Technology can be extremely frustrating, especially when you don't have time to mess around with complicated set ups, or the budget to hire in house IT staff. when working correctly, Technology can be leveraged in small teams to improve collaboration, communication, productivity, and increase sales. The key is to successfully navigate the maze of tech offerings to get the most out of your budget.
Managed Service Providers as Part of the Solution
Part of many small businesses technology assets are increasingly managed service providers, or MSP's. Managed service providers, like CHS Tech Solutions, are companies that work with small businesses to find affordable solutions to meet their needs. Since MSP's are not on the payroll their costs are typically cheaper than having a in house it staff, especially at smaller companies that don't have ongoing support needs. MSPs offer the best balance between having an expert on call and keeping your technology costs low. Most small and medium business rarely have enough issues in a properly configured technology system to require a full time IT support staff. MSP's bridge that crucial gap in growing companies.
Not every company needs the same solution, and many enterprise level solutions are inadequate for for small and medium businesses. spending thousands of dollars(or millions) to save tiny amount of margin only make sense in the scale of large enterprises. That doesn't mean there isn't the right business solution for a small business, but it means that it takes a unique focus to help a small business make smart investments in tech. Finding the right accounting solutions, or cloud solution is important in the incredibly diversifying field of choices and company cultures. Application suite solutions can changing depending if collaboration between people is required across the country or just across the office. Email solutions can change if sharing calendars and contacts is needed or not.
Working with a MSP that has experience in multiple fields can help you sort through and find solutions that work for you. different industries have different requirements in data retentions and encryption. paying for the same solution that meets HIPAA compliance might not make sense for a coffee shop.
Open Source Vs Proprietary Tech
The argument between using proprietary technology or Open Source has been around since the dawn of the information age. proprietary technologies have their strengths and weaknesses, the same for Open Source. choosing to go all out on one method might not always make sense. As a web developer I usually choose to use open source where possible, but often there are hidden costs that might add up in a company that doesn't have programmers on staff to work through bugs, and set up and poorly documented software.
Why Proprietary Tech is Better
Proprietary technology benefits from having a company that supports their software, and hardware. you can get a service plan and have a phone number you can call if something goes wrong. there is a warranty, and usually development is skewed towards developing an interface that is easy to navigate. Installation of proprietary software is often easier and less subject to the whims of developers.
But what about Open Source?
open source is more complicated to setup and install...sometimes. It's often a mixed bag depending on the software, and on the development community. there are some stand out open source technologies that have a strong development community, like Magento, Wordpress, libreoffice, OpenProject, and many more. These communities actively update and respond to bug issues. In specific situations they are better than proprietary, but it's often hard to determine what is a good open source project and what is a bad one unless you pay close attention to the open source community. In my web developer diary I cover many open source projects I use as part of our internal tech infrastructure.
Choosing is Hard, but Easy with an Expert
having an expert on call to help you sort out the different use cases is exactly the role CHS Tech solutions is designed to fulfill. We can help you figure out when to use Open Source and When to use Proprietary systems, and how to transition from one environment to a new one.
The 21st century has ushered in a new era of workplace collaboration and changed the way we work. no longer are teams required to be in the same office, or even the same timezone. projects can be managed and worked on remotely all across the globe. Communication tools such as Slack or Rocket.chat allows for communication between scattered teams, and information can be easily shared and communicated. inexpensive conferencing cameras and voip systems can make team meetings more efficient and inclusive.
Not all collaboration tools are made equal and not every collaboration tool makes sense for all businesses. an expense video conferencing system makes little sense if your entire business is in the same office and has 4 employees, but if you have an extended team in india or japan then those tools could come in handy.
Chatting in the Office
One of the more ubiquitous technologies is chat software. there a multiple free solutions available some open source and some proprietary. depending on the use case the type of chat software needed is different, but almost all companies can benefit from basic chat software. Some options such as google hangouts, rocket.chat, and slack all over great solutions depending on how secure you need your communications, and how your business operates.
Cloud Based Storage
Cloud based storage is increasing a mainstay in small businesses. It allows you to share documents and files between employees and allows the company to be device agnostic. you can work from home, and still access important company files. Computer can be backed up remotely and securely on a schedule. Files can be encrypted and access controlled easily with modern cloud technologies like synology.
Cell Phones and Soft Phones
For sales people on the road all the time its great to be able to recieve phone calls and messages almost as if you are still in the office. with soft phones you can have you extension ring your cell phone, and make calls from your extension even if you are thousands of miles away from your home office.
Enterprise software is the heart of the business in the 21st century, it compiles all the information into a central repository and can be used from sales people to accountants, to project managers. control access to certain features to ensure appropriate precautions are taken is very important with the value of information shooting through the roof. a Managed service provider can help you gauge what types of software you need to get the best edge. in a previous article Chris Snyder talked about free software and alternatives you can be using today.
Where do you start?
there is a mind boggling array of software solutions, and hardware solutions available for small businesses to use. what makes sense in one use case doesn't make sense in another. Often businesses can get slowed down by making to many nice but unnecessary technology changes, generally the best way to change technologies is to work it into you business growth plan. working with a managed service provider can help you find the right solution for your business and the right tech path to fit into your growth model and needs.