Don’t Let Outdated Technology Slow Your Business Down

Is Outdated Technology Slowing Your Business Down?
This article about detailing how outdated technology is slowing your business down is the first in a multi-part series providing ideas and guidance for companies looking to modernize their business with cloud and mobile solutions.

For many small business owners, it is easy to put off technology decisions for more pressing day to day matters. Sometimes, however, “If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it!” can do more harm than good. Outdated IT slows you down and costs you money in lost productivity and missed opportunities. Your old technology also sends a message to your customers about how well your business can serve theirs. In today’s cloud and mobile world, your small business has affordable access to the same caliber productivty tools and services as large enterprises. If your business is not taking advantage of the close and mobility, your competition is and you are falling behind due to outdated technology.

Here are a few ways in which outdated technology can slow down a business:

  1. Reduced Efficiency: Outdated technology often lacks the speed, processing power, and features of newer solutions. This can lead to slower system performance, increased downtime, and inefficient workflows, ultimately slowing down productivity.
  2. Compatibility Issues: As technology advances, older systems may struggle to integrate with newer software, applications, or hardware. This can create compatibility issues, data transfer problems, and hinder the ability to leverage modern tools and innovations.
  3. Limited Functionality: Outdated technology may lack the capabilities and features required to meet evolving business needs. This can restrict the organization’s ability to adopt new strategies, offer improved customer experiences, or take advantage of emerging trends in the industry.
  4. Security Risks: Outdated technology often lacks the latest security patches and updates, making it vulnerable to cyber threats and data breaches. This can have severe consequences, including financial loss, reputational damage, and non-compliance with data protection regulations.
  5. Inefficient Collaboration: Outdated communication and collaboration tools can hinder effective teamwork and communication within the organization. This can lead to delays in decision-making, slower response times, and decreased overall collaboration efficiency.

Addressing the Roadblocks of Outdated Technology in Business

Moving From Outdated Technology to The Cloud

Moving to the cloud does not need to be an “all or nothing” proposition. Most small businesses start with email and move on to file sharing/collaboration. Business apps, like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Accounting can also be good places to start, delivering a high return and value for the migration effort and spend.

For some, affordably migrating to the cloud and going mobile is easiest to accomplish with the latest version of tools and software that you already use. For others, moving to the cloud and mobile is an opportunity to change the way your team works, so moving your team to new tools is best.

Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365?

This is the question we are asked most often by fellow small business owners and IT leaders. Google Cloud or Office 365?

Our answer is: YES.

We are not saying your choice doesn’t matter when it comes to upgrading your outdated technology and speeding up your business. We are saying that Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 fit different businesses differently. Microsoft Office 365 extends the Microsoft Office ecosystem with collaboration, communication, and data/information tools that will never exist in your desktop version of Office.  Google Apps integrates broadly with most of the newer, cloud and mobile first tools preferred by small business. And, we have five ways to integrate your MS Office desktop software with Google Apps, so you don’t need to abandon the tools you already know.

Both ecosystems help you get stuff done faster, communicate more efficiently, and make mobility easier. Which solution is best for you depends on a factors ranging from where your team works and how you want to improve communications and collaboration to which line of business systems are critical to your success. By looking at your full IT environment, you can pick the cloud productivity platform and other cloud services that make the most sense, and delivery the greatest return.

Footprints, Workloads, and Clouds

Beyond your basic productivity suite (email, documents, spreadsheets, files, etc) and collaboration tools (voice, chat, conferencing, document sharing), more small businesses are moving other workloads from their on premise footprint into the cloud. Do not get flustered by the jargon! Workloads are simply applications or data processing; your footprint is the physical IT systems you use; and the cloud is, well, any cloud infrastructure or hosted service where you can run your workloads.

For small businesses like yours, moving other applications into the cloud will improve security and reliability, offer better business continuity, and mitigate or lower costs. And while some applications don’t have a cloud version you can use (i.e., Quickbooks Online lacks features and reports most of our customers want or need), you can move those systems onto cloud server with remote desktop access.

