Andy Hinxman discusses why technology today is in a better place than five years ago.
If there are times when you curse your IT, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The printer won’t talk to your computer. You clicked on an email by mistake and managed to get a virus. Or your screen has frozen for the umpteenth time just when you’re trying to finish a proposal for a potential client. But for those of us who run our own business and can remember back even five years ago, then trust me we are in a much better place. So to celebrate this month of love (Valentine’s Day and all) I have drawn up six reasons to love your IT.
Being able to scan documents and images has saved more trees and trouble than you can imagine. But aside from the environmental benefits scanning has saved us all a lot of time and money. For example, scanning and then being able to email that scan with a couple of clicks on the keyboard means no more running to the post office or installing a fax machine. For those of you who don’t remember faxes the simplest explanation is being able to send documents through a machine using a phone line. The process was full of frustrations, most memorably the annoying bleep when the fax at the other end ran out of paper, usually because it had been spammed with adverts (yes spam did exist to annoy before email). With a scan, provided you have the correct email address, it is much simpler, you just need to ensure you check that they’ve received it as it can end up in their junk box or spam.
Cheaper IT hardware
So much technology, from mobile phones to TVs, has become cheaper and so too has IT hardware. You can pick up a PC for around £300 for a good spec. It will be basic but it will work. The advice from technical advisers used to be to go for the most expensive machine you can afford but you don’t need to do that any more. There are plenty of mid-range computers that will do the job just as well. You can now do much better deals on other communications devices too, thanks to the advances in technology. A good internet connection can save you money on things like phone calls. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) means you can make free or low-cost phone calls over the internet. You may be relying on mobiles as a start up but a landline number always looks more professional.
Many of my clients are Cloud converts. It has changed their life. Staff can log in on any computer to use the Cloud and work from home or even the local library – useful if there is an issue with travel, whether it is cancelled trains or six foot of snow. The other good thing for small businesses and start-ups is there are no upfront costs. It is pay as you go in terms of you only buy what you need. In the past when you set up a company the upfront costs could run into thousands of pounds. You would have to buy servers, air conditioning for the servers and hire someone to keep your IT up and running. The Cloud does away with that for small businesses. One of my clients, who decided to go on the Cloud, has done away with his server room and been able to bring in a couple more staff because he now has the space.
No business with any sense will be running their computers without a virus checker. There are plenty of choices and a range of prices. However the latest danger comes from malware and spyware. This is often not covered by virus checkers so can fall through the gap. Often they get onto your system because someone has inadvertently clicked on something they shouldn’t. It is easy to do and in the past would have been difficult to fix. Now you can automatically look after your security systems using the Cloud, as it monitors what is trying to get onto your computers and deals with the spyware and malware. You’re no longer relying on employees to load updates to virus checkers, and there was always one who was in too much of rush to bother.
Remote log in
This is now the norm, so if you do get a problem with your IT you don’t have to wait for a man (unfortunately it usually is a man) to come round and fix it. Instead IT support can log in remotely and do the repair while you’re sat at your desk. You can have a cup of tea and watch while someone else does the work. And of course it is much cheaper.
When I talk about 24/7 contact I don’t mean you should be open all hours. What I mean is the number of different ways people can now connect with you. It means clients can contact you before and after the usual nine to five. This is increasingly useful as so many of us work from home and on the move and business is often carried out across international time lines. Five years ago there was really only email and phone calls. Ok there were texts but generally you don’t do business that way. Now I know people who contact their clients via WhatsApp, BBM, Viber, Skype, Facetime, Tumblr and Snapchat. The downside with so many options is that you could end up making more work for yourself as you’re having to check more devices so it’s important to choose the one that works best for you and your clients and stick with it. Don’t follow the trend because it won’t be long before another one comes along.
We’ve come a long way, things have improved quite dramatically in a few short years, so we can be confident that they’ll continue in that vein.
Andy Hinxman is owner of Keybridge IT.