Your technology roadmap: six business-saving technologies
Identify the technology you need to strengthen and grow your business.
In the past two decades, computers and the internet have changed the world. People now communicate faster, more often, and in different ways. Likewise, businesses operate differently – processing and storing more information, reaching out to new markets, and managing operations more efficiently.
The advent of technology has ensured that life – and business – will never be the same. Here, we will introduce the basics of technology and its benefits, and introduce basic elements of a technology solution that could help your business.
Essential. Available. Affordable
The smaller your business is, the more efficient it has to be. You need to invest limited resources wisely, which means making necessary business purchases right now. At the same time, you need to identify the resources needed for tomorrow – including technology that will help your business grow and stay ahead of the competition in the months and years ahead.
Computers, servers, software, and internet connections are among the investments that small and medium businesses of all kinds – and in all locations, rural as well as urban – need to consider. In fact, these technologies are already being utilised by an increasing number of small and medium businesses around the world.
Today, more people than ever before use computers at home, school, and work. In Western Europe, the US, and other developed nations, more than three out of four people use computers, and the number is growing each day. Similar growth is seen in developing nations, where the number of internet users has increased tremendously. In all, more than one billion people worldwide now connect to the information, communication, and other resources available on the internet, and two billion people are expected to be online by the end of 2011.
As internet usage grows, internet connections – and particularly fast internet connections – are also becoming essential tools for businesses. In fact, a recent UN report stated that broadband internet usage is becoming so vital for individuals and businesses that it merits comparison to utilities such as water and electricity.
The benefits of technology to your business
Whatever the industry and business size, technology – and specifically the combination of computers, computer-related equipment, and internet connections – can help you do more, and open new opportunities to expand your business.
Expand your business with technology that helps you design products for a broader customer base and increase sales to new markets.
- Expand into the world export market.
- Improve and increase communication with customers, partners, and employees.
- Access timely, essential information, and research online.
- Sell products and services online.
Efficiency can separate your business from the competition. With the right technology in place, you can organise and manage your business more effectively, and do more with fewer resources.
- Automate everyday tasks, such as customer orders and invoicing.
- Spend less time on accounting, inventory control, and finance.
- Track customer orders from production to fulfillment.
- Store product and customer information in one place.
Technology can help you find customers who need your product or service, increase their interest in what your business offers, and build your relationship with them over time.
- Advertise to customers all over the globe through a website
- Build repeat business through better and more efficient sales and marketing.
- Collect information about customer needs and preferences.
- Measure customer response to your sales and marketing efforts.
Build your relationship with customers by communicating more often and providing an overall improved level of service.
- Communicate with customers in new, less expensive ways.
- Minimise order and shipping errors that frustrate customers.
- Resolve customer issues more quickly.
- Gather and assess customer feedback more easily.
Should you raise product prices? Is the weather going to affect a crop? Use technology to stay abreast of the latest information affecting your business, and then adjust quickly to protect the bottom line.
ICT can help your business:
- Learn about local, regional, and global issues affecting your business.
- Access competitor information quickly, so you can act immediately.
- Track the health and profitability of your business.
Adding technology to your own business may seem overwhelming at first.
As shown in Figure 1, you can start with a small investment in technology, and then add to that as needs increase. You may, for instance, want to communicate faster with your customers and suppliers. A minimal technology investment will allow you to do that. Then, as business grows, you can expand the online presence to include a website for conducting e-commerce.
Business essential #1: Desktop computers
A desktop computer, also called a personal computer or PC, is a device that provides storage and processing capabilities that allow you to perform many work tasks faster and more efficiently.
How can a desktop computer help my business?
Desktop computers are the basic building blocks for businesses. You can add software to the computer that will allow you to perform many tasks, such as storing and quickly retrieving critical customer information. You can add peripheral equipment like scanners and printers to PCs for more options. Most importantly, you can connect PCs to the internet, allowing new ways of communication and timely access to information from around the world.
One of the keys to selecting the right desktop computer is making sure it has a processor that can support all the work you plan to do. As shown in Figure 2, Intel offers a range of processors that can meet your specific computing needs.
Business essential #2: Laptop computers
Also called a notebook computer, a laptop computer is a small personal computer that’s designed for mobility. Depending on which laptop computer you buy, it will offer similar features to a desktop computer but will be smaller and easier to transport, and will use less power (operating on batteries when not attached to an electrical outlet).
How can a laptop computer help my business?
Businesses choose laptop computers because they offer several key advantages:
- Freedom to work anywhere—at home, at the office, or on the road
- Convenience of small size and reduced weight
- Flexibility to operate on batteries, not just electrical supply
- Less overall energy demands
Business essential #3: A mobile office
These days, you don’t have to do all your work from a single location. With appropriate technology, you and your employees can work outside the office – which can save time and lead to far greater productivity. Most mobile offices begin with a laptop computer, which can be transported easily wherever work needs to be done. Make sure the laptops you purchase have wireless connectivity built right in – most do – allowing internet access inside the office or on the road.
