Despite all the chatter about how the Great Recession is finally over, many small-business owners aren't feeling it yet. In fact, although the National Federation of Independent Business (www.nfib.com) reports that confidence among American business owners reached a three-year high in January, many are still cautious about hiring and spending. And if your business still seems to be on the trailing end of the much-touted recovery, you may be looking for ways to take control of your financial future this year.
With reduced resources to hire and train staff, pay outside contractors and also increase productivity, many small-business owners are turning to technology to help them bridge the gap between what they need and what they can afford. If 2011 is your year to regain financial footing for your small business, here are five key areas where technology can help:
1. Reduce costs and save money
Greater efficiency means less wasted time and money. Complex filing systems packed into space-eating cabinets are more obsolete every year as continually advancing technology makes preserving documents easier and faster. Are you making the most of the technology available to you in this area? If your office PCs are running on the latest version of the most-popular operating system - Windows 7 Professional - you likely already have in place the tools you need to improve efficiency in this area. Simply click on the Start menu search box, and you instantly see results grouped by category - documents, pictures, music, email and programs. If your organization has not yet upgraded to Windows 7 Professional, you can estimate today your potential benefits and savings by using an ROI calculator at www.roianalyst.alinean.com and seeing how impactful this latest operating system can be to your bottom line.
2. Network security
From credit card numbers to personal identifying information of employees and clients, a small business's network can be a treasure trove for cyber criminals. The best way to protect your company's computer networks - and the personal, financial and client-related information they contain - is with technology that blocks malicious cyber attacks and safeguards sensitive information. Windows 7 Professional, with Windows Internet Explorer, gives you the right tools to help you be confident that your business and your data are safer and more secure.
3. Accessing information remotely
Customers expect businesses to be able to provide real-time information - from quotes and pricing to project timelines and scope - at the click of a button. Small businesses can now equip their field workers with devices such as laptops, netbooks and smartphones to help them respond quickly and efficiently to customer inquiries. Networked information, remotely accessible from a variety of mobile devices, is an important step to ensuring that employees can provide customers with the most up-to-date, accurate information available, regardless of where they are.
4. Green initiatives
Environmental awareness has become widely recognized in the business world as the right thing to do, as well as something that makes good business sense. Reducing energy consumption and paper waste not only helps the environment, but it also can save your small business money. Technology supports green initiatives by helping businesses cut the amount of paperwork they generate and use less power to operate. Windows 7 Professional, for example, offers built-in power-saving technology to help small businesses improve their energy efficiency and helps prevent paper from printing at the wrong printer.
5. Increase workplace productivity
Software designed to improve business efficiency can help small-business owners and their staff members improve workplace productivity. When workers spend less time navigating through computer systems, they have more time to invest in serving customers and streamlining processes. From accounting programs that make payroll generation a breeze to online applications that allow businesses to accept customer payments via the Internet, technology can allow you to improve productivity.
With technology allowing small businesses to accomplish more, improve efficiency and focus on customers rather than on processes, small-business owners may find they really have reason to be optimistic about the economy in 2011. To learn more about technology that can help your small business, visit www.microsoft.com/windows/business.