5 Technology Essentials for Your Small Business in 2017

As a small business owner, it can be hard to tell where you need to concentrate when it comes to technology. There’s a lot out there that looks cool or flashy, but doesn’t actually help you get things done faster, better, or more efficiently.

We want to help you cut through the noise and focus on the essentials—things that will actually help you improve your business and the experience of your customers. As we head towards the end of 2017 and into 2018, here’s the tech that you need to take a look at.

1. Managed IT Services

You hear a lot about managed service providers (MSPs), or managed services via your Internet service provider (ISP) as a way to decrease your overhead and simplify IT problems, but it may be difficult to understand what exactly an MSP can do for your business.

Basically, an MSP and your small business agree on a scope of work, a set of deliverables, and a core set of services. The reason for possibly not understanding the role of an MSP is that there is a wide range of services that could be provided—everything from remote network monitoring to data management, to email and cloud services and much much more. Essentially, with an MSP, you don’t have to worry about how a service is provided, managed or updated – you get the benefit of utilizing the services and leave the rest up to the MSP.

One of the most useful managed services options is in the area of IT. As a small to medium-sized business, it can be difficult to devote staff to manage both the day-to-day IT responsibilities, while also focusing on innovation and new initiatives.

A managed IT service can offer high-powered solutions and the expertise that comes from being the best at what they do. It lets your tech staff be proactive rather than reactive, allowing them to focus on innovation and ways to push your company forward. There is also built-in scalability and flexibility that gives your business the room it needs for growth.

2. Customer WiFi

Listing customer WiFi as a tech essential might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s included here because it is so crucial to the customer experience. Here are a few facts: customers spend more time in your shop if you offer WiFi, it increases foot traffic, and in-store device usage leads to more conversions. If you want to learn more, take a look at this article, 4 Ways Business WiFi Can Drive Revenue and Customer Loyalty.

Additionally, using a WiFi registration portal is a great way to obtain information from your customers that can be used to create a much more personalized customer experience. You can build up your mailing list to announce in-store events, or even take a peek at where customers are going online when making price comparisons to your products.

The importance of leveraging WiFi for customers, as with any service, is to do it well. You’ll want to offer a fast, reliable, secure connection. If the service is slow, difficult to sign into, or full of ad’s, customers will be disappointed and you’ll end up missing out on many of the benefits WiFi offers you as a business owner.

3. Cyber Security Protection

I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth revisiting: no matter how small you are, you can still find yourself in the crosshairs for a cyber attack. In 2012, Joshuah Allen Witt was handed an 8-year sentence for stealing over $3 million from up to 50 local Seattle businesses. His operation targeted and breached their networks using their WiFi while driving around in a van, scanning for vulnerable routers.

Attacks, meanwhile, are on the rise. In 2015, the number of data breaches in the U.S. jumped by almost 500% more than the number in 2005, and the number of records compromised rose more than 250%. The damages cost nearly $206 million. In 2016, data breaches rose another 40%.

If you’re not thinking about security, you’re taking a big risk. Encryption, 2-step authentication on important passwords, and more advanced security services like cloud-based authentication are vitally important to protect your network, website, and data.

Increased cybersecurity protection is also another important reason to consider partnering with an MSP, or your Internet service provider. While you’re focused on running and growing your business, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your data, website, and network is protected and managed by experts.

4. Scalable Internet That Can Grow With Your Business

You’re planning to get bigger, but do you have a connection that can keep up? Connectivity is everything. The average consumer has 2.5 devices: a phone, a laptop, and maybe something else, like a watch or tablet. As more and more services and apps are based in the cloud, you need to ensure your connection isn’t standing in the way of you and your employees getting things done.

Make sure you’re not locked into a plan that gets you by today but creates a bottleneck when your company needs to scale. Scalable Internet has the ability to expand when you need it, whether that means boosting your bandwidth for a data-intensive project or simply keeping up with your success.

5. Unified Messaging

These days there are so many different modes of communication that it can be easy to lose track of where you are with something. A customer in need of support might first send an email, then try a call, then take to social media. For consumers, it’s all part of a straight-line narrative, but you need to make sure that you’re not missing something.

Unified messaging solves this problem by putting everything in one place. Whether someone calls, texts, or even sends a fax, you see everything in one unified mailbox that you can access from any device you like. It helps you see the narrative and eliminates the time-wasting back-and-forths that pop up when someone misses an important text or email.

What You Can Do Right Now

Flashy technology comes and goes, but as a small business owner, you need to focus on what will actually help you do what you do best – grow your business. That means saving time with managed IT services, cyber security protection, and unified messaging. It also means taking care of your employees and customers with fast, reliable Internet services that can grow with you. With these tech essentials, you’ll have what you need to get a boost in 2017, heading into 2018.