Overcome Outdated Business Technology Today

Your job is your business and serving your customers. Our job is to make sure your IT helps you do your job better and more efficiently.

To overcome day to day challenges, businesses should regularly assess their technology infrastructure, identify outdated systems, and prioritize necessary upgrades. Investing in modern, scalable, and secure technologies can help streamline operations, enhance productivity, improve customer experiences, and position the business for future growth and success.

Talk to us about your business, your goals, objectives, and priorities. Challenge us to find ways to help you reach your goals with our managed cloud services. We will bring our vision, enthusiasm, expertise, experience, and pragmatism, along with our commitment to either add value, or get out of the way.

Let’s start the conversation!

3 IT Shifts for Small Business: Mobile-Social

The nature of computing and how it’s used by business is changing – rapidly.  You have heard the buzzwords … mobile, social, cloud, big data, analytics, and others.  You probably have thought about your own business and thought the these changes are just for the enterprise.

Three major shifts in technology, however, can and will impact your organization:  Data; Cloud; and Mobile-Social.

Shift 3: Mobile-Social

Why do we combine Mobile and Social? Social would not exist without Mobile.  Before the mobile revolution, social was limited to “Other who viewed this also viewed …” cues like those on Social works because it is quick, easy, convenient, and immediate.

And while mobile technology lets us stay connected to the office and provides us access to information, the real transformation with mobile and social technologies is engagement.

Engagement, driven by mobile and social technologies, lets you build trust and establish value. And, if done properly, lets you build trust and value in a secure manner.

Mobile-Social lets you expand the nature of your engagement. You can easily move beyond 1:1 conversations with your customers. The #hashtag and the @mention let you “listen in” on the conversations you customers are having with their friends, and can give you the opportunity to join the conversation.

While there are examples of social media posts going viral and shaming companies into better behavior. The real opportunity lies with this type of communication:

“We saw you post about X. We were not aware of this issue and will fix it quickly. A customer rep will call you shortly to assist you directly.”

And via communications like this:

“Thank you for mentioning your great experience with our service. We are sending you a small token or our appreciation for your business and support.”

Most small business, like yours and ours, could never afford the infrastructure necessary to facilitate, monitor, and act on social media interactions.  Cloud-based services, however, have the horsepower and economy of scale to enable us to leverage social-mobile technologies. And, make it possible to integrate our social-mobile applications with our operational and line of business systems.


3 IT Shifts for Small Business: Cloud

The nature of computing and how it’s used by business is changing – rapidly.  You have heard the buzzwords … mobile, social, cloud, big data, analytics, and others.  You probably have thought about your own business and thought the these changes are just for the enterprise.

Three major shifts in technology, however, can and will impact your organization:  Data; Cloud; and Mobile-Social.

Shift 2: Cloud

Not everything labeled “cloud” is actually “cloud computing”.  For our purposes, that’s okay.  Whether meeting the strict definition of cloud computing or a hosted service, the cloud is transformational.

Virtualization, one of the underlying mechanisms of building cloud services, is the entry point for most businesses doing it themselves.  Virtualization, however, is only the baseline.

The real power of the cloud is that IT and business processes transform into digital services.

Filing an auto insurance claim, for example, used to be a time-consuming process with paper forms, phone calls, visits to repair shops, and meeting with adjusters.  Today, filing a claim is digital service available to the policy holder by mobile app that instantly puts the information in the hands of the broker, adjuster, and back-office.

Cloud technology has the power to transform business models. Small businesses are less limited by geography than any other time in human history. Scalable, affordable resources empower companies to experiment and development without prohibitive capital investment. The pace of innovation accelerates and time to market drops.

