Over the past few weeks I’ve been amazed at the number of services, many specifically geared towards small businesses, and accessible over the Internet, that enable easy online document management, collaboration, IT management, network security, telephone service and more.
If you think of small businesses who operated 10 years ago, or even maybe 5 years ago, the number of outsourced services was not as available or viable. Sure, browsing web sites and downloading information was “cool” but being able to EASILY have people in 10 different states and 3 different countries access project documents? I don’t think so.
Due to the lower cost of Internet access, ease of online programming and great use and awareness of online applications there is a huge marketplace for online or outsourced services and your business should be taking advantage of all of them. Let’s review some of your options.
Your telephone system no longer has to be a piece of bulky and expensive hardware that sits in your closet gathering dust and wherein you pay high hourly rates to a consultant for simple changes to the phone system that you could probably do yourself, if the system were easier to use.
Virtual phone systems like Gotvmail, Ring Central or Virtual PBX enable you to have your cell phones, existing business phones, home phones or other telephones you might have all connected into a virtual network.
Going up the food chain a bit, systems like Microsoft Response Point and TalkSwith are made so simple and easy. You plug in your existing analog telephone lines, or connect to an Internet VOIP phone provider and in a few short minutes you have your own telephone system with phone extensions, call forwarding and more. There are even solutions that make Skype a mini “PBX” phone system.
If you need a more robust telephone system, larger scale systems like M5 Networks, provide an entirely outsourced phone system. If your business goes down in an earthquake, you can be up and running as soon as you get to a new location and have a network in place.
Your file server no longer has to be a big, expensive computer. For a monthly fee you can use a hosted service from Google, Office Live, HyperOffice, WebEx WebOffice, Catalyst Web and others to share files, collaborate and more.
Email is another challenge for some businesses. Instead of having a watered down, plain vanilla email service from your Internet service provider, you could pay a monthly fee and have a full blown web based (or use Microsoft Outlook) email service (with shared calendar and more). There are many services you could consider such as MI8, Intermedia, BlueTie and many others. Many ISPs are adding hosted exchange services to their basic web hosting services.
Network and desktop security no longer have to be something you worry about. If all of your Internet traffic is routed through one of many outsource, and hosted security providers, the provider manages your security. IBM, St. Bernard Software, Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro and many others provide these kind of services. Your local technology consultant is the best source for this type of out sourced service as they (the good ones) have reseller agreements with these vendors to install and manage outsourced security solutions for you.
Computer support and installation is also something that you can OUTSOURCE and service (at least parts of it) via the Internet as well. Your local computer consultant, including franchise based IT companies such as CMIT Solutions and DirectPointe can manage your entire IT infrastructure. These services can TELL YOU, without ever coming into your office (except for the initial setup of your company) if you are low on hard disk space , have a virus on one computer or several and other things.
When you need help, just make a phone call or access the service providers support web site to start a support ticket and initiate troubleshooting – over the phone or via remote access to your computer.
What am I missing? What ways are you outsourcing technology in your business. Technology is of course only one aspect of what you can outsource. Your HR, payroll, marketing, secretarial support and so many other functions can also be completely outsourced or the functions at least remotely managed. IF there’s a great HR consultant in Miami and you are in Tennessee, you can structure their “remote” office, as a seamless extension of your corporate office!