1. A secure IT infrastructure: Network security is essential for all businesses whether they are growing, shrinking, centralizing or decentralizing and in all economic circumstances. Regardless of the nature of your business, there are tangible benefits to housing your infrastructure in a data centre, or better yet, in a managed cloud. By doing so, you ensure your sensitive infrastructure, information and assets are in a secure and backed-up environment and you have the peace of mind that your company information will remain available as well as safe. Most small to medium size businesses cannot withstand a long period of downtime or a loss of sensitive information, so security is critical to your company’s viability.
2. Access to the cloud: ”The Cloud” has quickly become a business catch-phrase, but what does it really mean? Incorporating a cloud into IT practices allows the company to outsource everything from email systems, to storage space and server requirements. Cloud services offer many benefits to businesses: they enable your company to cut costs by not having to buy IT infrastructure up front, they allow internal IT staff to focus on more productive tasks rather than day-to-day IT management, they help your business leverage the inherent security of the cloud, and it allows companies to easily scale services as your business grows. This all means that companies that adopt a cloud can focus on growing their business rather than on managing their IT needs.
3. VoIP: For small businesses to remain competitive against larger corporations they must excel at customer service and adaptability, while keeping a strong hold on cost of goods sold. One of the most powerful ways small businesses are doing this is through the use of voice over IP technology. VoIP has allowed for enterprise grade technology to be packaged and delivered to small businesses over private IP connections to guarantee call delivery and quality. The most popular has become hosted VoIP phone systems which help small businesses quickly get to market with advanced features for call management with minimal to no capital investment. In addition, VoIP has allowed for the scalability of phone systems to quickly increase the number of phones as small companies expand and grow.
4. A solid web presence: The importance of a well-thought-out, engaging and interactive website is a key business tool. In many cases, it is the first line of contact that your existing clients have with you and the first impression you make on your potential customers. If it’s not up to par, you probably won’t get a return visit – and your audience won’t become engaged. Make sure that your web presence is effective by incorporating easy to use and easy to find information about your company’s products and services. Consider a variety of contact options including “live Chat”.
5. Social media: In 2011, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all standard tools of the trade. No longer the realm of the younger demographic, consumers have embraced social media as a way of connecting not only with friends, but with businesses as well. Learn the ins and outs of the key players in this area and make your presence known. Actively interact with visitors to your Facebook page, tweet some of your latest offerings and connect with the public. One thing to remember: the communication is two-way and quick feedback is expected in this area. While interacting in a genuine way through social media can help improve your company’s profile and potentially sales, a poor social media strategy has been known to greatly damage company reputations.
6. Online or web conferencing: It’s not always possible to meet your existing and potential customers in person so maintaining a productive remote workforce is now a business necessity. Having a well-supported online or web conferencing platform will allow small businesses to maintain connectivity with existing customers and employees, as well as a method to reach out to a potential new client base. So even if you can’t be there in person, you can still get the job done.
7. Managed business continuity service: Backing up your critical business data is imperative in the case of a power outage or any failure – large or small. The economic effects on a small business could be devastating if important information such as financial statements or client account details are lost. Partner with an IT provider that can provide the back-end support to keep your information safe and secure in spite of unexpected events.
8. Managed services expertise: You may be an entrepreneur, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are an expert on designing, implementing and supporting your network. Partner with a company that is an expert in managing network infrastructure and hold that 3rd party accountable for the reliability of your systems and keeping your business up-to-date with technology. This way, even as a small business you can have enterprise quality technology, which will help you compete within a vast market.
9. Business grade internet: Internet connectivity has become an essential service for business today and a high performing and reliable Internet connection is critical to keeping your business online and connected. To ensure your business is making the most of your connectivity, make sure you investigate and invest in the appropriate access technology including options for redundancy. when a potential client is making a purchase decision, access dropping to your business web site can send them directly to your competition.
10. Mobile technology: The modern “workplace” these days exists wherever the employer desires and business hours have long departed from the typical Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm schedule. With the uptake of mobile technology, specifically smart phones and tablets, the ability to work remotely is an advantage for smaller companies that want to keep their overhead down. Investing in mobility tools as well as partnering with an IT provider that can integrate applications and server access will allow you to maximize your staff’s productivity and ultimately, your business’ profitability.
Jeff Lorenz is the vice president of Primus Business Services
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