While some small businesses may deliver cloud-based solutions to customers, for your business, the impact on the customer may be indirect. Better relationship management and systems enhance the way we sell. Better support systems scale with our customer base, enable self-help, and improve communications. Even simple abilities, like secure calendar sharing, make it easier for your customers to make appointments to speak with you and your team.

The cloud makes it easier for us to select specific applications and services. And we can integrate these applications and services into a single computing ecosystem without huge investments in middleware, custom programming, and infrastructure.

Where you start with the cloud depends on how you want your business to evolve. We recommend beginning with a platform that enables communications and collaborations, and can serve as the integration point for CRM, ERP, and other applications, as well as line of business systems.

3 IT Shifts for Small Business: Data

The nature of computing and how it’s used by business is changing – rapidly.  You have heard the buzzwords … mobile, social, cloud, big data, analytics, and others.  You probably have thought about your own business and thought the these changes are just for the enterprise.

Three major shifts in technology, however, can and will impact your organization:  Data; Cloud; and Mobile/Social.

Shift 1: Data

In every wave of computing since the 1970’s, the evolution has focused on helping organizations make processes faster and cheaper.  Our current wave is about data.

The process for handling an insurance claim has been optimized for over 40 years.  Today, it’s about the data. How does the customer file a claim?  By phone? By filling out an online form? By sending pictures? Is it on the web? Is there an app for that?

The data shift recognizes that data is the new natural resource. The accident report isn’t just about paying a claim, it’s about assessing risk, finding patterns, and measuring outcomes. The focus is on data collection, analysis, and presentation.

If the data is available in a usable format, the processes remain efficient and even improve.

For some small businesses, the data revolution may mean investing in big data and analytic tools.  For others, CRM and ERP systems provide a starting point.  For most, however, the data revolution begins with access to data.  It sounds simple. But …

Can you team find the documents and information they need, easily and quickly?  Do they have access from anywhere they may be working, from any device, at anytime?

Do you route documents as email attachments, or provide access? Do you manage roles – owner, editor, reviewer, etc?

Can your team work together in person or remotely, in real-time or as convenient? Do file systems become a mess of document names and versions? How easy is it for your team to collaborate with vendors or customers?

Traditional, in-house file servers prevent the data shift. Ubiquitous access does not exist, permission settings are complex, and files sit in a separate silo than your communication tools.

Businesses like yours are moving to cloud storage and broader cloud platforms for the data shift. Case in point: Google Apps for Work.

Google Apps for Work provides a platform that gives small businesses the ability to shift to a data-centric way of working.

  • Your team collaborates by working on a single version of the document, in real-time or as convenient. Changes are tracked; revisions are managed.
  • People share documents by sending access links, not attachments. Your staff need not waste time figuring out where they saved the latest version, and if their latest version is the latest version.
  • When looking for information, a search in Gmail can also list relevant Drive and Sites content.
  • Storage is cheap, and optionally unlimited.
  • Conference calls become face-to-face meetings, via Hangouts.  People collaborate, can see how others respond, and can share screens and documents without complex meeting software.

Moving to Google Apps is not a decision about whether or not to stop using MS Office (you can save/edit MS Office files with Drive). Moving to Google Apps is about whether or not you want your business to thrive in a data-driven world.


Do Your IT Choices Help or Hurt Your Ability to Hire the Best Talent?

When you think of your IT decisions, you probably think of features, functions, cost, operations, and, hopefully, how well your IT decisions support your business goals and objectives.

Have you, however, ever considered if your IT decisions impact your ability to hire the best talent? Just like your reputation as an employer, office space, and benefits package make an impression on prospective employees, so does your IT.

Case in Point: Blackberry.  As recently as two years ago, most companies picked a carrier, a few models of phones, and provided them to employees.  Blackberry was on top.  With the rapid expansion of smartphone capabilities, a growing number of employees chose to opt-out of the company option and use their personal device.  Businesses obliged and “Bring Your Own Device” is becoming the norm (as are Android and IOS devices).  After all, why limit your employees to a lesser solution that makes them less productive?

