A look at the latest trends in business technology

Business technology review

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Starting and running a successful small, home or online business these days means that you are going to have to rely on technology to handle most things - if not everything.

There isn't a single aspect of the modern business that doesn't have software, online software, cloud solutions, or innovative hardware and gadgets to save time, streamline processes, maximize efficiency, and save on costs.

The problem, especially for first time business owners, is knowing which technology is the right one for your company, and how to use it effectively to ensure that it provides value and/or good returns.

This article provides a bird's eye overview of the world of business technology with a focus on helping SMEs and online businesses understand their options to make better choices.

Software

Business software is undergoing a massive change from the traditional method of selling software packages that you buy at a store, to selling online software (cloud based) subscriptions.

The problem with traditional software is that it is essentially out of date within a year. Support and services gets more and more expensive, and it becomes costly to keep upgrading (or even migrating to new systems entirely).

Having to buy software for your office is no longer something you should take for granted either - especially if you want to keep with the times.

Instead, look to online software services that can allow you to store company data safely and securely while accessing it from anywhere at any time.

Online software has the added advantage that it helps remote workers in distributed workplaces (useful if you want to attract the right people with work-from-home job opportunities).

In addition, before you choose any software package, it is worth taking time to explore alternatives. For example, Microsoft Outlook has been the standard in small office email for years - but there are open source alternatives like Thunderbird, freely available service like Gmail, and even Office 365 (cloud based office software from Microsoft).

Finally, it's also worth noting that cloud based, online software has the additional advantage of being flexible when it comes to integrating with other business software applications.

This opens up new opportunities for automation and increased efficiency - think along the lines of integrating your eCommerce payment handling facilities with an online accounting solution so that reports, tax and other administrative tasks can be managed in real time.

Internet

As fast as software moves, the Internet evolves even quicker. New technologies pop up faster than you can keep your finger on them as user trends chop and change.

Currently, the entire Internet is undergoing a metamorphosis into a mobile technology with more people accessing it from smart devices than traditional PCs.

Web development

Web development platforms and tools have come to the point where traditional software, like CMS (Content Management Systems), are not really a viable option. The development cycle for traditional website platforms often means that whatever version you use will require expensive upgrades and patches down the line - within a couple of years.

Not only that, but downloading and developing with a website framework requires a fair amount of technical knowledge and experience - which is not something business owners necessarily want to invest time in.

Once the site is developed, the next step is to find a quality Web hosting service to provide server resources and bandwidth for the site. This can be a difficult, frustrating and expensive exercise.

Fortunately, there is a way around this, and millions of startups have latched onto the benefits offered by hosted website builders.

Hosted Website builders

Hosted site builders offer everything required to create and run a live website (regardless of whether it is a professional site, portfolio, community portal, blog, or eCommerce site) - including domains, hosting, Web design, and a raft of other things.

But, the short learning curve for online site builders is only one of the major benefits. The other being the fact that development in hosted site builders is ongoing at no extra cost - so you can be sure your site will always benefit from the latest technologies (such as responsive Web design to support mobile devices).

Email

From a marketing and sales perspective, mail list management and proper email marketing facilities are as important as the website itself.

But, email is responsible for delivering the world's spam, and it is becoming more and more important for genuine businesses to utilize email services that help them communicate with customers and clients (as well as each other) without running into technical and legal problems.

Managing and growing company email lists is one are where I would recommend going straight to a leading provider - there is little chance you will be able to do a good enough job on your own.

Hardware

While hardware is developing at a tremendous pace, with new innovations and improvements coming online almost daily, there are some really important issues to take note of - before you start investing in expensive items.

Firstly, some hardware has simply become redundant. Expensive telephony and communications systems that require huge PBX installations are no longer needed at all.

Cloud based office communications systems can manage everything with more flexibility and at a fraction of the price - putting enterprise level phone and fax facilities within reach of SMEs.

Not all hardware has become redundant - like PBX systems - but, the value proposition of hardware has changed over the last few years, to the point where buying it may no longer make financial sense.

In the past companies were prepared to make long term investments in hardware because it meant they owned it and weren't subject to long term payments. That's fine, if the hardware retains its value in the long term.

The problem is that hardware, like software, becomes dated very quickly, and the fastest most expensive equipment today may be hopelessly behind the times in a few years.