In addition to laptop computers, you may want to consider these options:
- A mobile printer, so you can print material from your laptop.
- A USB drive (also called a jump, flash, or thumb drive) on which you can back up the data that’s on your laptop, transfer the data to other computers, and share files with other people.
- Online fax services such as efax (www.efax.com) and Innoport (www.innoport.com), which allow you to send faxes as e-mail.
- A cell phone or VoIP phone that can keep you connected to the office and customers.
Business essential #4: Software
- Software is a collection of programs that combine to perform tasks on your computer. Some common types of software include:
- System software: System software helps run your computer. It includes software such as operating systems that make it easy for you to interact with your computer.
- Application software: Application software allows you to accomplish tasks on your computer. Examples include educational software, databases, industrial automation, and software that allow you to perform word processing and create presentations.
The following are examples of specific business software that might be useful:
- Microsoft Office* applications (allows creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations, as well as e-mail, messaging, and calendaring).
- Adobe Reader* to view PDF files.
- Internet Explorer* for Web browsing.
- Security, virus protection, and content-filtering software.
- VoIP for communications: Voice-over-Internet Protocol telephone service might be less expensive than traditional phone service, and easily integrated with other internet functionality.
- Access e-government, e-health, and other services that might help you, your business, and your employees
- Enable transactions such as applying for government programs or licenses
Different types of software can help your business in nearly endless ways:
- Track inventory and sales.
- Perform basic or advanced accounting.
- Measure marketing performance.
- Create presentations, spreadsheets, and other documents.
Business essential #5: Servers
A server is a computer designed to store, protect, and manage information. Businesses with multiple personal computers can back up their data and store it on servers. Servers can also be used as a central depository for documents and spreadsheets, so employees don’t have to search for what they need on multiple computers.
Servers provide a range of services, depending on your needs:
- Store and back up critical information in one place.
- Increase data security.
- Centralise information so employees can share files through the server.
- Host your website.
Servers should match business needs. As shown in Figure 4, low-cost options are available for basic file sharing needs. If you’re ready to implement a Web or e-mail server, or need a server that handles shared applications for accounting and other projects, an Intel® Xeon® Processor 3000 Sequence-based server is a good choice. When you are ready to add servers to support database or customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities, a server based on the Intel® Xeon® Processor 5000 Series will be best.
Business essential #6: Internet access
The internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that carries information, resources, and services around the world.
The internet is a vast resource that can help businesses in several key ways:
- Sales: Many businesses use the internet to conduct business: generating leads, selling product, arranging for payment and product fulfillment, and more. E-commerce has proven to be a very effective method of doing business “virtually.”
- Communication: Electronic mail (e-mail) is the most common example of how messages and data can be communicated over the internet. Online communication is nearly instant, so employees, partners, and customers can communicate and collaborate more often and more efficiently.
- Information: More than a billion people use the internet, and many of those people (and businesses) post information that can be used to improve your business. Web sites offer information about the weather, business trends, how to cut costs, and just about any other topic you can imagine.
- Resources: Through the internet, you can access e-government services, tax and registration forms, and countless other resources that you can find online and then download to your computer.
- The many ways to connect to the internet include:
- Wireless broadband: Wireless internet connections are broadband connections that don’t use a telephone line or cable network. Instead, you connect to the internet using radio frequency bands.
- Wired broadband: Technologies such as cable, asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), and integrated services digital network (ISDN) provide high-speed, wired, broadband internet access. Wired broadband connections allow digital information to be sent at high speeds over phone lines or cable networks, carrying both data and voice signals simultaneously. These wired technologies are not available in all regions.
- Dial-up: Dial-up connections are very slow connections over phone lines. Their slow speeds mean they are not ideal for businesses.
- Satellite: With satellite connections, data is relayed via a satellite to a local dish that is positioned on a roof or in a similarly high spot. Satellite connections can be expensive to set up and may not provide the reliable service businesses need.
Putting It All Together
The following diagrams illustrate a few of the many ways in which technology can be combined in a small or medium business to improve productivity and efficiency, and to enable growth.
At Intel, we believe technology can help businesses like yours grow and compete in today’s fast-paced information society. That’s why we work with governments and telecom providers around the globe to help ensure that ICT is available and affordable for small and medium businesses.
Through technology, you can do so much more:
- Grow your business.
- Work smarter.
- Attract more customers.
- Enhance customer service.
- Stay ahead of the competition.
Published on: Thursday, September 29, 2011