Business technology encompasses a wide range of hardware, software and services that keep companies running and enhance operations. Technology plays into every aspect of a business, from accounting to customer communications to product design and development. The rapid forward movement in technology development over the last couple of decades has provided more powerful and less expensive options for companies. Business technology can help small business look bigger than they are and keep them ahead in a competitive marketplace.
The most visible sector of small business technology is the hardware–the desktop computers, laptops, printers, monitors, cell phones, projectors, servers, digital cameras, keyboards and “mice” that keep a business going on a daily basis. Laptops, an increasingly popular computer hardware option for business users, are more mobile than ever. Budget-conscious small businesses often purchase consumer hardware rather than enterprise hardware, but many manufacturers offer products designed specifically for small business users.
Software covers everything from the operating system that a computer runs on to image editing programs, accounting software and word processing applications. Most businesses run on either a Windows or Macintosh platform. Macs are particularly popular with entrepreneurs who deal with multimedia and video creation. Most businesses use an office productivity software suite such as Microsoft Office or openoffice.org that includes word processing, presentation and database programs that handle a wide array of common business tasks. Business software also includes more specialized programs such as CAD design tools for architects and recording software for audio engineers.
The growth of the Internet has marked a sea change in small business technology. Businesses use websites to advertise, provide information, sell products and reach new customers. Software as a Service (SAAS) is software that is delivered in an ongoing fashion over the web rather than through CDs or downloads. Often it is paid for in a monthly or yearly service plan. This can be a more affordable and flexible option for small businesses compared to traditional methods of purchasing and using software.
Business technology isn’t limited to uses surrounding desktop and laptop computers. Technology also makes a mark with high-tech manufacturing robots, advanced microscopes and other specialized hardware and software. Many tasks that used to be done by hand are now automated and handled by specialized technology tools. For example, an independent machine shop may use computer-aided manufacturing equipment that combines specialized software with machines to create parts to specifications. Innovative small businesses are also working in high-tech industries like nanotechnology and biotechnology and are on the cutting edge of creating new technologies.
The smart use of business technology helps small companies stay ahead of the competition by improving communications, making employees more efficient and tapping into effective marketing channels. Small business owners are often pressed for time and wearing many different hats. The use of business tools like accounting software, email, customer relationship management applications and “smart phones” can take some of the burden off entrepreneurs and help them make the most effective use of their time. Up-and-coming generations of workers are accustomed to a world full of technology. Small businesses need to adapt and keep up with new advancements.