With that said, don't be put off from buying hardware if you need it. If there is something that will cost a bit upfront, but save man-hours going forward, then do the calculation (i.e. is the time this product saves going to pay for itself?)

Finally, it is also important to look at what the latest trends are. In particular, mobile based technology is making huge strides in the world of commerce - with mobile payment devices making traditional till systems seem a bit antiquated.

Hopefully this summary of how to keep tabs on the rapid pace of change in all spheres of business technology will help you to find and invest in the right tools that will contribute to the success of your company.

What other aspects of technology do you feel are important for startups and entrepreneurs?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

How Google hurts small business online

Think of the Internet economy as a farmer’s field full of little green plants. Each plant represents a business, and the stuff that makes them grow is traffic (just like rain makes real plants grow).

Now, imagine that in between the rain clouds and our fledgling plants, there is a huge funnel that collects the rain and pours it over the field. Let’s call this funnel Google.

Google’s job is to make sure that all the sprouts get a fair share of water (provided they are of good quality), and that any weeds that are harmful to the ecosystem aren’t watered. All day long Google funnels rain onto various different plants in order to help them grow.

How to prevent spammers hijacking your servers

There's nothing worse than finding out your business website has been hacked and is being used to send out bulk emails, spam visitors, or spread malicious software.

If it hasn't happened to you, don't fall into the trap of thinking that this scenario is something that happens to other people. Spam hacks are absolutely rampant.

Fortunately, the business model of spammers requires them, more often than not, to automate their hacks to seek out vulnerable Web servers and sites, because they have to do things on a huge scale to turn a profit.

Unusual work from home business ideas

Selling online is getting easier and easier every day, from a technical point of view, because the technology to handle online transactions (like online

Genuine bloggers and businesses use high quality articles to build high page rankings in Google and generate plenty of valuable organic search traffic.

The problem is that the better the content, the more likely it is that others will duplicate, copy, or spin those articles and publish them on their own sites (without permission or attribution).

Most of the time this is not an issue because low quality, article spinning sites generally tend not to rank well in Google search results.

top home office gadgets

If you are starting or running a work from home business then this list of the top 10 most useful desktop gadgets will definitely make your work life more productive.

I'm not a particularly tech gadget type person, and my work-space is a little on the bland side - but after researching office gadgets for this article, I'm definitely going to be investing in a few that will make my life easier.

So, whether you are running an eCommerce store from your garage, or blogging up a storm from a local coffee shop, this list should help you discover some cool, but practical, tech stuff.

Design and print your own business cards

Did you know that business card design can directly impact the success of your organisation?

Giving away free stuff can help grow your business

Here are some great ideas that incorporate free stuff (products and services) in order to generate trust, improve revenue and grow your business.

Most consumers like getting free stuff (especially online consumers), so giving away a valuable free offering can help to drive traffic, generate buzz, earn trust, and make money.

This article will give you five great ideas for free product and service offerings that you can integrate into an existing organization or use to help grow a startup.

Tips on how to prepare for a meeting with big clients

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting between my startup and one of the largest logistics companies in the country - so that we could pitch our new service.

The size of this client would almost be sufficient to reach sustainability and profitability in one go. Obviously landing a whale in your first pitch as a new startup is the ultimate dream come true, but it can be hard to turn it into reality.

The meeting went ok, but there were some hard lessons learned about how to pitch big corporate clients that my partners and I took away from the experience.

Universities wanting to offer a course on Internet entrepreneurship can start here

Being an entrepreneur is something that should be encouraged and nurtured in everyone from an early age - especially in a country like the U.S. where the economy relies on small business.

Every school and university should offer a range of courses designed to empower young people to take an idea and turn it into a profitable enterprise, with confidence and competence.

Sadly, most educational institutes seem intent on sticking to dry, academic curricula that might teach young minds how to think, but don't prepare them for the harsh realities of the real world.

Top startups that have used crowdfunding succesfully

Crowdfunding is a relatively novel way for startups and entrepreneurs to raise money to support their fledgling companies - and sometimes it actually works.

creating opportunities in life and business

Isn't it frustrating that some people just seem to have that entrepreneurial knack - business opportunities just seem to go their way again and again?

A list of high paying work from home jobs

Ever wondered just how much you can earn in a career working from home?

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