Here are 8 ways small business owners can be smarter about technology
Today, every business is a technology business. Whether you have a one-person consulting company or a 500-person manufacturing firm, every business must use technology and use it well.
But managing tech can be overwhelming to a small business owner — you’ve got other work to do. So concentrate on the most important ways to spend your time with tech.
Here are eight things you need to know when it comes to small business technology:
1. Put it in the owner’s name.
Here’s one thing you’re almost certainly doing wrong: You probably have other employees listed as owner or administrator of your technology. Stop that! Now! Employees come and go. Even long-time, trusted employees come and go, and certainly the tech contractor will go. When they go, they may control your technology or even take it hostage.
Sure, you can get your Office 365 account back from Microsoft, but it can take days. Make sure you are listed as the owner/administrator of your website, accounting system, document storage, email system, contact manager, social media accounts, email newsletter, and any other key business technology.
2. Learn how to use it.
Yes, you’re the business owner. And yes, you have more important things to do than to understand how the electronic shopping cart works on your website. But take time to learn the most important technology in your company, especially the technology that manages financial and personnel data. Learn how to use your payroll application, access your Quickbooks, use your telephone system, transfer funds in your accounts and block former employees from your document storage.
3. Keep passwords safe.
Duh. Lock passwords in your office safe or in another place where others can’t access them. Or try a password manager such as LastPass (www.lastpass.com ), Dashlane (www.dashlane.com ), StickyPassword (www.stickypassword.com ) – just make sure they have two-step authentication (so you have to be notified in your email or by text for verification).
4. Make sure key outsiders can use it.
The other day a friend at a public relations agency told me about a conference call service their new, young office manager installed with lots of great bells and whistles. The problem? The outside people they needed to have calls with found it too confusing to use. Sure, there are lots of products that you can ask your staff to take time to learn, but you need to make things very easy for prospects, clients, key contractors, and other critical outsiders.
5. Copy vital info offline.
Unfortunately, some smaller cloud-based companies suddenly vanish. You don’t want your data to vanish with them. Regularly backup/download your mission-critical information such as your mailing list, your financials, your invoices and orders. Don’t let a disappearing company mean disappearing data.
6. Pay for it.
Sure, there are all kinds of online services with a “free-mium” model – where there’s one level that’s free, and you pay for more advanced features and services. For relatively unimportant services, go ahead and use the free versions. But for your critical infrastructure services – such as your payroll, website hosting, document storage — you’re going to find the free versions are not only limited, but you won’t get any kind of tech support and those free services may disappear or change suddenly. For the greatest protection and quality, pay for an appropriate level of service.
7. Lock ex-employees out.
The day – no, the minute – that you decide to terminate someone, whether an employee or contractor, make sure they no longer have access to your data. Just as you wouldn’t let an ex-employee have keys to your office, don’t let them have keys to your technology.
8. Make sure you have access to all employees’ data.
If your top salesperson has been hoarding her customers’ and prospects’ info on her phone, you don’t want that company asset walking out the door with her if she leaves the company. Make sure employees store all key data and sources on company-owned technology, that you have access to their files, and that you know – or better yet, can bypass – private passwords.
Rhonda Abrams is the author of Six-Week Start Up, just released in its fourth edition. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and register for her free business tips newsletter at PlanningShop.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
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