Small businesses like mine are inundated with new technologies that will “transform our lives.” The media enjoys playing up the latest and greatest thing. But, long term, do these things really work? Here are three technologies that have been hyped to small companies and what I think.
Social Networking. Many business owners (like me) are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the world of social networking. We’re creating Facebook fan pages, “linking” in to other professionals and tweeting about events that may be of interest to our customers, suppliers and employees. Why? Because there are legions of potential customers and partners who are active in these communities and we’re discovering that we need to be doing something to stay in touch with them. Problem is we can’t seem to always reach them and we’re finding out this stuff is time consuming too. So how to be active in the social networking world and still have time to actually run your business? There are plenty of established services like Hootsuite and TweetDeck that helps enable a user to create a single message and then blast it out to just about every known social networking community around. And you can post from your mobile device, email and instant messaging service too. Social networking can work if you pick the right community and use the right tools. If your customers aren’t there, then don’t go there.
Online Backup. What’s it like to experience time standing still? You’ll find out the moment you realize that the critical database back up which you thought was occurring every night really wasn’t. And your system is down. And the best data you have dates back to the Clinton era. Everyone should have a good internal backup system. But to really ensure productivity, every small business should subscribe to an online backup service too. These technologies do live up to the hype. At an average of $50 per year, it’s the cheapest insurance around. Carbonite and Mozy are the leaders here but there are plenty of others to choose from. After a quick installation all you have to do us right click on the folders or files that you want to back up, select the option that was newly added to the right click menu and watched it go. You also have to tell the software how often you want a backup to occur. After the initial upload (which can take many hours, depending on the amount of data you’re backing up) the service works quietly in the background. And restoring is pretty easy too.
Travel. I couldn’t finish this piece without a quick mention to my fellow business owners that travel. We’re all penny pinchers and we all want to save money. There are lot of hyped up travel technologies. But the ones that are most useful are the ones that save us time and money. For example, if we could take more public transportation to avoid those outrageous cab fares we would. I love HopStop . This service lives up to the hype. After four decades of visiting New York City I still haven’t figured out the subway system. But HopStop does it for me – I just enter my starting and ending destination and this service tells me exactly what trains to take and from where. Now I can go underground with confidence. HopStop doesn’t limit itself to New York – you can use this site to find your way around most major American destinations, like LA, Chicago and Boston. And London and Paris too. So stop paying those cab fares. Have the confidence to use public transport. And don’t worry – HopStop has been a reliable friend.