time to tasks not linked to your core business.

21Coupon, mention: Leads6715% off computer care packagesFree computer tune-up, virus protection, spyware protection, with 1 year planLeads Group Deal