A friend recently attended the taping of a TV game show – The Price is Right – and none of the audience members could take their phones into the studio. He and everyone in his group left their phones in their cars and they talked about how they almost felt naked for the three to four hours that they didn’t have their phones.
That highlights our relationship with technology today – it’s become an extension of ourselves just like our clothing and it’s no different in your small business. This brings me to the question I want to pose: What will you do when your small business technology fails?
The truth of the matter is that today our technology tends to be more critical than our labor force. If an employee is out sick for a few days, you probably have someone who can take over immediately or you can just let that person’s workload slide for a while.
Can you imagine allowing any of the tech processes that drive your business slide for a few days?
Best backup strategy
Not long ago an on-site RAID storage or backup system with “hot-swappable” drives seemed like the ultimate solution. While RAID storage is good, cloud storage and software is usually even better. With RAID systems you still have tasks to do in house whenever there is a problem and you are also responsible for monitoring and maintaining the hardware. And with cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) you also get rid of the hassle of updating.
It is said that the first step in any journey is the most difficult and for small business owners, taking the first step to move from legacy technological systems to cloud-based computing can be daunting. We tend to leave our legacy computing systems alone until we have trouble. Unfortunately, that’s when the costs tend to be their highest.
If you wait until something goes down, it costs in productivity, lost opportunities and mistakes made when you’re operating “under the gun.” When things need to be replaced or fixed in emergencies, we pay more and make bad decisions.
There are lots of great companies providing cloud services today. At the very least you should be backing up your system via the cloud. That solves a lot of problems immediately. First, it makes backing up automatic – and every survey shows that small business owners are either ignoring backups or backing up too infrequently. It also moves your backups off site, which is a savior should a disaster strike your facility.
AT&T is one of the major players in providing cloud computing and cloud storage options. They can set up a “private cloud” for your business and in addition to general storage, you might use a private cloud for backup. Many large businesses have their IT departments build their own cloud; with services like those provided by AT&T, even smaller businesses can have their own dedicated cloud. Other options include cloud networking and cloud-based virtual desktop services.
There’s another security advantage built into using third party services, such as the ones I’ve listed from AT&T – you offload your security responsibility. Trying to keep all your local machines safe from hostile hackers is a difficult, and expensive, job. Moving critical data to a well managed cloud environment can help solve this problem.
Of course, Dropbox and Google drive are proving handy for many small business owners, especially when they need to have employees collaborate and share files. Also, if you listen to radio ads you know that the number of companies offering cloud backup services is growing all the time.
The number and variety of cloud-based services for small business is also increasing dramatically. I’m going to give you a list of some that are of special interest to small business, however, more are being added all the time and I suspect there will be some consolidation. If there is a specific service you’re interested in, consider the names on this list your starting point, not your end game. Do more research and talk to people in your industry.
Customer Relationship Management
Marketing, email, operations
If you have done any research, you know that the above list is extremely limited. To get a much bigger picture, I suggest you check out this Zapier page, and Zapier itself. Zapier is a SaaS that lets you string together different online services to perform tasks. Remember macros in Microsoft Office? Zapier lets you build macros for SaaS’s.
Some of the above services will replace legacy systems you’re using now. Others will do things that are currently going “undone.” You will get increased productivity and you’ll be protected from disk drives failing, motherboards frying and hurricanes knocking at your front door…or roof.
Finally, which cloud services have delivered the most “bang for the buck” in your small business?