Why would a potential employee want to work at a company where the technology is a step backward?

With the adoption rate of cloud computing solutions, such as Google Apps, at universities, high schools, and even grade and middle schools exploding, your future employees are already used to working in an IT environment that enables communication and collaboration in ways traditional in-house systems cannot.

The people you want to hire already …

  • Use on-line and real-time collaboration.
  • Expect secure access to information from any device they choose, wherever they are working, without the headaches and challenges of VPNs and remote desktop solutions.
  • Take advantage of integrated communication services.
  • Expect constant improvements in the IT services they use.

So when the people you want to hire walk into your business, what do they see?  Do they see the dynamic, responsive, IT infrastructure that they know and love?  Or, do they see reliance on centralized information silos, collaboration via email attachments, limited access to information and their peers, and an environment that only sees improvements every three to five years?

As you plan your next round of IT upgrades and changes, avoid inertia and look beyond the next version of the status quo.  Look at IT solutions that can fundamentally change and improve the ability of your knowledge workers to communicate and collaborate — to use their knowledge.  Look at IT solutions that scale as your business evolves.  Look at IT solutions that give your business the power of continuous innovation.

Look at Cloud Computing.  Look at Google Apps.

Friday Thought: Is BYOD Right for Your Business?

A new trend is emerging in corporate IT that may make sense for small and mid-size businesses:  BYOD, or Bring-Your-Own-Device.  Companies with BYOD policies allow workers to pick their own smartphones, tablets, and, in some cases, laptop computers.  Most BYOD policies provide a fixed stipend for each type of device with employees free to spend more personally for a better device.

Recent articles in the New York Times and on have focused on this trend.   For large companies, BYOD policies …

  • Save money on purchases as employees often pick up part of the cost for better devices
  • Reduce demand on IT staff as BYOD employees often turn to other sources for help
  • Overcome the “my technology at home is better than at the office” syndrome

The challenge, of course, is security.  Not just access control, but virus and malware protection require standards and verification.

As more small and mid-size businesses move into the cloud, BYOD will make sense for smaller businesses as well.  Cloud computing solutions are more likely to be device independent, enabling users to pick their preferred smartphone, tablet, or laptop.  Google Apps, for example, provides native support for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry devices.

With BYOD, users pick the device or platform that works best for them, helping them be more productive.  As the recent articles note, colleges and universities have supported BYOD programs for some time with good results.  Users pick devices that best serve their needs, IT facilitates connectivity and support.

BYOD shifts some of the responsibility for support to the end user, so IT departments would be wise to ensure that end user support is available from key software and cloud solution vendors or resellers.   End users may turn to Apple for help with their iPad 2, but will need guidance from IT for issues of connectivity to applications and services.  Tier 2 support from the vendors or resellers should be a cost effective means to reduce demand for IT support.

The IT team needs to be prepared to help users navigate vendor support and, more importantly, configure devices to keep business and personal accounts separate.   And, if necessary, new SSO and identity management tools are available for smartphones and tablets.  While these tools add cost and a management layer, they can provide provide a level of security that may be appropriate whether the device is owned by the company or the employee.

Finally, a solid “usage” policy should be in place governing the use of company computing resources and how personal equipment and software may and may not be used for company business.  Having a policy in place sets guidelines and boundaries that will keep a BYOD program from getting out of hand.

With a sound set of usage policies and a reasonable stipend, BYOD can help small and mid-size businesses increase productivity.

IT’s Mission Should Be IS

Cloud computing, and other technologies, do enable users to do more with less IT involvement. These architectural shifts should also shift resources from commodity infrastructure to high-value work.

If Cloud Computing is changing an IT group’s mission, than the mission has been wrong.  Even the name IT puts the emphasis on “Technology”.

IT should (and will) continue to evolve into IS — Information Services — which focuses on meeting the informational and operational needs of the users (i.e. the business) rather than on the technology used to deliver the services.