The economy is showing signs of improvement, but some of our newly acquired financial habits are likely to linger. Business executives and personal shoppers are expected to remain thrifty and continue to look for ways to trim expenditures. Technology spending is expected to decline about 5 percent overall in 2009 as companies look for technology that cuts costs and boosts productivity. If you're starting a new venture or if it's time to replace outdated technology, here are some thoughts on thrifty buys and false economies.
- Don't buy more PC power than you really need. Most small businesses can run efficiently with desktop systems that retail for less than $400. Firms that need to manage huge databases or run complex multimedia packages might need to invest in a higher-end, more powerful desktop.
- Buy multifunction laser printers to save money on overall equipment and minimize clutter. All the major brands make laser printers that can scan, copy and fax, as well as handle printing needs. A multifunctional model with color capability can cost as much as $500. If you can get by with monochrome, expect to pay about $300. At these price points, most models will have Ethernet and wireless capabilities.
- Consider reducing software expenses by looking at new options, such as cloud computing (services delivered over the Internet). Some small businesses use Google Apps for their day-to-day word processing and spreadsheet needs. Companies that prefer to stay away from online applications but still want a cost-free alternative can check out ThinkFree or OpenOffice.
- Smart phones offer some excellent business applications and can be a real boon to productivity on the road. A smart phone with appropriate business software downloads might save you the expense of purchasing a laptop or netbook. The Apple iPhone (AT&T) continues to be a favorite, and its price has dropped to less than $100. Check out other phone companies and their smart phones options to find the deal that works best for you.
- Use customer service technology judiciously. Callers donÂÂ’t want to work too hard to get their queries answered. They don't want to be screened over and over again. They want to talk to a real person sooner, rather than later. Does your automated phone attendant facilitate speedy service, directing the caller to the appropriate customer service representative? Or is it just a maze of questions that leaves the caller hanging on hold?
- Few things turn off customers faster than a poorly conceived website. If yours is clumsily designed, hard to figure out or counterintuitive, hire a web design specialist. Remember that simple is fine, but cheap looking is not.
- If you are trying to market your products or services on the Internet, you need a search engine advertising option that meets your budget. If your companyÂÂ’s name doesn't appear when potential clients do a search using keywords associated with your business, then your web presence is practically useless. Google offers a simple, cost-effective option that allows you to create advertising and determine search words and phrases.
- Data backup is mandatory for every business today. Linking your computer or network to an external hard drive designated for backup purposes only might be sufficient. However, if onsite problems could bring your business to a screeching halt, consider using off-site backup services. Likewise, if your data files contain extensive client/business information, special contact information or images and photos that would be hard to duplicate, an investment in an automatic online backup system would be wise.