Even if you consider yourself a technophobe, there’s no getting away from technology if you want to be a success in business.
Technology has changed the way we work in quite a short space of time. And it’s changed people’s expectations too. They expect to be able to email you outside of the traditional office hours, or have a chat with you readily even if you are abroad.
You need to embrace at least the basics of what modern technology can do to help you run your business. And you should find a huge number of benefits along the way that either save you time or money, or let you be more productive.
Let’s start at the beginning and the most important – internet access. These days there’s only one way to go: broadband. Why? Because it’s the most cost-effective connection available to you, and it’s ubiquitous. You can achieve speeds as fast as 100Mb via cable.
Best of all, you should be able to get broadband for as little as £15 per month. The marketplace is pretty competitive with hundreds of providers after your business.
The most used broadband by UK businesses is the (deep breath now) Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ASDL). This comes off your normal phone line meaning it’s quick and easy to install… although if your phones go down, so does your internet.
Before you sign a deal, find out about the maximum connection speeds you can achieve. This will be determined by the technology at your local exchange. Also check if there is a limit on the amount of data you can download… businesses tend to get through a lot of data.
Another option is to get broadband through a cable, such as Virgin Media. Not many business premises are connected to cable, but you’ll find it faster and potentially more reliable if you’ve got it.
Once you’re used to fast access at work, you’ll want it on the road too. And here’s where a modern wi-fi enabled laptop could be handy, especially if you are often out on appointments.
Wi-fi allows you to connect to the internet wirelessly at one of thousands of hotspots across the UK, typically based round public areas such as shopping centres, coffee shops, railway stations etc.
If you don’t fancy lugging a laptop around, get a smartphone. They integrate a mobile phone, personal organiser and internet access in one handset, offering great flexibility, no matter where in the world you are. The most popular version of these is, of course, the Blackberry. However, they don’t call them Crackberries for nothing – just make sure that you don’t end up inseparable from it. It’s tempting to want to keep up with everything while you’re on holiday, but you’re not going to be at your efficient business best if you don’t literally switch off once in a while.
Here are a few more ways to use the internet to your advantage. If your business is reliant on up-to-the-minute information of any kind, you may want to take advantage of Really Simple Syndication (RSS). This is a facility which will automatically provide you with information without you having to remember to look at your favourite websites.
Another way of taking advantage of technology is by using the Internet to do your day-to-day banking. Most high street banks now offer an online facility and it will save you a lot of time. If you have a business account, it’s worth remembering that banks can charge businesses more for writing cheques compared to making online payments.
As you grow your business and make more contacts, you are likely to be invited at some point to join a networking club of some sort. So it’s not surprise to learn that this can also be done virtually. Networking sites link together like-minded business people via the internet, providing you with potential leads, prospects, customers, ideas and suppliers without leaving the office.
Finally the internet has hundreds of online tools that can be used to make you more productive, such as sharing information, tracking time spent on clients’ accounts and organising your to do list.
For more information, try our Technology section.
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