5 Steps for Choosing the Best Tech for Your Small Business

Meeting your small business tech requirements might seem like a fairly basic affair. Your business only needs an internet connection, a few laptops and printers, and productivity software. Yet tech solutions aren’t universal, as each business has different operational structures, goals, and requirements.

Choosing the best technology for your small business means more than selecting what’s standard or popular. While the process can be tricky, leaders can make some general decisions to find the right solutions. Here are five steps for choosing the pick of the tech bunch for your growing company.

1. Begin With Processes

Technology is there to make the lives of your employees and customers easier. Effective solutions should support, enhance, and/or improve business processes. Otherwise, that fancy software application or network equipment you just implemented might waste time and resources.

By taking a closer look at existing processes, you can identify service gaps, inefficiencies, and improvement opportunities. For example, are your customers constantly complaining about poor Wi-Fi signals in your guest areas? It could be time to upgrade to a cloud-based network that distributes signal strength and bandwidth according to foot traffic.

On the other hand, some of your staff members might raise concerns over lax network security. Wi-Fi solutions that provide enterprise-level network monitoring and security tools could close the gap. With network software driven by artificial intelligence, a small business IT support services won’t always need to expand its IT staff or expertise.   

2. Examine Business Needs

Processes are a great place to start when evaluating potential tech solutions. However, all business needs may not be a part of documented procedures or practices. Some of your tech requirements will come from the more fundamental ways employees perform their jobs. A company that processes in-store sales, for example, will require different solutions than a business with outside or route sales staff.

The first scenario will require POS machines, software applications, and onsite network connections. Outside sales reps may need mobile devices like tablets and cellular data plans. Any mobile apps might also have to sync data from desktop versions of sales software.

Before choosing your company’s tech, speak with your staff and gather their perspectives. They could point out that relying on spreadsheets for project tracking is becoming unmanageable. Some employees might also offer suggestions for flexible solutions, such as two-in-one tablets and portable Wi-Fi access points. Adaptable devices often kill two birds with one stone, eliminating the need for dual in-office and field or remote solutions.

3. Consider Scalability

When you buy technology, you want it to last long enough to get your money’s worth. Something you might overlook, though, is whether hardware or software will scale with your business during its expected life cycle. On average, a desktop lasts between five and eight years. A laptop’s average lifespan is slightly shorter, at three to five years.

Software applications are more complicated to estimate since more variables are at play. Some of these factors include new market competitors and a developer’s ability to release updates. Often, software evolves as hardware does. However, applications can also change because of shifting market preferences.

The migration to cloud-based business productivity software and subscription-based models is an example. These solutions make it easier for people to collaborate on documents in real time from any internet-connected device. Emailing documents back and forth and uninstalling and reinstalling apps on devices aren’t as efficient. Cloud solutions may also eliminate the cost of VPN services for remote and hybrid employees.

When choosing tech solutions, try thinking beyond immediate needs. If a piece of equipment or software won’t grow or scale with the company, it’s better to look at alternatives. You probably won’t find many solutions that will last forever. But it’s good practice to think about where your business’s technology requirements will be in a few years. Choose tech that won’t be useless in six months or a year.  

4. Evaluate Potential Impacts

Ideally, you want technology that will work well with existing equipment and applications. You also want anything new you bring in to have more benefits than costs. Any tech that will disrupt other parts of your business isn’t going to work well, either.

That’s why determining the potential impacts of new technology beforehand is crucial. For instance, switching to wireless or network printers may sound more convenient. But say the employees who need to print documents deal with sensitive information. Or there will be several printers in a tight space.

In the first case, you may not want those printers to be accessible over the network. A USB device that only attaches to a single computer might offer more control and security. In the second case, ensuring you can program each printer to connect to different Wi-Fi channels will help reduce interference. Otherwise, your staff might grow frustrated over random disconnects and connection problems while trying to print.

5. Review Financial Options

As a small business owner, you don’t have to buy all the tech your company uses. Leasing is an option with most hardware, including copiers, printers, and computers. Some businesses benefit more from leasing versus buying and vice versa.

Some of the advantages of leasing include no upfront costs and predictable monthly expenses. It’s also easier to keep your hardware up to date under a lease. Since you don’t own the equipment, you can switch it out once it’s too old.

However, buying can cost less over time, and you have complete control over upkeep. You don’t have to wait for a technician or rep to come onsite for repairs. In-house employees can handle that for the company. If you have the option to buy or lease, calculate which choice makes the most long-term sense.  

Choosing the Best Tech

On closer examination, selecting the right technology for your small business might seem less basic and more mind-boggling. But deciding one way or another isn’t as hard when you follow specific steps. Start with your processes, look at your foreseeable needs, consider potential growth and impacts, and review financial options. Doing this legwork will help ensure you make the right choices for your business.

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